The United States is a maritime nation. The military is the nation’s guarantor of freedom of the seas and protector of global sea lines of communication. The military ensures the safe transit of international commerce along trade routes that allows our local grocery store and Wal-Marts shelves to remain stocked everyday. Protection of the sea lines allows all of us to use the internet at will and on demand, as well.

As Heritage highlights in “The State of the U.S. Military,” this week , the U.S. Navy’s fleet today contains the smallest number of ships since 1916. Worse, the fleet is projected to shrink further due to President Obama’s plans to cut the defense budget over the next ten years.

Washington’s self-imposed budget restraints on defense raise significant questions about the future of the U.S. Navy, composition of the fleet, and ability of the military to carry out fundamental responsibilities we’ve all come to take for granted.

The Pentagon officially claims a goal of building a 313-ship Navy. Yet the investment dollars just don’t add up and the U.S. is, in reality, building a 220-ship Navy.

Because the Navy fulfills its mission so successfully and has not fought a naval battle at sea since World War II, it could be easy for some to overlook this critical mission or to focus on less important priorities.

To meet its global responsibilities, the Navy will need to invest across a wide range of capabilities to maintain a robust fleet-both in the quantity of ships and in the quality of technologies. Only Congress can save the Navy now, and Americans should demand nothing less.