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Structure of the United States Navy

The structure of the United States Navy consists of four main bodies: the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, the operating forces (described below), and the Shore Establishment.

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

File:Organisation of the CNO's Office.png
Organization of the CNO's Office

The Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OpNav) includes the Chief of Naval Operations, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the Deputy Chiefs of Naval Operations, the Assistant Chiefs of Naval Operations, the Chief of Legislative Affairs, the Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, and other members of the Navy or Marines or civilians in the Department of the Navy assigned or detailed to the Office.[1][2]

As of June 2008, there was a DCNO Manpower and Personnel/Chief of Naval Personnel (N1), the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6), (established October 2009),[3] DCNO Plans, Policy, and Operations (N3/N5), Fleet Readiness and Logistics (N4), DCNO Warfare Requirements and Programmes (N6/N7), and DCNO Resources, Requirements and Assessments (N8). In addition there was a Director of T&E and Operational Requirements, Surgeon General of the Navy, Chief of Naval Reserves, Chief of Oceanography, and Chief of Chaplains of the Navy.

Operating forces

File:USN Fleets (2009).png
Numbered fleets of the United States Navy. In 2011, the Second Fleet was disestablished and merged into United States Fleet Forces Command[4]

The operating forces consists of eight components: United States Fleet Forces Command, United States Pacific Fleet, United States Naval Forces Central Command, United States Naval Forces Southern Command, United States Naval Forces Europe, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, United States Navy Reserve, United States Naval Special Warfare Command, and Operational Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR).[5]

Fleets in the United States Navy take on the role of force provider; they do not carry out military operations independently, rather they train and maintain naval units that will subsequently be provided to the naval forces component of each Unified Combatant Command. While not widely publicized, groups of ships departing U.S. waters for operational missions gain a Task force type designation, almost always with the Second or Third Fleets. On entry into another numbered fleet's area of responsibility, they are redesignated as a task group from that fleet. For example, a carrier task group departing the Eastern Seaboard for the Mediterranean might start out as Task Group 20.1; on entry into the Mediterranean, it might become ('inchop')[6] Task Group 60.1.

The United States Navy currently has six active numbered fleets. These six numbered fleets are grouped into operating forces:

United States Navy Historical Numbered Fleets (2015)

US Navy Historical Numbered Fleets (2015)
Numbered Fleet Status Geographic Command Notes
01st Fleet Inactive U.S. Pacific Fleet Inactive. The United States First Fleet existed after World War II from 1947 at least, but it was redesignated Third Fleet in early 1973.
02nd Fleet Inactive U.S. Atlantic Fleet Inactive. The 2nd Fleet was disestablished in 2011. The 2nd Fleet was formerly part of the United States Fleet Forces Command in the Atlantic.
03rd Fleet Active U.S. Pacific Fleet Active. The United States First Fleet existed after World War II from 1947 at least, but it was redesignated Third Fleet in early 1973.
04th Fleet Active Naval Forces Southern Command Active
05th Fleet Active Naval Forces Central Command Active
06th Fleet Active Naval Forces Europe Active
07th Fleet Active U.S. Pacific Fleet Active
08th Fleet Inactive U.S. Atlantic Fleet Inactive. The United States Eighth Fleet was a fleet of the United States Navy established 15 March 1943 from Northwest African Force. It operated in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II with a main mission of amphibious warfare, and then was active in 1946-47 as the heavy striking arm of the United States Atlantic Fleet.
09th Fleet n/a Never Existed Never Existed
10th Fleet Active Fleet Cyber Command Active. Other fleets, such as the 10th and 12th, were active during World War II, the 12th in European waters as part of United States Naval Forces Europe. 10th Fleet was later transformed into Fleet Cyber Command.
11th Fleet n/a Never Existed Never Existed
12th Fleet Inactive Naval Forces Europe Inactive. Other fleets, such as the 10th and 12th, were active during World War II, the 12th in European waters as part of United States Naval Forces Europe.

