I have spoken to several Montana audiences about the Navy’s significance to my home state, and I want to share that information with you.
Seventy percent of the earth is covered by water, and 80 percent of its people live in coastal areas. Ninety percent of shipping moves by water. In that light, the Navy’s global presence is a sound investment to protect America’s security, prosperity and way of life.
Global commerce is feasible because the Navy is there, patrolling the world’s sea lanes, ensuring the free flow of trade and preserving America’s prosperity. That matters to Montana, whose 2012 exports totaled $2.49 billion. Except for Canada and Mexico, the state’s top export partners are an ocean away.
Navy vessels, aircraft and, most importantly, tens of thousands of America’s finest men and women are deployed worldwide to protect and defend our nation. They are there, far from home, weekdays, weekends and holidays, at all times.
Being there matters in virtually every global endeavor – it’s why American firms have a presence in their overseas markets and the State Department maintains a diplomatic contingent in nearly every nation. Being there certainly matters to national defense – it’s why U.S. forces are stationed around the world.
The Navy is uniquely positioned to be there when it matters. When an adversary on the other side of the world threatens national security, chances are high that Navy ships, submarines, aircraft and special forces are nearby and able to mitigate the threat, even those located hundreds of miles inland.
The Navy’s response to a threat may involve launching attack jets or unmanned aircraft from aircraft carriers, firing cruise missiles from ships or submarines, or inserting a team of Navy SEALs to do what only they can do.
The Navy can carry out these missions from the sea in international waterways without being bound by adversaries that could otherwise deny our nation’s interests or efforts within claimed areas or borders.
When piracy threatens lives and disrupts shipping in the Indian Ocean, when rogue nations threaten access to Middle East waterways, through which much of the world’s oil is shipped, being there matters.
During a humanitarian crisis, being there matters. With its global deployment, the Navy can ferry supplies, medicine and trained personnel ashore from ships via helicopters and landing craft. Examples of such relief include the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Being there matters when narcotics traffickers use speedboats and submarines to ferry illegal drugs into America. Navy ships and submarines work the waters near Central America and South America with law enforcement agencies to intercept those shipments before they reach our shores.
As global geopolitical and economic climates evolve, the case for maintaining a strong Navy grows. The President’s national security strategy calls for a renewed focus on enduring threats in the Middle East, and an increased commitment in the Asia-Pacific region – a vast area ideal for sea-based operations and in which the Navy maintains a robust presence.
When it comes to protecting and defending America, being there matters. And America’s Navy is already there.
Master Chief Master at Arms Robert Stout is a Columbia Falls native whose Navy career has taken him to every continent except Antarctica. His primary duties are instructing Navy men and women how to defend ships and naval installations against potential terrorist attack.