To sustain global leadership, we must have enough ships to maintain an enduring and capable naval presence in those areas of significant interest to the United States. To be effective, our capability must be credible — and fully appreciated by any potential adversary. …

Smaller fleets around the globe are relatively limited in what they can accomplish, both at sea and ashore. Naval gunfire is traditionally effective on shore and the revolution in precision strike weapons, such as the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM), has increased the range, precision, and explosive yield of its kinetic effects. However, these are principally kinetic effects, limited to what we call the “right side of the kill chain.” An aircraft carrier and its embarked air wing, meanwhile, have the capability to operate across the full spectrum of warfare, including the electromagnetic spectrum and the non-kinetic or “left side of the kill chain.”

Additionally, an air wing operating from a nuclear-powered aircraft is capable of transcending the air-land boundary with high-end effects (precision strikes), mid-level effects (non-kinetic shows of force), and lower-end but strategically significant effects (security cooperation or humanitarian assistance/disaster relief). In the end, the CVN/CVW combination is the only maritime force anywhere in the world capable of delivering effects along the entire spectrum — from assistance to coercion — with the ability to rapidly transition into large-scale major combat operations if required. Emerging and re-emerging navies around the world understand this. That’s why countries aspiring to extend their influence are building aircraft carriers.