Command listing

  • Fleet Forces Command
    • Type commands, including Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Surface Forces Atlantic, and Naval Air Forces Atlantic
    • Task Force 20 (TF20) operates in the Atlantic Ocean from the North to South Pole, from the Eastern United States to Western Europe and Africa, and along both the eastern and western shores of Central and South America. TF20 is the sole operational fleet within Fleet Forces Command, providing force training and exercises of assigned maritime forces and providing combat-ready Naval forces to support Service missions and global requirements. TF20 works with the Combined Joint Operations from the Sea/Center of Excellence to complete its mission.
    • Military Sealift Command (MSC) serves not only the United States Navy, but the entire Department of Defense as an ocean carrier of materiel. It transports equipment, fuel, ammunition, and other goods essential to the smooth function of United States armed forces worldwide. Up to 95% of all supplies needed to sustain the U.S. military can be moved by Military Sealift Command.[7] MSC operates approximately 120 ships with 100 more in reserve. Ships of the command are not manned by active duty Navy personnel, but by civil service or contracted merchant mariners.
    • Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), established in January 2006, serves as the single functional command for the Navy's expeditionary forces and as central management for the readiness, resources, manning, training and equipping of those forces. NECC capabilities include; Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Maritime Expeditionary Security, Riverine, Diving Operations, Naval Construction, Maritime Civil Affairs, Expeditionary Training, Expeditionary Logistics, Expeditionary Intelligence, Combat Camera, and Expeditionary Combat Readiness. The Maritime Expeditionary Security Force’s (MESF) (formerly known as Naval Coastal Warfare) primary mission is force protection conducted through fleet support with operations around the world. Two Maritime Expeditionary Security Groups in San Diego and Portsmouth, Va. supervise integration of coastal warfare assets trained to operate in high density, multi-threat environments. Coastal and harbor defense and protection of naval assets are placed under the jurisdiction of two Naval Coastal Warfare Groups: one for the Pacific Fleet and one for the Atlantic Fleet.
  • U.S. Naval Forces Europe / Sixth Fleet
    • The Sixth Fleet is deployed in the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, under the administrative direction of U.S. Naval Forces Europe (NAVEUR), and the operational command of U.S. European Command. Sixth Fleet is based in Naples, Italy and its flagship is USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20). Sixth Fleet also provides the Mt Whitney as an Afloat Command Platform for Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, a Naples-based Maritime headquarters that serves as a deployable Maritime Component Commander as directed by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).
  • Pacific Fleet
    • Type commands, including Submarine Forces Pacific, Surface Force Pacific, and Naval Air Forces Pacific
    • Third Fleet's jurisdiction is the Northern, Southern, and Eastern Pacific Ocean along with the West Coast of the United States. Normally, units assigned to Third Fleet undergo training cruises prior to deployment with either the Fifth Fleet or Seventh Fleet and are not intended for immediate use in battle. Only in the event of general war does Third Fleet participate in active combat operations. Forming part of the Pacific Fleet, Third Fleet is based in San Diego, California and is a part of U.S. Pacific Command.
    • Seventh Fleet, the largest forward-deployed U.S. fleet, operates in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean, stretching to the Persian Gulf and including much of the east coast of Africa. It forms the fully combat ready part of the Pacific Fleet and provides naval units to the U.S. Pacific Command. At any given time, Seventh Fleet consists of 40-50 ships operating from bases in South Korea, Japan, and Guam. It is headquartered at Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan with USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) as its flagship.
    • Naval shore commands: Commander Naval Forces Korea (CNFK), Commander Naval Forces Marianas (CNFM), and Commander Naval Forces Japan (CNFJ).
  • U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / Fifth Fleet
    • Fifth Fleet's area of responsibility is the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, and parts of the Indian Ocean. Consisting of around 25 ships, including a carrier strike group and an expeditionary strike group, Fifth Fleet is effectively fused with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, which is the naval component of the U.S. Central Command. Fifth Fleet is headquartered at Manama, Bahrain.
    • U.S. Naval Forces Central Command includes a number of Task Forces which are not part of the Fifth Fleet. These include Combined Task Force 150, carrying out maritime surveillance activities in the Gulf of Oman and around the Horn of Africa, and Task Force 152, covering the southern Persian Gulf with the same role. Both Task Forces report to Commander NAVCENT in his role as Combined Maritime Forces Component Commander.
  • U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command / Fourth Fleet
    • The Fourth Fleet has operational responsibility for U.S. Navy assets assigned from east and west coast fleets to operate in the U.S. Southern Command area. The Fourth Fleet will conduct varying missions including a range of contingency operations, counter narcoterrorism, and theater security cooperation (TSC) activities. TSC includes military-to-military interaction and bilateral training opportunities as well as humanitarian assistance and in-country partnerships.
    • U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command's (USNAVSO), the Navy component command for U.S. Southern Command, mission is to direct U.S. naval forces operating in the Caribbean, and Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies to shape the maritime environment.
  • U.S. Fleet Cyber Command / Tenth Fleet
    • The Tenth Fleet has functional responsibility to achieve the integration and innovation necessary for warfighting superiority across the full spectrum of military operations in the maritime, cyberspace and information domains. Tenth Fleet has operational control of Navy cyber forces to execute the full spectrum of computer network operations, cyber warfare, electronic warfare, information operations and signal intelligence capabilities and missions across the cyber, electromagnetic and space domains. Tenth Fleet also partner with and support other fleet commanders to provide guidance and direction to ensure coordinated, synchronized and effective preventative and response capability in cyberspace. U.S. Fleet Cyber Command / Tenth Fleet is a subcomponent of U.S. Cyber Command.

