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Posted: June 21, 2018

Defense Secretary Mattis highlights importance of U.S. Merchant Marine at Kings Point commencement

Addressing a graduating class of 187 U.S. Merchant Marine and military officers and a crowd of approximately 4,500 attending commencement exercises at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Secretary of Defense James Mattis on June 16 emphasized the importance of service as a merchant mariner and the role of the merchant marine as the fourth arm of national defense.

"As Administrator Buzby said, we need you today probably more than at any time as you join an industry under great competition," Mattis said. "But I would also tell you that we need the highly disciplined deck officers and engineers in that service that will make certain we're at the top of our game.

"And, I think, whether you're going to be ashore or at sea, you're going to bind the muscles of American commerce, and that's a simple reality because as small as our merchant marine may be today, it is absolutely essential," Mattis said. "It's in every war plan that I review. I guarantee you, because you are going to be the fourth arm of defense. You are going to sustain our allies and fuel our ships and ferry our warriors. It's as simple as that.

"And we're going to need you as we see the storm clouds gather elsewhere as our diplomats are in a position where we have to buy time for them to solve problems."

Mattis told the gathering in Kings Point, N.Y. that his father was a mariner from 1935 to 1949. He relayed a statement made in 1935 by the leader who later guided America's effort during World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, recalling his time as assistant secretary of the Navy and referring to lessons learned during World War I: "In the event of a war, American-flag ships are obviously needed not only for Naval auxiliary, but also for the maintenance of reasonable and necessary commercial intercourse. We should remember the lessons learned in the last war."

Mattis reminded the graduates and audience: "Those lessons that he was speaking to are timeless, and I would tell you the essential nature of an efficient and a resilient merchant marine that is fearless and that is what we still need today."

A video of Secretary Mattis' speech is available online.