NATO’s Joint Force Command Norfolk has achieved initial operational capability, with plans to be fully operational by the end of next year, the head of the command said on Thursday.
Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who serves both as the commander of JFC Norfolk and the commander of U.S. 2nd Fleet, during a call today with reporters emphasized the need for deterrence in the Atlantic.
“This is the first command of its type within NATO,” Lewis said. “It’s the first command on the continent of North America that NATO has established in a long time.”
While Lewis leads JFC Norfolk, he noted that his deputy commander is U.K. Royal Navy Rear Admiral Andrew Betton. The command also includes three one-star leadership positions held by one officer from Denmark, one from France, and one from Norway, Lewis said. JFC Norfolk’s chief of staff will toggle between an officer from Spain and Germany. Meanwhile, Lewis’ deputy for his 2nd Fleet command is Canadian Rear Admiral Steve Waddell.
“JFC Norfolk will make our lives stronger and help defend North America as well as Europe, by providing continued situational awareness across the North Atlantic, deterring aggression, and if necessary, rising to defend our shared values,” Lewis said.
“We will aid [Supreme Allied Commander Europe] in developing — in achieving this 360-degree approach to the collective defense of the allies,” he added. “We will both lead and contribute to NATO contingency planning, actively participate in multi-national exercises, and develop a high readiness capability to respond in the event of an emergency crisis.”
In the next year, as it gears up for full operational capability by the conclusion of 2021, the command will focus on an array of assignments from Supreme Allied Commander Europe, which Lewis said will include planning for different types of exercises.
Specifically, JFC Norfolk will strategize for and participate in a NATO exercise called Steadfast Defender that is slated to take place next summer.
“There’s parts of that in the lead-up to the actual live exercise that will flex the tasking that we need to have to be able to declare full operational [capability],” Lewis said of the exercise.
Betton described Steadfast Defender as an exercise focused on moving forces through the Atlantic Ocean to continental Europe, as the United States and its allies could have to do in the event of a real-world emergency.
“For JFC Norfolk, it is largely about training up the team here in the headquarters so we can identify our shortfalls, address those, and ensure that we are fully ready to declare full operational capability later next year,” Betton said. “So it’s a multi-faceted thing.”
NATO established JFC Norfolk in July 2019, a little over one year after the United States reestablished 2nd Fleet as the Pentagon recalculated its strategy due to Russia’s increased activity in the North Atlantic.
Lewis said NATO has authorized both a new strategy and an execution of that strategy, known as “Deterrence and Defense of the Euro-Atlantic Region.” But the specifics of the strategy are under classification, according to Lewis.
“We’re in . . . lockstep right now in planning toward implementation of that strategy and what that operational concept looks like,” Lewis said. “In fact, there’s a commander’s conference in about a week and a half’s time and that’s the main topic of the commander’s conference. And we have submitted our approach to that from this command already.”