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Peter M. Swartz
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General overview

This report provides analysis as part of CNA's study for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet on future options for the numbered fleets. As a basis for this analysis, it examines the operational history of the U.S. Navy, describes the origins of the numbered fleet system, and summarizes relevant data regarding four critical issue areas:

  • Numbered fleet commanders and the levels of warfare
  • The fleets in joint operations
  • Fleet headquarters
  • Fleet operations and technology change.

Having laid out the data, this report then makes a series of analytical observations regarding that data. The end purpose of this effort is to assist decision-makers in better understanding where they have been before, to help enable them to make informed decisions about the future.

Our focus throughout was on the operati onal level of war, a level of warfar and deployment policy we found to be neglected in traditional histories of
the Navy—squeezed out between or scattered among narratives of strategic policy plans and choices, and tactical recountings. For the Navy of the 1990s and beyond—a Navy that will be more jointly integrated with its sister services and other organizations at the tactical and operational levels of command—an understanding of where it has already been, at the operational level of warfare, should prove useful.

Specific observations

Our analysis yielded a number of insights regarding the four issue areas under consideration.

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CNA Historical Paper Series

CNA publishes documents in its Historical Paper Series to highlight previously unpublished works with historical perspectives that may be of use to current and future researchers. The content of this paper is current through its initial writing in 1996. It is presented in its original format.

DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited.


  • Pages: 70
  • Document Number: DIM-2020-U-027242-1Rev
  • Publication Date: 8/6/2021
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