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Posted: January 6, 2020

Maritime Security Program authorized, enhanced through 2035 by National Defense Authorization Act


The Maritime Security Program was authorized for an additional 10 years and the terms of the vital sealift program were enhanced as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which was signed into law in late December.

Prior to this legislation, the authorization for the Maritime Security Program was scheduled to lapse in 2025. The reauthorization extends that date until 2035, and also increases the annual allotment for each of the 60 ships enrolled in the program beginning in fiscal year 2022.

The Maritime Security Program (MSP) supports a fleet of 60 militarily-useful U.S.-flagged ships, which are crewed by U.S. merchant mariners and operate in international commercial trades. The ships and their corresponding privately-owned intermodal cargo systems and networks are available to the Department of Defense for military sealift operations and in national security emergencies.

The authorized cost of the MSP amounts to a small fraction of the amount it would cost the government to replicate this sealift capacity and the intermodal infrastructure provided to the DOD by private-sector MSP participants. The infrastructure cost has been projected at $65 billion, and some of the transportation capabilities afforded the military by the MSP could not be reproduced by the government at any cost.

The ships in the program operate in active trades, and are thus maintained in a state of constant readiness, and are utilized by the DOD to provide the vast majority of sustained sealift services for U.S. forces deployed in conflicts around the globe.