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Posted: March 21, 2014

White House seeks cuts in U.S. food-aid shipments, recommends full funding for MSP in FY 2015 budget proposal


In its budget proposal for fiscal year 2015, the Obama administration continued its efforts to replace U.S. food-aid shipments with cash payments overseas, but sought full funding for the Maritime Security Program, as well as funding for the Ready Reserve Force fleet.

The administration's budget request represents the spending blueprint recommended by the White House for fiscal year 2015. Ultimately, the budget is controlled by Congress and actual appropriations for federal programs are part of an ongoing process on Capitol Hill. The inclusion of funding for individual programs in the White House's budget request does tend to improve the odds that those programs will be funded at or above the requested levels during the appropriations process in Congress.

In its budget proposal for the next fiscal year, the administration requested $1.4 billion in funding for Food for Peace Title II, a reduction of $66 million from the program's funding level for this fiscal year as provided by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014. The White House also proposed diverting up to 25 percent of the Food for Peace Title II funding ($350 million) to cash payment programs in the next fiscal year.

The steep reduction in U.S. food-aid shipments sought by the administration would have a devastating impact on the U.S. merchant marine and the job base for American merchant mariners, who are needed to man military sealift vessels in times of conflict and crisis.

In its budget proposal for the current fiscal year, the Obama administration had sought to shift the funding for Food for Peace Title II out of the Department of Agriculture and reallocate as much as 45 percent of the program's funding for cash payments, vouchers and the purchase of food-aid commodities from foreign producers, rather than U.S. farmers and producers. A legislative amendment that would have implemented these changes was defeated in the House of Representatives.

In its fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, the administration requested $186 million for the Maritime Security Program, the full funding level authorized by law for the program for the next fiscal year. Uniformly lauded as exceedingly efficient and absolutely essential to U.S. defense sealift capabilities and operations, the MSP supports a fleet of 60 militarily useful U.S.-flagged commercial cargo ships operating in international trades.

The administration is also seeking to add $25 million in funding to the program for a total of $211 million in fiscal year 2015. The additional $25 million represents an attempt to offset the damage that would be done to the nation's merchant marine and defense sealift capabilities as a result of drastic cuts to U.S. food-aid cargoes, and would "only be available to the extent that any fiscal year 2015 legislation is enacted that permits at least 25 percent of funds appropriated for Title II of the Food for Peace Act (P.L. 83-480), as amended, to be used for monetary awards for emergency programs."

American Maritime Officers does not support the administration's attempt to temporarily patch the wound that would be inflicted through its efforts to radically restructure Food for Peace Title II, and AMO will continue working with congressional leadership, AMO-contracted operating companies and maritime labor to keep the Food for Peace program and its funding intact.

The fiscal year 2015 budget request seeks $291 million for the Ready Reserve Force fleet. If enacted, this amount would maintain adequate funding for the RRF fleet in the next fiscal year.

The administration requested a total of $3.1 million for the Maritime Administration's Title XI shipbuilding loan guarantee program in fiscal year 2015, which would cover the program's administrative costs. Title XI is not a subsidy program. Developed to facilitate the construction of merchant vessels in U.S. shipyards, Title XI provides federal loan guarantees for private sector financing of commercial construction projects and eases access to credit for companies planning to build new ships in the U.S.

Editor's note: Correction posted March 22, 2014.