The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which the Continental Congress established on 13 October 1775 by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the war, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.
After the American War for Independence, Congress sold the surviving ships of the Continental Navy and released the seamen and officers. The Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1789, empowered Congress "to provide and maintain a navy." Acting on this authority, Congress ordered the construction and manning of six frigates in 1794, and the War Department administered naval affairs from that year until Congress established the Department of the Navy on 30 April 1798.
Today, the United States Navy is the largest and most powerful navy in the world. During World War II, the United States Navy passed the Royal Navy as the world's largest navy and has since then consolidated its top position. At the same time the Royal Navy got smaller. Since the 1960s, the Soviet Navy grew up and today its successor, the Russian Navy, is the second largest navy in the world.
Today, the United States Navy is the most important tool of US foreign policy. A vital element of US power projection overseas are the Navy's Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups. The former US President Bill Clinton once said: "When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it's no accident that the first question that comes to everyone's lips is: 'Where's the nearest carrier?'" These Carrier Battle Groups, each with an Air Wing more powerful than most national air forces and with ships more powerful than many national navies will continue ensuring the United States a leading position in world policy.