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Posted: April 17, 2015

Commander of USTRANSCOM stresses importance of U.S. merchant marine

The following article was released April 15 by the American Maritime Partnership.

WASHINGTON, DC - Leaders of the military, Congress, and the maritime industry appeared together yesterday at the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space Exposition - designed to bring the U.S. defense industrial base, private-sector U.S. companies and key military decision makers together. The discussion was hosted by U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administrator Paul "Chip" Jaenichen and was titled "Framework for the Future: National Maritime Strategy."

Those participating in the meeting included, among others, congressional leaders Joe Courtney (CT-2) and John Garamendi (CA-3), Crowley Maritime Corporation CEO Tom Crowley, and General Paul J. Selva, Commander, U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), U.S. Air Force. The purpose of the discussion was to elevate awareness of the importance of the merchant marine to U.S. security and for the different leaders to work together to counteract the troubling decline of the militarily available merchant marine fleet and crew.

During a robust discussion, General Selva - who as head of TRANSCOM oversees a vast network of aircraft, ships, vehicles and trains that move weapons and equipment in wartime - was asked about his support of the Jones Act. Selva responded:

"If asked about the Jones Act - I am an ardent supporter of the Jones Act. [The Act] supports a viable shipbuilding industry, cuts cost and produces 2,500 qualified mariners. Why would we tamper with that?"

Selva - a four-star general - has repeatedly emphasized his support for the Jones Act in the past several months in congressional testimony and other speeches.

General Selva also was asked about the importance of a strong merchant marine to the sovereignty of the United States in wartime so that the United States does not have to rely on foreign shipbuilders and mariners to advance its objectives. General Selva stated the following:

"When we get to the issue of national sovereignty [and] the capacity to use the national defense capabilities of the nation to impose our will as necessary on an enemy, that demands that we have access to a viable pool of merchant mariners who can crew those ships, who will make us successful. So finding a way to a strategy that says we value what the merchant mariners bring to the nation . . . if we can find a congressional solution to build that manpower, I am all for it.

"My concern is that we still need to meet the requirements of an economically viable militarily useful pool of ships and experienced mariners who are proven. That will make us successful in wartime.

"So, as we commit as a nation to put our forces into harm's way, we better be ready to deploy and sustain them with the tools of war that will make them successful. The men and women that do that are largely the men and women who volunteer to be part of our merchant marine. So we have got to find a solution. That gets to the education on national sovereignty."