When most people hear about the importance of maintaining a strong naval presence, they probably immediately picture aircraft carriers launching fighter jets and nimble destroyers darting across the waves. But the United States Navy is much more than a platform for defense. Quietly, our Navy enables the majority of international waterborne trade. Indeed, it’s likely that our naval superiority is in some way responsible for the device you’re using to read this post.

Today, the majority of United States trade travels by water. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation statistics, waterborne vessels carry 53 percent of U.S. imports and 38 percent of U.S. exports, making up the largest share of any mode of transportation.

Commodities like oil and gas, agricultural products, precious metals, and consumer products all traverse the globe on vast tankers and cargo ships which can each transport thousands of tons of goods. Over 90 percent of all trade by weight travels by water, and the Navy’s protection of our waterborne trade enables the generation of $4.6 trillion in total economic value on a yearly basis. As one of the world’s largest economies, our maritime commerce is an essential part of what makes the global economy function.

It’s clear that the U.S. Navy plays an integral role in hard-power projection and soft-power deployment in the efforts to ensure security for the U.S. and our allies. In order to keep the economy afloat, it’s important that our Navy be preeminent in research and development, strategy, and fleet size. The days of great sea battles may seem long gone, but new threats to our national security have risen in the form of increasingly voracious economic competitors in Asia, multinational terrorist organizations, and a resurgent Russia. Let’s make sure that we keep our great Navy in ship shape to ensure that our and future generations have a shot at economic opportunity.