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The United States has become increasingly entwined in the business and security issues with the rest of the world. Our economy and security depends upon our protecting our overseas interests as well as encouraging peace and stability around the globe. Forward presence by U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups helps us accomplish this. As former Secretary of Defense William Cohen stated: “If you don’t have that forward deployed presence, you have less of a voice, less of an influence.” The U.S. Navy is engaged. And engaged means being there.
As example, on 11 September 2001, USS Enterprise (CVN 65) had just been relieved from being on station in support of Operation Southern Watch. She was heading south in the Indian Ocean, beginning her trip back to homeport in Norfolk, Va., when, on television, they saw the live coverage of attack on the World Trade Center, then on the Pentagon. Enterprise, without an order from the chain of command, put the rudder over, executed a 180-degree course change and headed back to the waters off Southwest Asia. Enterprise then remained on station in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, launching air attacks against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and Taliban military installations in Afghanistan. For approximately the next three weeks, aircraft from Enterprise flew nearly 700 missions in Afghanistan, dropping hundreds of thousands of pounds of ordnance.
|The carrier battle group, operating in international waters, does not need the permission of host countries for landing or overflight rights. Nor does it need to build or maintain bases in countries where our presence may cause political or other strains. Aircraft carriers are sovereign U.S. territory that steam anywhere in international waters — and most of the surface of the globe is water. This characteristic is not lost on our political decision-makers, who use Navy aircraft carriers as a powerful instrument of diplomacy, strengthening alliances or answering the fire bell of crisis. As former President Bill Clinton said during a visit to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, “When word of crisis breaks out in Washington, it’s no accident the first question that comes to everyone’s lips is; where is the nearest carrier?”|
|The carrier battle group can not only operate independently but it presents a unique range of options to the President, Congress and Secretary of Defense. By using the oceans — more than 70% of the earth’s surface is ocean — both as a means of access and as a base, forward-deployed Navy and Marine forces are readily available to provide the United States with a rheostat of national response capabilities. These capabilities range from simply showing the flag — just a presence — to insertion of power ashore. The unique contribution of aircraft carriers to our national security was best expressed by Gen. John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said during a visit to USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, “I know how relieved I am each time when I turn to my operations officer and say, ‘Hey, where’s the nearest carrier?’ and he can say to me ‘It’s right there on the spot.’ For United States’ interests, that means everything.”|
Data courtesy USN