Navy forms fleet to serve Western Hemisphere

The Navy last week created a new 4th Fleet, responsible for Navy ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the Caribbean and Central and South America. The move signals the Pentagon's recognition of the importance of the region and elevates the Navy's stature there, said Rear Adm. James Stevenson Jr., who commands all naval forces in the Southern Hemisphere.

The 4th Fleet will be headquartered at Mayport, Fla. The Navy will not station ships there permanently, but the establishment of the command will allow the service to respond more quickly to natural disasters such as hurricanes or to emergencies requiring humanitarian relief, Stevenson told reporters on Wednesday. The command will have responsibility for any Navy ship or aircraft deploying to Latin America.

The 4th Fleet originally was created during World War II to hunt enemy submarines and was disbanded in 1950. Today, the 4th Fleet focuses on providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the area, especially in the hurricane-plagued Caribbean. It also provides additional ships, submarines and aircraft for counternarcotics operations in the region.

The surveillance and stealthy monitoring capabilities of Navy submarines make them particularly useful against drug runners, Stevenson said. In recent years, sophisticated drug traffickers have made greater use of small submarines to smuggle drugs into the United States.

The Navy's new maritime strategy elevated disaster relief and humanitarian operations to the same level as combat operations, Stevenson said, and the service's amphibious warfare ships have the shallow draft that allows them to enter the region's ports. They also have the capacity to carry large quantities of medical supplies.

Last year, the hospital ship Comfort provided medical assistance to about 300,000 people. This year, the amphibious ships Boxer and Kearsarge will make about 20 ports of call in the Caribbean and along the East Coast of South America. "It's quite remarkable once the word gets out," Stevenson said about the response when a Navy medical ship makes a port of call.

Navy ships can be positioned nearby when a hurricane is approaching landfall and can move in almost immediately to provide medical care and deliver food and shelter, he said.

Stevenson said the Navy also is mindful of events in Cuba and the chance of another mass migration from the island, which happened in the 1980s and 1990s when thousands fled by small boats for U.S. shores. "If you don't have the capability to rescue these people, you have a disaster on your hands," he said.

In addition, half the nation's oil imports and 40 percent of its exports come from the region. To keep the sea lanes secure, Navy ships partner with ships from other regional naval forces to conduct training exercises and military-to-military exchanges.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.