Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command History

Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (COMUSFLTFORCOM) has a long, distinguished history of service to our country and the U.S. Navy. The command was originally established as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT) on Jan. 1, 1906, by combining the Navy's North Atlantic and South Atlantic Squadrons.

Fleet Concept

The Fleet Concept came into being following the Spanish-American War when new bases acquired in the Caribbean and the Pacific were considered useless unless protected by an adequate fleet.

President Roosevelt placed great emphasis on naval readiness for war. During his first administration, from 1901 to 1905, authorization was obtained from Congress for 10 new battleships, four armored cruisers and 17 smaller craft. All battleships were assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and all armored cruisers and lighter cruisers were assigned to the newly created U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The First Commander-in-Chief and the Great White Fleet

The first commander of the Atlantic Fleet was Rear Adm. Robley D. Evans, who assumed command on Jan. 1, 1906, aboard his flagship, the battleship USS Maine (BB 10).

In December 1907, Rear Adm. Evans led the fleet of 16 first line battleships out of Hampton Roads in Virginia on the start of the famous world cruise of the Great White Fleet (1907-1909). President Roosevelt witnessed the departure from his yacht, the Mayflower. This ceremonious Fleet Review served as a highlight of the Jamestown Exposition, then held at the site of the present Norfolk Naval Station.

Commander-in-Chief Title

History indicates a continuous use of the title "Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet" from 1906 until 1923, and again from 1941 to 2002. In a reorganization of the United States Fleet in 1923, that title was abolished and the title "Commander Scouting Force" was used.

On Feb. 1,1941, General Order 143 reestablished the title and reorganized the United States Fleet into three separate fleets -- Atlantic, Pacific and Asiatic. The order further stated each fleet would be under the command of a full admiral. On Feb. 1, 1941, Rear Adm. Ernest J. King, in his flagship USS Texas (BB 35) at Culebra, Puerto Rico, hauled down his two-star flag and hoisted his four-star flag as Commander-in-Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet.

Atlantic Fleet Flagships and Shore Headquarters

From April 1941 to April 1948, four flagships served as headquarters for the Fleet Commander-in-Chief:

  • USS Augusta (CA 31) from April 1941 to January 1942
  • The historic spar-decked corvette/sloop USS Constellation, which was launched in 1855, from January 1942 to August 1942
  • USS Vixen (PG 53) from August 1942 to May 1946
  • USS Pocono (AGC 16) from May 1946 to April 1948
On April 5, 1948, headquarters moved ashore into spaces of the former U.S. Navy Hospital, Norfolk,  on board Naval Support Activity (NSA) Hampton Roads. In 2011, the staff moved across the street to a new three-story, 46,000-square-foot headquarters building.

1947 Reorganization and first Commander of U.S. Atlantic Command

The organization of the United States Armed Forces was reviewed with a view toward reorganization after the turbulent war years. On Dec. 1, 1947, under a reorganization act of the Armed Forces approved by Congress, the unified United States Atlantic Command was established, with headquarters co-located to those of U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Adm. William H.P. Blandy, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, became the first Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command, a title that remained dual-hatted (and would later become triple-hatted) until another reorganization of the Armed Forces in 1985 under the Goldwater-Nichols Act, which separated U.S. Atlantic Command from U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Allied Command, Atlantic

In the early 1950s, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided to establish a new major command -- Allied Command, Atlantic -- under the command of a U.S. four-star admiral with headquarters in Norfolk, Va. Since this was primarily a naval command responsible for allied defense of the North Atlantic, the decision was made to co-locate this organization with that of U.S. Atlantic Command and U.S. Atlantic Fleet, to form a tri-hatted command.

On April 10, 1952, Adm. Lynde D. McCormick, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command and U.S. Atlantic Fleet, assumed the title as the first Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic. Like U.S. Atlantic Command, Allied Command Atlantic, remained intact and part of a tri-hatted command organization until a congressionally mandated reorganization of the U.S. Armed Forces occurred in 1985, which separated command of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet from the other two commands with its own four-star admiral. Adm. Wesley L. McDonald, was the last U.S. Navy admiral to command all three organizations at the same time. He relinquished command of U.S. Atlantic Fleet to Adm. Carlisle A. H. Trost, USN, on Oct. 4, 1985.

