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Speeches
U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)

Adm. Daryl Caudle

Arlington, Va.

Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command

09 January 2024
  • Good afternoon everyone. Thank you, Rick, for inviting me to speak again this year and for your kind introduction. And, thank you for accommodating my request to speak today in order for me to attend the Naval Reactors’ change of office tomorrow between two of my great friends, Frank Caldwell and Bill Houston.
  • And how about a round of applause for the S-N-A team for truly knocking this event out of the park – once again:
    • I’d like to specifically thank, Retired VADM Rick Hunt, Retired RADM Dave Hart, Retired Captain Bill Erickson, Julie Howard and Debbie Gerry for organizing this wonderful event.
    • I would like to give a special thank you to Bill Erickson, where are you, Bill? Bill is retiring this year as our very first S-N-A Executive Director after over 23 years of continued support following your exquisite career in uniform. We will miss you. We are ready for the Fight, the Force is primed, and ready to maneuver into the Future due in large part to your efforts and your leadership of S-N-A! Join me in wishing Bill our eternal thanks, and in wishing him “Fair Winds and Following Seas!”
  • Okay – Welcome to the 36th National SNA Symposium! This S-N-A is poised to be fantastic: This week alone you have the chance to hear directly from our partners on Capitol Hill; from SECNAV Del Toro; from our first female C-N-O and Joint Chief, my boss Admiral Lisa Franchetti; from our first female Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Fagan; our brand new SWO BOSS VADM Brendan McLane; our brand new Vice Chief of Naval Operations, and my very great friend, Admiral Jim Kilby; and countless others – it should really speak volumes how many of those leaders in such critical positions are Surface Warfare Officers!
  • Rest assured that all of these leaders are working together to solidify and advance our maritime superiority. You should look forward to their updates on the action items spanning the echelons of command so that our Surface Navy can move out – at pace – in order to maintain our overmatch against our adversaries.
  • But the effort often doesn’t end once we are rung ashore, I’d like to acknowledge Retired ADM Vern Clark, our 27th C-N-O, for being here, who still serves as an advisor and mentor for many of us in uniform as an elite member of our Defense Industrial Base.
  • And thank you for allowing me to kick this special event off – I am honored. Though it may come as a surprise to some, I always considered myself a ‘clean-up hitter’, so leading off this week is a welcomed change!
  • To start, I hope you enjoyed my quick ‘Minute with the Commander’ video. Since this is a Surface Warfighting Convention full of warfighters, my team and I decided to produce that piece in the lead up to S-N-A and naturally I wanted to show off the new Two-Piece Organizational Clothing (2POC) or 2POC. This year we expect to complete the initial roll-out of the 2POC so that every Sailor onboard a ship or submarine is issued at least two sets, with no cost to the Sailor.
  • The 2POC uniform is not only more functional than the N-W-U Type IIIs onboard our warships, but it is safer, flame retardant, designed by Sailors, and the best part about it is a Sailor can finish conducting maintenance in Radar Room Three or in Main Equipment Room Two and then walk right off the brow to stop at the Navy Exchange for groceries on the way home.
  • So, to the entire team and online, you should look forward to seeing our Sailors sporting 2POCs across the Navy as the Uniform of the Day next year!
  • Alright, seriously, I am above honored and so thrilled to be back here this year, speaking to the leaders of the world’s premier Surface Naval Force.
  • It is because of you – those in uniform on our ships and across the waterfront – that we have been so successful, and it has always been because of you – the center of gravity of our Navy.
  • Despite the significant challenges we face with long-lead time parts, shipyard delays, less than optimal living conditions during maintenance periods, and personnel shortages across many rates and N-E-Cs, you all are just crushing it.
  • To be honest, after I spoke at S-N-A last year, I wasn’t so sure how my remarks would be received and even more important – acted on – by the Defense Industrial Base. After voicing my displeasure about our inability to produce and deliver ordnance on time and in sufficient quantity, complete maintenance availabilities with modernizations efforts on time and on cost, and the need to be at Flank speed to improve productivity, efficiency and build rates from our public and private shipyards to deliver new construction and overhauled ships to our Fleet…
  • Instead of an adverse reaction, I think it really struck a chord with industry leaders, leaders within the Department of Defense, and with many Congressional members who see the problems I identified in the same way.
