* The US. Navy is building next-generation submarines, aircraft carriers and guided-missile destroyers in preparation for possible future wars against rival maritime powers.
Most sailors and naval aviators, however, will most likely spend their careers doing the less glamorous duties that most U.S. naval forces have been doing for the past decade: Combating insurgencies helping tsunami- or earthquake-ravaged nations, chasing pirates, training allied nations' maritime security forces and hunting terrorist networks, says Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, director of the Navy's irregular warfare office.
Whether the Navy likes it or not, irregular warfare is what it does, and what most likely it will be doing for the foreseeable future, he says.
"A lot of the work in irregular warfare is mundane and boring, and that's why nobody pays attention to it," he says. "But that's where all the problems are in this world." There are too many areas of instability, too many natural disasters and too much piracy that continues to fuel the demand for naval forces around the world, Harris says.