Sources: Naval Forces Europe headquarters, 6th Fleet would merge in Naples
August 21, 2004
The U.S. military’s overseas troop shake-up is expected to include a large number of changes to Navy forces in Europe, including the merger of its two top headquarters and the downsizing of a base in Iceland, according to several Navy officials and other sources.
The Navy has released few details on the plans for Europe, but some of the changes already have started.
The biggest move in the redesign is the plan to move its headquarters in London — where it has been since World War II — and to combine its top staffs in Naples, Italy, as early as next summer.
The London-based Naval Forces Europe headquarters staff and the Gaeta, Italy-based 6th Fleet staff are expected to merge and operate from the Naval Support Activity Naples’s windowless command and control building, according to a Navy official who spoke on a condition of anonymity.
The consolidated command will have about 500 military and civilian personnel from the two parent staffs, as well as personnel from other Naples-area commands, including the Commander, Fleet Air Mediterranean combined staff and possibly Submarine Group Eight, the official said.
The merger in Naples and changes to Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland, also were recently cited in a Government Accountability Office report to Congress on plans for overseas bases.
The July 2004 report states that although a master plan for European structure has not been finalized, commanders are continuing “to develop and implement plans for facilities they believe will have an enduring presence,” including Naval Support Activities, Naples. Naval Station Rota in Spain also is mentioned in the report as a base Navy leaders want to keep.
Navy Europe spokesman Capt. Gordon Hume said he wouldn’t discuss any pending changes because the Pentagon has not completed its realignment plan, what military officials call the Global Posture Review.
President Bush announced Monday that he plans to bring home 60,000 to 70,000 troops and 100,000 family members and civilian employees by closing hundreds of overseas bases.
“Until final decisions are made with regard to the Global Posture Review, it is inappropriate for us to discuss specifics of any recommendations under review,” Hume wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
The U.S. military still is in the process of consulting and negotiating these plans with “current and potential host countries” as well as the U.S. Congress, Hume added in his e-mail.
The GAO report stated that the base in Iceland would be trimmed over the next few years as some of its current missions are moved to other European bases.
It mentioned “three parcels of land in Iceland have been nominated by U.S. Navy Europe for return to the host nation and are currently in the property return process.”
The Naples merger is being done, according to the GAO report, “to reduce costs while increasing operational effectiveness,” including cutting a number of redundant positions and missions in the various staffs, many of which have historically overlapped.
The as-yet unnamed command had been expected to officially stand up Oct. 1, the Navy official said, but the move from London to Naples couldn’t be completed in that time frame.
Navy public affairs officials in Europe and Washington have repeatedly told Stars and Stripes that any changes have not been approved through military or diplomatic channels and therefore can’t be confirmed.
However, hints of some of the details have leaked into base newspapers, town hall-style meetings and official military Web sites.
For example, one of the planned changes, the makeup of the new command’s medical staff, was posted on the Tricare Europe Web site. Plans show that of the 17 military and civilian positions currently carried by the two staffs, three officers and one enlisted position will be cut when they merge.
In addition, there been frequent references to one of the merged command’s early working names — Commander, Naval European Command — by area military officials.
The Commander Navy Region Europe Web site, www.cnrejobs.com, has jobs listed for the new command under the name Commander, Naval European Command.
Initial elements of the new command started working together in a “fusion cell” at the Naples’ C4I building earlier this year, according to two sailors working in the cell who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
When the staffs officially merge, the four-star Navy Europe and three-star 6th Fleet commanders will continue to control their previous areas of responsibility, Navy officials said.
Under the current setup, Naval Forces Europe commands all Navy operations in Europe. Its commander, Adm. Gregory Johnson, also serves as head of NATO’s Naples-based Joint Forces Command. Until recently, the command had been known as Allied Forces Southern Europe.
The 6th Fleet mainly is responsible for all ship, aircraft and submarine operations in its area of operations, which includes all waters surrounding Europe and most of Africa. It is one of five numbered Navy fleets, which are each responsible for large areas of world.
In November 2002, the Navy officially formed a new command: Commander, Navy Region Europe, also known as CNRE. It is responsible for maintenance and supply of the Navy’s eight major European bases.
Plans also may be in the works to cut all military ship, and possibly, aircraft maintenance billets, according to a Navy official.
The Navy doesn’t operate any shipyards in the Mediterranean Sea region and any maintenance work is done in civilian-run facilities in the area or by the La Maddalena, Sardinia-based submarine tender USS Emory S. Land.
— Reporter Kendra Helmer contributed to this story.