It's Navy Week in Tampa Bay from Saturday through Jan. 29. And in a very real way, the citizens of Tampa Bay, like all Americans, have a vested interest in having a Navy that is fast, flexible, global and powerful.
America's Navy is a global force for good, our country's away team, meeting threats and providing assistance whenever needed. The Navy is the branch of the U.S. military that fights on the water, under the water and over the water. It fights on the water in ships, under the water in submarines, and over the water in planes that take off and land on Navy aircraft carriers.
This ability to act from the water is very important. It gives the Navy the power to protect America's interests — anywhere, anytime.
To see why, think of the 70-80-90 rule:
• Water covers about 70 percent of the Earth's surface.
• About 80 percent of the world's population lives near the ocean.
• About 90 percent of all international trade travels by sea.
What happens on the water is very important to American security and prosperity. It's important to the preservation of American jobs. It's important to keeping the peace worldwide. Most fundamentally, it's important to our national defense. After all, the United States is bounded by oceans on both coasts and by the Gulf of Mexico on Florida's own shores.
For all of these reasons, we need to be able to protect ourselves on, under and over the water. That's what the Navy does.
And because the challenges our country faces are so unpredictable and diverse, the Navy's job is getting bigger and more important than ever. We need to be ready to confront a range of challenges whenever and wherever they happen.
On any given day, the U.S. military might need to attack a terrorist camp, keep watch over a potential conflict abroad, capture a pirate vessel and deliver emergency relief, all in different parts of the world. We can't always afford to wait to set up big operations on land, or to get another country's permission to come ashore.
The Navy is ideally suited for this kind of world, because the Navy is fast and flexible. It can go anywhere on the ocean on short notice, and can do all of its work from the water:
• Navy ships and submarines can shoot at targets and knock out enemy sites far inland — from the water.
• Navy planes fly about half of the aerial combat missions in Afghanistan. They don't need airstrips on the ground. They take off from aircraft carriers — from the water.
• Navy SEAL teams can carry out special operations worldwide — from the water.
• In a humanitarian crisis like the Asian tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti, the Navy can deliver huge amounts of supplies and provide hospital-quality medical care — from the water.
To handle this wide variety of missions, the Navy requires men and women who are highly trained, highly motivated, and courageous — sailors who are capable of meeting any challenge. Fortunately for our nation, that's exactly who we have. We hope you'll join us during Tampa Bay Navy Week so that you can meet some of these sailors and hear their stories.
It is important to point out that we are committed to ensuring the Navy is the most efficient and effective fighting force it can be. The series of efficiencies decisions recently announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates are designed to save the Department of Defense more than $150 billion over the next five years. These savings and changes will enable us to be the Navy the nation needs today and into the future.
It's all about fast, flexible force. That's what sea power provides. And that's how the Navy protects America, now more than ever. I look forward to meeting the wonderful people of the Tampa Bay area to talk about our — and your — Navy.
Vice Adm. Carol Pottenger, who grew up in St. Petersburg, is deputy chief of staff for capability development at NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and is the senior Navy representative during Tampa Bay Navy Week.