The Navy maintains several "Naval Forces Commands" which operate naval shore facilities and serve as liaison units to local ground forces of the Air Force and Army.[citation needed] Such commands are answerable to a Fleet Commander as the shore protector component of the afloat command. In times of war, Commander Naval Forces Korea becomes a Task Force (Task Force 78) of the United States Seventh Fleet. Other Naval Force Commands may similarly augment to become number fleet task forces.

Historical organization

The organization of the Navy has changed incrementally over time. During World War II administrative organization for many ship types included divisions, for example Battleship Divisions (abbreviated BatDivs), Cruiser Divisions, Destroyer Divisions, or Escort Divisions (CortDivs), usually composed of two ships, often members of the same class. These made up squadrons (e.g. Battle Squadron, Cruiser Squadron, Escort Squadron (CortRon) etc.) of several divisions. Yet the exigencies of World War II forced the creation of the task force system where ships no longer fought solely as part of same-type divisions or squadrons. This was gradually reflected in administrative arrangements; by the 1970s, formations such as Cruiser-Destroyer Groups (CruDesGrus) came into existence.

There was a time in history in which the Navy was disbanded 1790-1798. The only warships protecting the country were Revenue Cutters, the predecessor to the USCG. This is why USCG ships are referred to as Cutters.[9]

The Shore Establishment

  • "The shore establishment provides support to the operating forces (known as "the fleet") in the form of: facilities for the repair of machinery and electronics; communications centers; training areas and simulators; ship and aircraft repair; intelligence and meteorological support; storage areas for repair parts, fuel, and munitions; medical and dental facilities; and air bases."[11]

The following shore-based bureaus, commands and components are directly subordinate to the Chief of Naval Operations:"[11]

Relationships with other service branches

United States Marine Corps

In 1834, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) came under the Department of the Navy.[12] Historically, the United States Navy has enjoyed a unique relationship with the Marines, partly because they both specialize in seaborne operations. At the highest level of civilian organization, the USMC is part of the Department of the Navy and reports to the Secretary of the Navy. However, it is considered to be a distinct, separate service branch and not a subset of the Navy; the highest ranking Marine officer, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, does not report to a Navy officer. Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipients are awarded the Navy variant, and Marines are eligible to receive the Navy Cross. The United States Naval Academy trains Marine Corps commissioned officers while prospective Navy officers undergo instruction by Marine NCO Drill Instructors at OCS. Naval Aviation includes Navy and Marine aviators, flight officers, and aircrew.

The relationship extends to the operational theater as well. As amphibious assault specialists, Marines often deploy on, and attack from, Navy vessels; while being transported on Navy ships, they must obey the orders of the captain of the vessel. Marine aviation tailhook squadrons train and operate alongside Navy squadrons, flying similar missions and often flying sorties together. Other types of Marine air squadrons operate from amphibious assault ships in support of Marine amphibious operations. Navy and Marine squadrons use the same NATOPS aviation manuals and procedures. The USMC does not train chaplains, hospital corpsmen or medical doctors; thus officers and enlisted sailors from the Navy fulfill these roles. They generally wear Marine uniforms that are emblazoned with Navy insignia and markings to distinguish themselves from Marines. Corpsmen and chaplains enjoy a great sense of camaraderie with the Marines due in part because they work closely with them and often are embedded with Marine units. They operate under the command of the Marine Corps under the auspices of the Fleet Marine Force, often called the "green side".[13]

