When the Naval Safety Command was established in 1951 at Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia, it was called the U.S. Naval Aviation Safety Activity. The staff collected, evaluated and published information about aviation safety. The staff also advised the chief of naval operations (CNO) and the commandant of the Marine Corps on all phases of the aviation safety effort.
The Safety Activity grew into the U.S. Naval Aviation Safety Center in 1955 and the officer in charge of the activity was replaced with a director. In 1957, the director’s billet was filled with a flag officer for the first time, and one year later, the director’s title became commander. During this time, the center’s mission expanded into several new areas. The staff initiated and conducted aviation mishap investigations and surveys and helped formulate policies aimed at maintaining higher levels of combat readiness.
In May 1968, the Naval Aviation Safety Center and the Submarine Safety Center, located in New London, Connecticut, merged to become the Naval Safety Center, based in Norfolk. Programs involving surface ships and shore activities were added to form the nucleus for all safety programs within the Navy. In 1986, system safety was added as a program, and the position of a Marine Corps deputy commander was established to administer and represent Marine Corps safety issues. In May 1989, training safety became the command’s newest program, addressing problems involving shore-based basic training. While Marines have always been a part of the aviation process, a Marine Corps ground safety detachment was assigned to the Naval Safety Center in October 1993. Subsequently, a naval reserve unit was stood up in 1996, consisting of 30 members.
In February 2022, the Naval Safety Center was re-established as the Naval Safety Command (NAVSAFECOM), with
expanded authorities and functions. As a two-star, Echelon II command, NAVSAFECOM serves as the naval enterprise lead for non-nuclear safety standards, expertise and oversight of the Department of the Navy’s Safety Management System (SMS). The command operates with the requisite authorities and responsibilities to establish a SMS that provides defense-in-depth and ensures the naval enterprise is both safe to operate and operating safely. The command has the authority to establish Echelon I safety and risk management policy and the ability to conduct formal, independent assurance functions from Echelon II through unit-level commands to evaluate risk control system and continual self-improvement. The command provides safety advice and assistance to the Secretary of the Navy and manages the Navy’s safety and occupational health program on behalf of the CNO. The commander, a rear admiral, also serves as the special assistant for safety matters to the CNO. The command assists the Marine Corps by managing the service’s portion of the naval aviation safety program and other safety programs as required. The NAVSAFECOM provides support and oversight to the naval safety program through safety and risk management policy and guidance, safety data services, safety program services, safety communications and safety education and training. Data sources are worldwide, and information is provided to all levels of the Navy, Marine Corps, other federal agencies, contractors and foreign governments.
The command is currently organized into seven directorates: Aviation, Afloat, Data Analysis and Safety Promotions, Shore, Expeditionary Warfare, Investigations, and Assurance. Four departments and one special staff division provide support to the core operations of the command. As an Echelon II command, NAVSAFECOM provides oversight of its Echelon III commands, the Naval Safety and Environmental Training Command in Norfolk and the Naval School of Aviation Safety in Pensacola, Florida, consisting of civilian, Navy and Marine Corps staff.