June 11th 2019

Supplying American troops overseas – enhancing America’s commercial sealift capability – providing the U.S.-flag vessels and American mariners needed by the Department of Defense.  Doing all this and more in the most efficient and economical means available to the United States government is what the U.S.-flag merchant marine is able to do for our nation through the Maritime Security Program (MSP).

Originally enacted into law on October 8, 1996, the Maritime Security Act of 1996 established a maritime security fleet of 47 privately-owned militarily useful U.S.-flag commercial vessels.  This program, authorized to run for ten years, was extended in 2003 and expanded by the Congress at that time to authorize a maritime security fleet of 60 U.S.-flag ships.  Most recently and reflecting the widespread benefits accruing to the United States from this program, the MSP and its maritime security fleet of 60 privately-owned, militarily useful U.S.-flag vessels were reauthorized and extended by the Congress at the request of the Department of Defense through September 30, 2025 (Public Law 112-239).

The Maritime Institute for Research and Industrial Development (MIRAID) and the Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P) have strongly supported the Maritime Security Program since its inception and vigorously supported its reauthorization in 2012 as recommended by the Department of Defense and the Maritime Administration.  The continued and uninterrupted operation of the MSP is not only an essential component of the seapower and military security of the United States but is critically important to the continued operation of the U.S.-flag merchant marine.

It should not be overlooked that U.S.-flag ships and their U.S. citizen crews delivered the majority of the materiel to Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom and, as of today, have delivered more than 90 percent of the cargoes to Afghanistan and Iraq to support U.S. and Coalition forces.
Without the MSP and the fleet of U.S.-flag vessels and the U.S. citizen crews it supports, the options available to the Department to Defense to meet America’s commercial sealift capability requirements will likely be more expensive and should be, from a policy and security perspective , unacceptable.

This is why MIRAID and the MM&P have as one of their top priorities each year having Congress appropriate the funds needed to support the operation of the maritime security fleet.  For the current appropriations year Fiscal Year 2020, Congress has authorized $300 million for the MSP, the amount deemed necessary to support the continued, uninterrupted operation of the maritime security fleet.

Now, it is imperative that we and others in our industry work together to ensure that Congress appropriates – makes available –the $300 million it has previously authorized for the MSP for FY’20.

Without the necessary funds to support the maritime security fleet, American troops stationed overseas and America’s overall military and national security interests will be threatened.  Without the U.S.-flag maritime security fleet and its American mariners, our country will not have the commercial sealift capability needed to support and supply American troops so that they can do their job in behalf of our nation.

Without this U.S.-flag capability, our nation could be forced to entrust the well-being of American troops and America’s security interests to foreign flag shipping interests who do not share America’s policy goals and objectives.  Their vessels and foreign crews would be given the task of supplying American troops – a task they may choose to complete or not.  Compounding this situation is the fact that these foreign flag shipping interests will be paid for by the American taxpayer and it means that our country will be paying whatever is being charged to use foreign flag ships and foreign mariner workers.  We will, in short, be paying to employ foreign rather than American ships and foreign rather than American maritime workers to do a job that should continue to be done by the U.S.-flag merchant marine.

If this option is unacceptable – and it should be – then the other option available to our government is to have the Department of defense build, maintain and operate the requisite vessels it needs itself, at a tremendous cost to the American taxpayer.  In fact, a 2006 report prepared for the National Defense Transportation Association – Military Sealift Command concluded that the “likely cost to the government to replicate just the vessel capacity provided by the MSP dry cargo vessels would be $13 billion.”  It addition, the United States Transportation Command has estimated that it would cost the U.S. Government an additional $52 billion to replicate “the global intermodal system” that is made available to the Department of Defense by MSP participants.

Not only is this amount significantly greater than the $300 million that would be spent by the U.S. government in FY’20 for the MSP but it also represents an unnecessary use of DOD funds for a commercial sealift capability that is effectively and economically provided by the MM&P-contracted APL, Central Gulf, Hapag Lloyd, Maersk, and Waterman Steamship as well as other U.S.-flag vessel operators participating in the Maritime Security Program.

To this point, General John Handy, Commander in Chief, United States Transportation Command, told Congress in 2003 that “as we look at operations on multiple fronts in support of the War on Terrorism, it is clear that our limited defense resources will increasingly rely on partnerships with industry to maintain the needed capability and capacity to meet our most demanding wartime scenarios.  MSP is a cost effective program that assures guaranteed access to required U.S.-flag commercial shipping and U.S. merchant mariners when needed . . . MSP is a vital element of our military’s strategic sealift and global response capability.”

We urge each Member of Congress to support the continued operation of the Maritime Security Fleet and to approve the Congressionally-authorized $300 million for the Maritime Security Program for FY’20.