Navy League calls for support for Merchant Marine and Jones Act

navy league anchorThe Navy League of the United States has released its latest maritime policy statement. Its theme is "Maritime Primacy & Economic Prosperity," recognizing that even in today's difficult economic climate, maintaining a strong maritime force is critical to U.S. prosperity.

"In light of the new national defense strategy's emphasis on the Asia-Pacific and continued presence in the Middle East, the need for maritime forces that are forward deployed, forward engaged and ever-ready to respond is more critical now than ever before," Navy League Executive Director Dale Lumme said. "This document reflects that reality, and makes specific recommendations regarding the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, U.S.-flag Merchant Marine and the U.S. industrial base that supports them."

Among the recommendations for the Navy is a minimum fleet size of 305 ships for the service to continue to deliver disaster aid and humanitarian assistance, deter aggression, maintain freedom of the seas and, if necessary, win wars. These are the capabilities upon which the global community has come to depend.

The Coast Guard, notes the policy statement, has distinct roles in national security and defense that requires its presence at home and abroad. With each passing year, the service's mission portfolio has grown, and the Navy League says the Coast Guard needs a more robust acquisition budget of at least $2.5 billion per year to continue modernization efforts, particularly a fleet in which the majority of high endurance cutters are more than 40 years old.

On the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine, the policy statement notes that U.S. commercial and government-owned vessels "played a significant and indispensable role" in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the need for that substantial logistics force and commercial sealift capability is essential to national and economic security.

The statement says the Navy League fully supports:

  • The Maritime Security Act that provides the foundation to support the U.S. commercial fleet in international trade and an economically viable U.S.-flag Merchant Marine for national defense and economic security.
  • The Jones Act and Passenger Vessel Act, which are important to economic and national security because they protect critical national infrastructure and provide added sealift capacity through the VISA, an expanded pool of trained and experienced mariners to crew U.S. government-owned sealift assets and help sustain the U.S. shipbuilding and repair industrial base that is vital to the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.
  • Full compliance with the U.S. Cargo Preference Laws by government agencies and shippers, as a necessary and critical component to the long-term sustainability of the U.S.-flag fleet. Without this commercial capability, the U.S. government will be required to provide significantly more funds to build a replacement fleet and infrastructure while losing the pool of highly qualified Mariners needed to sail these vessels. These laws include the Jones Act, Passenger Vessel Act, DoD and Foreign Aid cargoes.
  • Growing the MSP fleet, as requirements warrant, for both surge and sustainment operations. Also, full, long-term funding for the program. Replacing the lift capability of this fleet would cost the DoD $9 billion.
  • Full funding, at authorized levels, for meeting the operational and maintenance requirements and capital improvements at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and federal assistance at the six state maritime academies for the Student Incentive Program and Training Ships. This will ensure the longterm availability of licensed Mariners to serve the nation's needs.
  • A strong strategic sealift Merchant Reserve component in the U.S. Navy to ensure that critical Mariner skills and experience are retained to support Navy and strategic sealift transportation.
  • The combined government and industry efforts to counter piracy by placing armed guards aboard ships and introducing new technologies to prevent hijacking.
  • Legislation for the Department of Veterans Affairs to treat Merchant Marine veterans of World War II as they do all other veterans.

March 23, 2012

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