  • I have been impressed with how many industry partners have reached out to work with me and Navy Program Managers on stepping up production through improvements using a Get Real, Get Better approach in which we embrace the red together, self-assess together, and correct identified challenges together. Truly assessing weak areas and shifting rudder hard over and revving the gas to get back on PIM.
  • Our Sailors deserve every lethal capability possible to go over the horizon and do our nation’s bidding.
  • The clear point I wanted to make is that we, not just in the Surface Community, but across the Navy, have problems that we need to address and course correct so that we are ‘Always Ready’ to answer our nation’s call.
  • While hope springs eternal, being pollyannish is not a winning strategy against the strategic competitors we face. We have work to do here to win – we are and must remain committed to getting it done.
  • I know everyone here understands the impact on our Navy’s readiness, especially when agility, flexibility, fungibility, and responsiveness are required to surge our forces towards a crisis, or to quickly maneuver to meet and defeat an adversary hell-bent on challenging the rules-based international order all while we prepare for the high-end fight.
  • Okay, so my goal here today at S-N-A, is to answer ‘Bobs’ question from Office Space, “what would you say you do here?” To answer that question, I want each of you to walk with me through a journey of how I view the theory of victory and even more important – what it will take to win our nation’s conflicts during this critical decade with certainty.
  • I view my role and responsibilities as Fleet Forces Commander through three imperatives.
    • First, for our operational war plans to work they must all be founded on a key assumption that must hold – we must maintain continuity of government, continuity of operations, and continuity of decision-making. To achieve that level of continuity, the homeland cannot, repeat cannot be under strategic attack. Therefore, we must field, sustain, and ensure our Navy’s contribution to strategic deterrence remains the highest priority. There can be no chinks in that portfolio from strategic force readiness to modernization to Nuclear Command and Control to the new COLUMBIA Class submarine delivery.
    • Second, we must consistently and affordably generate combat-ready forces to meet global presence operations. But more importantly, we must have contingency reaction forces capable of responding with limited notice to take the fight to the enemy with Sailors who are armed, trained, ready, and fierce.
    • Third, we must set the conditions for, and enable our Fleet to maneuver with purpose in and through all domains – from the seabed to space, to include cyberspace – in order to mass and deliver decisive, lethal effects at our timing and tempo.
  • To achieve these ends, we must operate efficiently and effectively within and across D-o-D with Joint Force partners, Congress, Industry, and Intelligence stakeholders.
  • And, while we have made some gains since my remarks last year at S-N-A, I would argue that we have not achieved the level of readiness, production, and deliveries required in both capabilities and capacity to claim we are “up on plane” with a winning trajectory.
  • Make no mistake about it – we face formidable threats on the horizon.  And, while the nature of war never truly changes, these threats are fundamentally changing the character of how we prepare our Navy to fight.
  • I am sure you are all incredibly familiar with these threats. Strategic competitors and peer adversaries must be faced head on with purpose and realistic expectations with respect to the force we will have over the next several years. I know C-N-O and many others will speak about these adversaries and the threats they pose; however, here’s my quick review so that I can tell you what I want to do about it.
  • The sea has once again emerged as a primary focal point for peer competition. Where the international commons are threatened and attacked with kinetic and non-kinetic fires that are growing in range, complexity, and precision. The stakes have never been higher.
  • China and Russia are our two great strategic competitors.  
  • Now, what is really unknown, is the ever-growing concern of a new ‘no-limits relationship’ between these two powers. Just last summer, they amplified and increased the amount of joint training, joint exercises, and joint demonstrations. Bombers from both Russia and China operated out of China then they flew a joint mission into the Philippine Sea towards Guam.
  • In the fall, a Russian and Chinese maritime Task Force of several surface and subsurface platforms conducted the largest combined patrol to date within the INDO-PACOM and NORTHCOM areas of responsibility.
  • Just in December, four Russian and two Chinese aircraft flew a joint military air patrol composed of H-6 and T-U-95 bombers and S-U-35 and J-16 fighters, which then entered South Korean Air Defense Identification Zone then turned east toward Japan.
