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Posted: March 24, 2016

Bipartisan House, Senate groups urge full funding for Maritime Security Program in fiscal year 2017

In separate letters to committee leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives, a group of 16 senators and a group of 86 representatives urged full funding of the Maritime Security Program in fiscal year 2017, highlighting the importance of the program and fleet of U.S.-flagged commercial ships and U.S. merchant mariners it supports to national defense and military sealift operations.

In a letter dated March 17 to Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) - who chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies - and Jack Reed (D-RI), the ranking member on the subcommittee, the 16 senators stated:

"We are writing to request that $299,997,000 in funding for the Maritime Security Program (MSP) be included in the FY 2017 Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. It is the same amount recent authorized by Congress for the program in FY 2017 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113).

"MSP is a vital component of our military strategic sealift and global response capability. It is designed to ensure that the United States has the U.S.-flag commercial sealift capability and trained U.S. citizen merchant mariners available in times of war or national emergencies. MSP also ensures that the U.S. can provide our troops overseas with the supplies and equipment necessary to do their jobs on behalf of our nation.

"MSP is a cost effective, public-private partnership between the U.S. government and the U.S.-flag shipping industry. The program utilizes existing U.S. maritime private sector capabilities at a fraction of the cost of what it would take if the Federal government were to replicate the vessel capacity and global intermodal systems made available to the Department of Defense (DOD) by MSP contractors who continuously develop and maintain modern logistics systems for commercial and defense purposes. The cost to the Federal government of replicating the vessels and intermodal system is estimated [to be] at least $65 billion."

In a letter dated March 17 to Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) - who chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies - and David Price (D-NC), the ranking member on the subcommittee, the 86 representatives stated:

"In fact, on January 17, 2016, General Darren McDew, Commander, United States Transportation Command, stated: 'As a military professional and senior leader, I think about and plan for what the future may hold, and I would tell you we must prepare for the real possibility we will not enjoy the uncontested seas and broad international support experienced in 1991. If either of those possibilities becomes reality, and if we remain committed to responding to security incidents around the globe, the only way of guaranteeing we decisively meet our national objectives is with U.S. ships operated by U.S. mariners'."

The representatives continued: "Since 2009, privately-owned U.S.-flag commercial vessels and their civilian U.S. citizen crews have transported more than 90% of the sustainment cargo needed to support U.S. military operations and rebuilding programs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Significantly, U.S.-flag vessels enrolled in MSP carried 99 percent of these cargoes. Without a viable U.S.-flag commercial fleet and the American merchant mariners this fleet supports, the United States would be unable to deploy its military forces on a global basis and to deliver the supplies and equipment American troops need to do their job on behalf of the American people.

"In November 2015, Rear Admiral Thomas Shannon, Commander, Military Sealift Command, stated that 'without a strong U.S.-flagged merchant marine, we cannot answer the call and carry our nation to war.' He went on to express strong support for the MSP as a key component necessary to help maintain our U.S.-flag merchant marine, stating that 'the Maritime Security Program is a bargain.' For these reasons, we urge you to provide the fully authorized amount of $299,997,000 for the MSP for FY 2017 in your subcommittee's appropriations bill."

The Senate letter and House of Representatives letter are available online.