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Hasan Jamali, Associated Press
In this picture taken Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, a U.S. Navy speedboat passes in front of multinational military ships as it approaches the British Royal Navy's HMS Atherstone, unseen, in the Persian Gulf. This year marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

America's Navy is on our nation's front line in war and in peace, operating on, above and below the sea. The Navy is America forward, 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 the Navy and helped it prevail 200 years ago 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 to preserve our country's security and prosperity. Two hundred years later, that tradition continues. Today, Navy ships fight on the sea, Navy submarines fight under the sea and Navy aircraft fight in the air over the sea and ashore, taking off from and landing on Navy ships.

This capability is critical to national security. The United States is a maritime nation, bounded by oceans on both sides. Water covers about 70 percent of the earth's surface. About 80 percent of the world's population lives near the sea, and about 90 percent of all world trade by volume travels by sea. In other words, what happens on the sea matters. It matters to world peace. It matters to our economy and to the preservation of prosperity. It also matters to our national defense. A strong Navy like ours is necessary to preserve the American way of life.

The Navy's job is growing. The president's priorities for 21st century defense emphasize our commitment in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions. They are 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 attacked our country before and threatens to do so again. Nuclear weapon possession and development continues to cause instability. Rising powers are building up their militaries in concert with their economic growth. Weak and failed states create havens for groups that seek to do harm, such as al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Somali pirates.

The Navy is ideally suited for this kind of world because the Navy is fast, flexible and, by its very nature, ready and operating forward. Our ships, submarines and aircraft can go anywhere on the sea on short notice without obtaining permission from another nation, 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. They can take off from aircraft carriers and smaller ships at sea. 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 that 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 throughout the world.

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Our ready force requires us to be smart about how we power our ships, aircraft and submarines. That is 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 ships, hybrid electric ships running on biofuel and aircraft flying on biofuel. We have tripled our solar energy use, and we are exploring wind, geothermal and hydrothermal power. These initiatives will give us a warfighting advantage. 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, and we have them — the men and women of the United States Navy.

Rear Admiral Richard P. "Rick" Snyder is the deputy director of joint strategic planning, Joint Staff, J5.