NATO’s new Atlantic command, Joint Force Command Norfolk, officially reached initial operating capability (IOC) on Thursday, Sept 17, 2020 with an official ribbon cutting ceremony.
JFC Norfolk, established to protect sea lanes between Europe and North America, is the first NATO headquarters dedicated to the Atlantic since 2003. It is NATO’s newest operational command.
Amongst the distinguished guests at the in-person ceremony were Admiral Chris Grady, commander, United States Fleet Forces, Vice Admiral P M Bennett, Chief of Staff, Supreme Allied Command Transformation and General Tod D. Wolters, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, who attended online and offered congratulations and support on this achievement.
In reaching IOC, the JFC Norfolk commander determined that the command is ready to take on an initial set of tasks in accordance with the direction and guidance of NATO’s 30 member states.
“JFC Norfolk’s efforts are already delivering great coherence in our vigilance activities and the insightful work on DDA (Defence and Deterrence of the Atlantic area) alignment, and contributions to Allied Command Transformation’s war-fighting capstone concept, serve to maintain NATO’s advantage in competition, crisis and conflict,” said General Wolters.
Co-located with the U.S. Second Fleet, the Atlantic Command is led by U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis.
“This ceremony marks a significant milestone in providing a new, crucial location and link to the Alliance, ultimately ensuring a 360-degree approach for our collective NATO defence and security,” said Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, Commander of Joint Force Command Norfolk. He also serves as the Commander of U.S. Second Fleet.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the milestone, saying: “NATO is a transatlantic Alliance and the North Atlantic is vital for the security of Europe. Our new Atlantic Command will ensure crucial routes for reinforcements and supplies from North America to Europe remain secure.”
NATO Defence Ministers decided in June 2018 to adapt the Alliance’s command structure with a new Atlantic command in Norfolk, and a command for support and logistics in Ulm, Germany. Joint Force Command Norfolk joins NATO’s two existing Joint Forces Commands, located in Brunssum, Netherlands, and Naples, Italy.
The North Atlantic Council (NAC), NATO’s highest decision making body, announced the activation of JFC Norfolk as a NATO military body on July 26, 2019 in order to increase NATO’s readiness across the Atlantic, strengthen the trans-Atlantic bonds with Allies and Partners, increase readiness to defend NATO’s Allies and Partners in the North Atlantic and High North, and ultimately, deter aggression from any potential adversaries.
JFC Norfolk will provide coherent command arrangements for Allied forces, maintain situational awareness, conduct exercises, and draw up operational plans covering vast geographic areas, from the US East Coast, past the Greenland-Iceland-U.K. (GIUK) gap and into the Arctic. Day-to-day NATO maritime operations will continue to be run out of Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) in the United Kingdom.