With missions around the world, the United States Navy is reorganizing its forces in its own backyard, better marshaling its resources to operate more effectively and improve maritime security in the Americas. The move has caused some confusion, raising concerns among a few Latin leaders that it will usher in a new era of heightened military activity in the region. In fact, it reflects a commitment by the U.S. to work more closely with its partners in the region on humanitarian issues, law enforcement and other issues of common interest.
In April, the Navy announced that after almost sixty years it was reactivating the Fourth Fleet. During World War Two, the unit patrolled the Caribbean Sea and South Atlantic hunting German submarines and other commerce raiders, and after the war ended it was absorbed by the Second Fleet, which took on its responsibilities and missions.
As the pace and importance of naval operations in the region has increased, however, the Navy decided to reverse that decision. And as the world has changed drastically since 1945, so has the mission of the Fourth Fleet.
The Navy already works closely in joint training exercises with nations such as Chile, Peru and Brazil, and these operations will continue. The revived Fourth Fleet will aid interdiction of drug smuggling in the region as well as the United States. It will also provide medical and humanitarian relief with a hospital ship, as well as speedy U.S. assistance, when requested and consistent with our legal authorities, after natural disasters in the region, as was provided last year after Hurricane Felix hit Mexico, Nicaragua and Honduras.
The unit’s revival is not the rebuilding of an actual fleet, but an administrative change that will allow a more focused and effective use of naval resources. In the spirit of hemispheric cooperation, the reorganization will enhance regional stability. In short, it will be a friendship that works in the common interests of all in the hemisphere.