Because of the lack of full-scale amphibious operations in recent conflicts, there has been pressure to cut the "gator navy" below the two-regiment requirement of the Marines.[14] This is a reduction from the programmatic goal of 2.5 Marine Expeditionary Brigades and actual structure of 2.07 MEB equivalents in 1999.[15]

The relationship between the US Navy and US Marine Corps is also one of mutual respect, and that respect is manifested in various policies and procedural regulations. For example, per US Marine and Navy drill manuals, in a formation consisting of both Marines and Sailors, Marines are to be present at the front (in column) and left (on line), regardless of rank. This is a symbol of the special status and honor granted to US Marines, and is a unique aspect of the Navy-Marine relationship.

United States Coast Guard

Although the Posse Comitatus Act, which prevents federal military personnel from acting in a law enforcement capacity, applies only to the Army and Air Force, Department of Defense rules effectively require the Navy and Marine Corps to act as if Posse Comitatus did apply, preventing them from enforcing Federal law. The United States Coast Guard fulfills this law enforcement role in naval operations. It provides Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs) to Navy vessels, where they perform arrests and other law enforcement duties during Navy boarding and interdiction missions. In times of war, or when directed by the President, the Coast Guard operates as a service in the Navy and is subject to the orders of the Secretary of the Navy until it is transferred back to the Department of Homeland Security.[16] At other times, Coast Guard Port Security Units are sent overseas to guard the security of ports and other assets. The Coast Guard also jointly staffs the Navy's Naval Coastal Warfare Groups and Squadrons (the latter of which were known as Harbor Defense Commands until late-2004), which oversee defense efforts in foreign littoral combat and inshore areas. Additionally, Coast Guard and Navy vessels sometimes operate together in search and rescue operations.


  1. ^ "10 USC 5031. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved September 24, 2007. 
  2. ^ "Chief of Legislative Affairs for the Secretary of the Navy". United States Navy. Retrieved May 24, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Establishment of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information DOMINANCE (N2/N6)". NAVADMIN 316/09. October 29, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  4. ^ Garamone, Jim (6 January 2011). "Joint Chiefs Fully Agree With Gates’ Efficiencies". Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense. American Forces Press Service. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  5. ^ "Navy Organization - The Operating Forces". Official Website of the United States Navy. Washington, DC. 23 June 2004. Retrieved 6 August 2006. 
  6. ^ Maloney, Sean Michael (1991). To Secure the Command of the Sea: NATO Command Organization and Planning for the Cold War at Sea, 1945-1954 (Thesis). University of New Brunswick. p. iii. This term is a compound of CHOP, which is short for Change of Operational Control. A CHOP line is a line at which operational control of forces transfers from one command to another. 
  7. ^ "Military Sealift Command". Official U.S. Navy Website. Retrieved 24 July 2006. 
  8. ^ "Naval Special Warfare Command". Official U.S. Navy Website. Retrieved 1 February 2008. 
  9. ^ a b "Numbered Fleets". Military Analysis Network. Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 8 April 2006. The United States Coast Guard is sometimes believed to act as the First Fleet in wartime; however, the United States has never officially used this reference and it is informal at best. 
  10. ^ Reilly, Corinne (1 October 2011). "Navy's Second Fleet Sails Off Into History Books". Norfolk Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Virginia). Associated Press. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Navy Organization - The Shore Establishment". Official Website of the United States Navy. Washington, DC. 28 November 2006. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  12. ^ "Marine Corps Manual - General Administration and Management - Organization of the Marine Corps" (PDF). Official U.S. Marine Corps Website. Washington, DC: Department of the Navy. 1980. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Peterson, Bryan A. (2 March 2007). "Recon Marines seek green-side corpsmen". Letherneck. Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  14. ^ Ewing, Philip (13 June 2009). "Gator fleet a likely target for QDR, cuts". Navy Times. 
  15. ^ "Amphibious Ship Building". Global Security. 7 July 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  16. ^ "14 USC 3 - Department in which the Coast Guard operates". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved June 1, 2015.