  • So, their joint exercises have unquestionably increased, their joint operations have increased, and to be frank their rhetoric has increased. I only see their partnership growing closer, and that's concerning. That's a dangerous and unpredictable all domain challenge that we must seek to understand more fully including the complexity of the three-body strategic deterrence landscape.
  • And, of course, I cannot leave out the destabilizing forces like Iran, its proxies, or the Violent Extremist Organizations, as well as North Korea.
  • North Korea continues to launch an unprecedented number of missiles to perfect the capability of holding South Korea, Japan, the continental United States, and our Allies at risk of nuclear attack.
  • Iran has unlawfully seized multiple civilian-owned ships with legal cargo in attempt to own the Strait of Hormuz and coerce the international economy.
  • Iran’s proxies, like the Houthis in Yemen or Hamas in Gaza, will always keep us engaged as they continue to probe and attack our forces as they seek to destabilize the region or disrupt civilian merchants carrying our international commerce through the maritime commons and vital waterways.
  • Now I ask you, while the geopolitical landscape has shifted, and adversarial navies modernize around us at staggering pace… What are we doing to compete and sustain our advantages? What has changed substantively in how we generate our forces and prepare those forces to meet the threats I’ve described given that our Navy’s size, shape, and capabilities will not fundamentally change for years to come? How do we answer the call to be ready with our Navy today provided the challenges we face with respect to our maintenance and new construction delays? 
  • Are we to be victimized by these constraints or can we rise above the status quo and be solution providers by ensuring we understand the readiness issues we can control and applying the requisite effort to those areas?
  • I have just described a very complex geopolitical environment with adversaries that truly pack a punch, an adversarial force that must be balanced with a global, mobile, and agile Navy capable of rapid maneuver, flexible response options, and overwhelming lethality – worldwide and trained for the myriad of threat capabilities and tactics our Sailors face in every theater of operation. Are we there yet?
  • A wise 4th century Roman General said, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” I think that may have been the theme to the third sequel of John Wick as well.
  • The calculated activities of our adversaries often reside in the ‘Grey Zone’ making it difficult to understand the transition between ambiguous and unambiguous indications and warning, we likely won’t get to pick the timing when we will need ready forces when the fight begins. I further think it is easy to assume that the timing of a fight with a peer won’t naturally align to our force generation model that is locked trained to our C-V-Ns and L-H-Ds.
  • Further, I will submit to you that today’s Joint Force was shaped by a 20-year land war following a sustained, relative peace that came with the end of the Cold War. While the leaders that will speak at S-N-A recognize this and work every day to pressurize this paradigm to get the rudder over on what multi-domain, high speed, long range, modern warfare looks like, it takes time for the “big machine” of national defense to retool the underpinning apparatus of warfare ideology, policy, and organizational structure.
  • As Secretary Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the military you have.” And I am sure we cannot afford a “ramp up period” like the 1939-1941 timeframe to wake up ‘the Sleeping Giant.’
  • Therefore, I am more interested in what won’t be ready for Day 1 and what we can do now, today, to ensure the critical path for building ready and responsive forces is not based on Sailors – either the number, the type, or their training. Everyone knows you can’t surge trust, but you can’t surge knowledge and mastery either.
  • When we need to turn the volume up quickly on delivering combat power, the hardest spigot I own is and will always be inextricably related to building and developing human capital – our most precious resource – our warriors.
  • In support, my “Theory of the Fight” is to prepare the Fleet for Battle Stations – to ensure the Navy writ large is on a warfighting footing capable of transitioning quickly across all lines of effort to man “General Quarters” – so that we can generate the combat-ready forces required to execute our Response Plans and provide our Operational Commanders the most-ready players on the field.
  • As most are aware, the Joint Force Directed Readiness model divides our forces into readiness categories. The Navy’s Immediate Response Force (or IRF) is predominantly deployed, think IKE C-S-G. From my assessment, we are unmatched across the Joint Force in providing our I-R-F requirements to match the Global Force Management demand. We are world class here – my video illustrated that clearly.
  • My concern lies with our Contingency Response Forces (CRF) – those forces that are required to be ready to flow for combat within 30 days. This is where I am applying my efforts. Readiness cannot be left at the pier, delayed in the shipyard, or undelivered on a production line. Further, it can’t be driven by empty recruiting stations or empty repair lockers.
