Vice Admiral William Burke is the Navy’s Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems. He will be visiting Rochester this week. This post by him originally appeared in the July 24 issue of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
America’s Navy is our nation’s front line in war and in peace, operating on, above and below the sea.
Think of the Navy as America’s “away team,” deployed around the world, defending our nation’s interests every day.
This year marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Many of the qualities that shaped and helped the Navy win 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 on the Atlantic Coast and the Great Lakes. Two hundred years later, that tradition continues, relying on the Navy to protect our strategic interests at home and abroad.
Today, Navy ships fight on the sea; Navy submarines fight under the sea; and Navy aircraft fight over the sea, taking off from and landing on Navy aircraft carriers.
The United States is a maritime nation bounded by oceans on both sides. Consider a few facts. Water covers about 70 percent of the earth’s surface. Approximately 80 percent of the world’s population lives near the sea. About 90 percent of all world trade by volume travels by sea, including most of the 5 billion dollars in exports from Rochester each year. In other words, what happens on the sea matters. It matters to our national defense. It matters to world peace. It matters to our economy and to the preservation of prosperity. A strong Navy is necessary to preserve the Americanway of life.
The Navy has never been more in demand. The President’s national security strategy emphasizes our commitment in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions, vast, maritime areas of the world ideally suited for naval operations and in which the Navy maintains a robust presence.
Elsewhere in the world, we face diverse challenges. We are a nation at war. We face a terrorist network that has attacked our country before, and vows to do so again. Unstable regimes are developing nuclear weapons. Rising powers have begun military buildups to match their economic growth. Weak and failed states create havens for groups that seek to do us harm, such as al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Africa and Somali pirates. Climate change is creating new conflicts, as Arctic melting foments disputes over shipping lanes and oil supplies previously locked in ice.
The Navy is ideally suited for this kind of world because the Navy is fast, flexible and by its very nature, operating forward, and ready. Our ships, submarines and aircraft can go anywhere on the sea on short notice, and they can do all of their work from the sea. From the sea, Navy ships and submarines can destroy targets located far inland. Our aircraft don’t need airstrips on the ground. From the sea, they take off from aircraft carriers. From the sea, Navy SEAL teams can carry out special operations worldwide. In a humanitarian crisis like the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan last year, or the earthquake which ravaged Haiti in 2010, the Navy can deliver relief supplies and provide medical care.
On any given day, the Navy has the ability to attack a terrorist camp, capture a pirate vessel, and deliver emergency relief, all in different parts of the world. Being able to do all of these things from the sea is important, as we may not be able to get another country’s permission to come ashore.
Our ready force also requires us to be smart about how we power our ships, aircraft and submarines. That’s why the Navy is a leader in pursuing our warfighting advantage through innovation in energy. By 2016, the Navy will sail the Great Green Fleet, a carrier strike group composed of nuclear-powered warships, energy-efficient hybrid electric ships, and aircraft flying on biofuels. We have incorporated energy efficiency in the design of all new ship classes. These initiatives will give us a warfighting advantage in the next war. In fact, they may help avoid the next war altogether.
In today’s world, power must be ready, fast, flexible and operating forward. This requires warfighting Sailors who are highly trained, highly motivated and courageous; Sailors who are capable of meeting any challenge. It requires the best Sailors in the world – the men and women of the United States Navy.