In the era of two major ground wars, occupation, and counter-insurgency, it's a fair question that taxpayers and policymakers bring up when they ask about the value for the U.S. in maintaining the world's most capable and advanced surface Navy.
This week's precision raid into Somalia for the purpose of neutralizing AQ leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan demonstrates one major advantage the Navy gives you: forward basing.
Remember, you can position troops and aircraft anywhere in the world, but only with someone else's permission. In the recent case of Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, you might have a willing landlord until a third party raises a stink, only to see the rent suddenly vastly increased and you find you're allowed to stay after all.
Why go through all that heartache?
You can position any Navy asset that you'd like to 12 or more nautical miles off anyone else's coast -- legally, and without anyone else's express-written consent.
Of course, there are many more functions the Navy serves, not least of which is the major-league size deterrent that it serves to would-be bad actors internationally (and yes, while piracy sounds fascinating and garners the headlines, give a closer look to its actual cost).
But one of the big ones, right off the bat, is the forward basing/staging opportunity it affords the high-level decisionmakers.