  • Fleet Forces will do whatever it takes to provide a global, mobile, and agile force cable of rapid maneuver, equipped with flexible response options and overwhelming lethality agnostic to theater-specific threats, but able to adapt tactics and techniques to decisively defeat our adversaries at our timing and location of choice.
  • Simply stated, as part of that vision, our surface forces are, and will remain the critical contributor to our responsibility as a Navy to establish sea control when required, project power globally to deter, and win maritime conflicts on terms favorable to the United States.
  • We are at an inflection point, where our day-to-day decisions must be rooted in winning this strategic competition, whether in government, defense, and even in the business sector.
  • Okay – real enough for you? Now that we ‘got real’, let’s talk about ‘getting better’. I have given you my theory of the fight, allow me to take a few moments to describe the various Fleet Forces’ initiatives that are designed and being worked every day to operationalize it.
  • We are going to need each and every one of you to contribute whether it is on the deck plates, in the program offices, on the production floor, in the testing facility, recruiting the next generation to serve or welding pipes in the shipyard and repair facilities.
  • Our Navy is the greatest the world has ever known because of our truly outstanding people. As Deputy Secretary of Defense Hicks said, our people are “… the one advantage that they can never blunt, steal, or copy… we outmatch adversaries by out-thinking, out-strategizing, and out-maneuvering them.”
  • It is critically important to get this right, and I take the responsibility of building Resilient Warfighters seriously. Our profession demands decisive victory in all our endeavors. We will forge an elite warfighting force by maturing Sailors over a career development continuum that can assess, innovate, and execute both technically and tactically. We will win with Sailors who can master and engage their weapons systems with speed, effect, and absolute lethality across the full spectrum of modern warfare.
  • Some of my key efforts include:
  • Ready Relevant Learning, which is the Navy's long-term training investment to enhance Fleet mission readiness by continually improving Sailor’s competency and their performance by ensuring they have the knowledge and skills at the right time to maintain and operate their equipment and systems at the varsity level.
  • But what’s the first thing we do when Sailors show up fresh out of Dahlgren or ‘C-School’ as eager warriors ready to make a difference? We task them with hours of maintenance with outdated technologies and inefficient work control processes and then load them up with low value collateral duties. Collateral duties that in many cases could easily be centralized, combined, or eliminated with innovative approaches.
  • That is why we are spearheading two very important initiatives – Fleet Maintenance Optimization and the Collateral Duties Process Improvement Sprint.
  • Fleet Maintenance Optimization provides Sailors and shore-based maintenance personnel modern, relevant and effective information systems to maximize material readiness and operational availability of our warfighting units with goals like reducing PMS workload to less than 10 hours per Sailor per week for D-D-G Class Ships while empowering the work control tools they need at the point of maintenance through tablet based technologies.
  • And while we know not all collateral duties can be eliminated, we are aggressively seeking to reduce, combine, and centralize many of these additional duties to reduce the number of instantiations at each command in order to free time up to focus on warfighting readiness.
  • The next level of effort logically flows so that once we have highly trained and resilient warfighters, and we’ve bought back some of their time, we can then begin forging them into effective Warfighting Teams.
  • A Warfighting Team that views their missions through a Warfighting Lens: Whether it’s the Condition II Air Warfare team on station in the Red Sea, the Regional Maintenance Center providing an onboard tech assist on a Redline, the O-E-M expediting parts, a group of Subject Matter Experts getting a critical system back online for COMPTUEX, or a shipyard work center shop working overtime to get a ship ready for Sea Trials. We must be all-in, all-the-time.
  • While Get Real - Get Better has done a good job removing unacceptable variability in performance between our best and worst performers, I’m looking to take the next step so that our Fleet is postured to sustain and strengthen deterrence against our most consequential strategic competitors and pacing adversaries, and if necessary, dominate and win that fight.
  • Some of these L-O-Es include:
  • Treating our Shore Infrastructure like a Platform. Shore C-2 must have codified governance, clear lines of accountability, standardized quality and performance metrics all informed by risk to Force and risk to Mission through the Fleet Commander’s eyes. Examples of improvements include:
    • By making the Commander, Navy Installations Command the Type Commander for Shore Infrastructure, we enable a singular responsible and accountable officer to effectively command and control public works operations, routine maintenance (preventive or corrective), and readiness of Fleet services on our installations through the paradigm that the shore is a warfighting platform.