1985 Reorganization

Under the 1985 reorganization of the U.S. Armed Forces, the admiral filling the post of Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, would also fill the position of Deputy Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command. This role for CINCLANTFLT continued until the Secretary of Defense, in 1986, approved a separate billet for the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command. On Sept. 26, 1986, Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, relinquished the Deputy USCINCLANT post to Maj. General Thomas G. Darling, U.S. Air Force.

1990 - 2000

From Feb. 1, 1991 to Feb. 17, 2000
, the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet was the naval component commander for the unified Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), assuming responsibility for all U.S. Navy operational and training matters in the USSOUTHCOM area of responsibility.

On Feb. 17, 2000, these responsibilities were reassigned to the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (formerly Commander, South Atlantic Force), assuming naval component commander duties for the unified USSOUTHCOM. However, COMUSNAVSO does not have any permanently assigned afloat forces. CINCLANTFLT, at the direction of USJFCOM (formerly USCINCLANT), remains the major force provider for USNAVSO for forces attached in support of USSOUTHCOM operations and exercises.

On June 1, 1992, the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet became the naval component commander for the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Command, assuming responsibility for all U.S. Navy operational and training matters under USSTRATCOM.

Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, Concurrent as Commander, Fleet Forces Command

On Oct. 21, 2001
, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) designated established Commander, Fleet Forces Command (CFFC) as part of a CNO initiative to improve the alignment and organization structure to ensure the Navy's fleets, staffs, systems and processes deliver a combat capable Navy ready to respond to all contingencies. 

On Oct. 1, 2002
, CINCLANTFLT became the naval component commander for the newly-formed U.S. Northern Command, assuming responsibility for all U.S. Navy operational and training matters under Commander, U.S. Northern Command. This relationship was modified in 2004 to reflect a support vice operational relationship. 

Change of Title

On Oct. 24, 2002
, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed that the title of "Commander-in-Chief" be reserved solely for the President of the United States. In a message to naval commanders-in-chief, the CNO directed a change of title to that of "commander." This change affected the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

Establishment of Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (COMUSFLTFORCOM)

On May 23, 2006
, the CNO issued OPNAV NOTICE 3111, Serial DNS-33/6U827232, that disestablished the Commander, Fleet Forces Command (CFFC) and Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMLANTFLT) and renamed COMLANTFLT to Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (COMUSFLTFORCOM), ordered to carry out the missions currently performed by COMFLTFORCOM and COMLANTFLT, and serve as primary advocate for fleet personnel, training, requirements, maintenance, and operational issues, reporting administratively directly to the CNO as an Echelon 2 command. All forces reporting to COMLANTFLT or COMFLTFORCOM will now report to COMUSFLTFORCOM effectively immediately.

U.S. Atlantic Fleet Transition Ceremony

On Oct. 31, 2006, a ceremony was held to officially mark the transition of the United States Atlantic Fleet and Fleet Forces Command to the United States Fleet Forces Command. Three of the 37 previous admirals who held the top post in the Atlantic Fleet attended the ceremony, held aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The command will henceforth be known as Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command

Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet (C2F) Disestablished

On Oct. 31, 2011, C2F was disestablished and that command's functions transferred to COMUSFLTFORCOM. 

U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command

On Feb. 11, 2013, COMUSFLTFORCOM was assigned as the Navy component to Commander, U.S. Northern Command, under the command's operational authority.

U.S. Naval Strategic Command

On Feb. 1,  2019, COMUSFLTFORCOM was designated as both the service component commander and the functional commander for U.S. Naval Forces Strategic Commander (NAVSTRAT) and the Joint Force Maritime Componenet Commander (JFMCC) to Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), to streamline a more effective method of command and control forces.