Being there matters: The case for a strong NavyWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
This year marks the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie fought during the War of 1812. Being a former commanding officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70), I have a profound appreciation for the legacy of this battle.
I was honored this week to be able to attend some of the great events in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, commemorating the Battle of Lake Erie. During my visit, I was immersed in the history of this great naval battle and I realized that so many of the qualities that shaped and helped the Navy win the battle of Lake Erie over 200 years ago still hold true today: the fighting spirit and boldness of the Navy’s Sailors, the Navy’s innovation and technological supremacy, the direct link between a strong Navy and a prosperous America through free world trade, and the Navy’s key role in preserving American sovereignty.
During the War of 1812, America called on the Navy and its warfighting Sailors to preserve our country’s security and prosperity. Two hundred years later, that tradition continues.
Today, your Navy continues to protect and defend America on the world’s oceans. Navy ships, submarines, aircraft and, most importantly, tens of thousands of America’s finest young men and women who are deployed around the world doing just that. They are there now. They will be there when we are sleeping tonight. They will be there every Saturday, Sunday and holiday this year. They are there around the clock, far from our shores, defending America.
That they are there is critically important because, as in virtually any global endeavor, being there matters. It matters in business: it is why American firms maintain a presence in their overseas markets. It matters in politics: it is why the State Department maintains a diplomatic contingent in nearly every other nation on earth. It certainly matters to our national defense: it is why U.S. forces are stationed around the world.
Our planet is more than 70 percent covered by water; “being there” means having the ability to act from the sea. The Navy is uniquely positioned to be there. The world’s oceans allow the Navy the power to protect America’s interests anywhere, and at any time.
When America’s national security is threatened by the existence of a weapons facility or a terrorist camp on the other side of the world, being there matters. Where these threats exist, chances are high that Navy ships, submarines, aircraft and Navy Special Forces are very close by, with the ability to destroy targets located hundreds of miles inland. When the decision is made to act on one of these threats, the solution may involve launching attack aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles from aircraft carriers, firing cruise missiles from ships or submarines or inserting a team of Navy SEALs to do what only Navy SEALs can do. In any case, the Navy can do all of these things, and do them all from the sea without the need to get another country’s permission to operate within its borders.
More than 90 percent of the world’s commerce travels by sea. When piracy threatens innocent lives and disrupts shipping traffic in the Indian Ocean, when rogue nations act to deny access to vital Middle East waterways through which much of the world’s oil is shipped, being there matters. America’s Navy is there, patrolling what is essentially the world’s interstate ocean highway system, ensuring the free flow of global trade and, in turn, preserving America’s economic prosperity.
Following a humanitarian crisis, like the devastating tsunami that struck north Japan in 2011 or the earthquake which ravaged Haiti in 2010, being there matters. Because the Navy is always deployed around the world, it can provide nearly immediate humanitarian relief in the wake of a disaster, ferrying supplies, medicine and trained medical personnel ashore from Navy ships via helicopters and landing craft.
When narcotics traffickers use speedboats and special purpose submarines to ferry illegal drugs across the oceans and into America, being there matters. Navy ships and submarines are deployed in the waters near Central and South America with law enforcement agencies to intercept shipments of illegal narcotics before they reach our shores.
As the world’s geopolitical and economic climates continue to evolve, the case for America maintaining a strong Navy grows. Indeed, the President’s national security strategy calls for a renewed focus on enduring threats in the Middle East region, as well as an increased American commitment in the Asia-Pacific region — a vast, mostly ocean-covered area of the world ideally suited for operations from the sea and in which the Navy maintains a robust presence.
On Sept. 10, 1813, your Navy was there and ensured America kept control of Lake Erie for the rest of the war. Today, just as it did then, when it comes to protecting and defending America, being there matters. And America’s Navy is already there!
Rear Adm. Joseph A. Horn is the head of the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems.
Tags: Asia-Pacific region, Battle of Lake Erie, Central and South America, Japan, Middle East, Navy, Navy SEALs, Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems, Rear Adm. Joseph A. Horn, USS Lake Erie (CG-70), War of 1812