    • By assigning Regional Commanders as Naval Shore Force Commanders who report to the Fleet Commanders, the risk model is normalized and aligned more effectively so that the deferral of planned maintenance, or repairs to critical shore-based systems and facilities require Fleet Commanders to be part of the decision-making process.
    • As part of the C-5-I Integrated Campaign Plan, my team is working to improve the training, material condition, and interoperability of C-5-I systems earlier in the O-F-R-P by reducing and resolving technical issues that are currently discovered just-in-time by the Deploying Group Systems Interoperability Testing (or D-G-SIT) during COMPTUEX.
    • D-G-SIT should go back to what it was designed to be – an assessment of interoperability readiness and not a process to groom C-5-I systems, train watchstanders, and compensate for equipment that is not being properly maintained throughout the force generation process.
  • To compete in this competition, we must have support facilities and C-5-I systems in the best material condition possible so that our Sailors, our watch teams, and our strike group staffs are ready for the challenging combat operations they will likely encounter with ever shrinking notice.
 
  • Okay, now that we have our steely-eyed warfighters supported and interoperable, the next step is to train and certify them to be ready to surge as well as ready to conduct major combat operations. The main efforts here are:
    • Our O-F-R-P Renovation and Force Readiness Analytics efforts. The goal is to build an O-F-R-P model better designed to balance Fleet presence and response, integrate new operational concepts, and leverage training and certification innovation to balance capacity and capability to enhance Force flexibility, fungibility, and resiliency. 
    • This requires higher training density during Basic and Advance Phases, more stable and balanced crewing models, and an understanding of the limiting factors to achieve these goals. LIMFACs like reducing the number of critical N-E-Cs required, the size, shape and role of organizations like the Afloat Training Groups, the roles and responsibilities of the new Surface Readiness Groups, and how to better incorporate innovation, like Live, Virtual, and Constructive (or L-V-C) technologies into the force generation milestone events.
    • With respect to L-V-C – we should all understand that modern warfare’s intensity and complexity cannot be adequately replicated in a pure live or synthetic environment for a multitude of reasons. L-V-C is the Fleet’s premiere distributed training method that seamlessly integrates platforms and systems across the Navy Continuous Training Environment (NCTE) network.
    • For instance, during Large Scale Exercise 2023, L-V-C connected nine MOCs, eight Strike Group Staffs, and over twenty ships across twenty-two time zones, providing training from the tactical to operational level of warfare in one holistic, agile, red team informed threat environment with a dynamic common operating picture within a realistic geographic construct.
  • No other fighting force in the world has the capability to train, certify and integrate effects the way our Navy can, but we are just scratching the surface of how to utilize L-V-C fully.
  • We also used L-S-E 2023 to expand the “One Atlantic” concept to other areas of operations. I referenced earlier how China and Russia launched a joint patrol over the summer that attempted to expose and/or exploit seams in the Unified Command Plan boundaries and stress the Command and Control of assigned forces. But we were ready.
  • One Atlantic allows the Navy to continually provide certified combat ready forces that can maneuver across the EUCOM and NORTHCOM seams with ease to maximize their effectiveness. You’ve likely heard our Task Group Greyhound surface ships being on call, we have also utilized Submarine Forces in the same manner with the Wolfpack Initiative to defend our nation against the persistent, proximate threats in the Atlantic.
  • With all these efforts, our overall goal is to improve the level of warfighting lethality earlier in the force generation lifecycle. Potential conflict with peer adversaries is simply not a function of our peacetime presence generation model. We must increase our readiness and responsiveness.
  • I believe if we can coordinate and implement these programs and initiatives, Fleet Forces will then be able to provide a global, mobile, and agile force cable of rapid maneuver, equipped with flexible response options and overwhelming lethality agnostic to theater-specific threats, but able to adapt tactics and techniques to decisively respond and defeat any adversaries at our timing and location of choice.
  • And, we have done it recently with remarkable success, proven by the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Hamas’ violent attack on Israel. However, in both cases, the process was reactive and accomplished with herculean efforts by many organizations. There’s no reason we can’t be more proactive, with standing processes, procedures, and policies to increase the number of combat surge ready forces. I know Brendan McLane and Joe Cahill are working this hard with their Readiness North Star and Response Plan efforts.
  • When we started the O-F-R-P journey about a decade ago, the assumptions were well-founded, and in general, served us well while we enjoyed a time in naval history that was predominantly based on countering V-E-Os using a deployment model that did not demand the level of responsiveness required today.
  • As a result, today, we typically generate forces with our model to support Global Force Management presence requirements for peacetime rotations.
  • Our current O-F-R-P model works well in this regard as evidenced by how U-S Atlantic Fleet forces – right now – are operating covertly with impunity in the High North, patrolling in the Eastern Mediterranean ready to support Israel or respond to Russian aggression, as well as conducting operations in support of Fifth Fleet to keep critical sea lanes open by preventing the disruption of commercial trade in internationally recognized trade routes.
  • We should all be proud of our Sailors and how our Navy is operating in these critical areas. However, these examples are not what we will face in high end conflict or how the demand signal will unfold.
  • Bottom Line: The O-F-R-P was not built to generate combat ready ships and air wings to meet the demand signal against peer adversaries. During peacetime force generation, the O-F-R-P provides a steady supply of ready naval forces for a wide range of global presence operations. But it is not optimized to shift into high gear and generate, deploy, and regenerate a large surge of combat ready maritime forces.
  • So, how will we manage Force Generation as ever shrinking I&W windows demands force flows well beyond the current O-F-R-P design?
  • This is where a major effort by my staff fits in – the development of a Global Maritime Response Plan. A holistic, full spectrum, all hands-on-deck plan that identifies assumptions, permissions, authorities, and waivers then activates stakeholders to meet the increased demand tied to indications and warnings in order to generate, prioritize, and sustain combat ready forces by leveraging a comprehensive decision matrix across all phases of warfare.
  • This is a challenging problem. However, our Get Real – Get Better culture demands we face this head on – resisting the normal inclination to become paralyzed in problem admiration, overwhelmed that the solution set is too hard, requires too much time, money, or energy. With today’s threats, we simply do no have a choice.
  • The Global Maritime Response Plan is being designed to give the C-N-O a way to shift the Navy from peacetime to wartime. This will bolster key organizations, combine others, and devolve or shut down lower priority commands and functions.
  • The Global Maritime Response Plan development is well underway. We are currently building out the Decision Support Matrices and the Response Conditions or RESCONs (think like DEFCON) that will be used to control how our Navy will be put on the required warfighting footing level to best support operational commanders.
  • I look forward to eventually being able to test the Global Maritime Response Plan and the associated RESCONs during Fleet exercise scenarios across all echelons on a routine basis.
** Wrap-Up **
  • As I bring my remarks to an end, I will offer that we can get after many of these initiatives without new authorities, without additional lines of funding or shifting resources. But, for the Global Maritime Response Plan to reach its full potential, our defense industrial partners, our Defense Production Team will have to think about what triggers place your activities on a wartime footing, how do you scale your operations and production, and how quickly can you respond? It will likely take iteration, and “Rev 1” should in run be today.
  • We have to think about what we won’t currently bring to the fight on Day 1 and what we need to change today in order to have the most lethal, combat-credible forces on the field, on time, on target, ready to defeat the adversary in order to win our nation’s wars with the Navy we actually have.
  • Because, as you can see since Russia invaded Ukraine and Hamas launched its attack on Israel and civilian merchants in the shipping lanes, the Navy, your Sailors on Surface ships like CARNEY – THOMAS HUDNER – GRAVELY – MASON – LABOON – have answered the call shooting down over 62 one-way U-A-Vs, rockets, cruise and ballistic missiles.
  • The U-S Surface Navy and its Sailors remain the world’s premier fighting force, always on ‘Alfa Station’, staring down the adversary while protecting our prosperity and winning our nation’s wars. I know that you will continue to prevail. Because:
    • No adversary in their right mind wants to confront our surface fleet.
    • No adversary comes close to the awe inspiring might of a U-S Surface Combatant.
    • Our surface warriors are feared.
    • The maritime environment is our domain.
    • We set the conditions for victory.
  • I look forward to your questions and getting after it – together. Thank you.

 
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