The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO and its Port Maritime Councils (PMC) in the United States are waging an all-out effort to secure full funding for the critically important Maritime Security Program (MSP), which makes 60 militarily useful commercial vessels available to the armed forces during international crises.
Leading members of Congress and the Defense establishment have noted for many years that the MSP gives the Pentagon access to a reliable source of sealift and to a global logistics network that is second to none at a fraction of what it would cost the American taxpayer if the federal government were to build, operate and maintain this capability itself. Moreover, the program generates billions of dollars of economic activity and tax revenues, while providing tens of thousands of middle-class jobs.
In a letter to the PMCs, MTD President Michael Sacco said, “Funding for the all-important Maritime Security Program is caught up in the financial squabbling on Capitol Hill.
“The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) injected last year’s amount of $174 million instead of the full $186 million for Fiscal Year 2014. The reason that there was a reduced figure was a one-time only $12 million surplus that rolled into the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.”
As Sacco explained, “That surplus no longer exists, but the OMB used the reduced figure in its calculations. If Congress adopts and the President signs a budget that does not include the full $186 million amount, the Maritime Administration has said it would be forced to cut some ships from the MSP. This would mean lost jobs for American mariners.”
An MSP report prepared in 2006 for the Maritime Administration put it this way: “If the Department of Defense needed to replicate the … capacity of the MSP fleet, the capital cost alone would be $13 billion.” The report went on to note that the U.S. Transportation Command — the agency within the U.S. military responsible for ensuring that U.S. troops and supplies are sent to areas in crises in a timely manner – estimated “it would cost the U.S. government $52 billion to replicate the intermodal system that has been developed, maintained, and continuously upgraded by MSP participants.”
“Without fully funding the MSP, which ensures the continued operation of the nation’s commercial maritime security fleet, America would either have to place the safety of our troops and the security of our nation in the hands of foreign shipping interests or be forced to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to achieve the commercial sealift capability that the U.S.-flag commercial industry currently provides,” wrote the chairmen of House Subcommittees on Seapower and Projection Forces, Readiness, and Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation earlier this year.
The MTD believes that it is imperative for members of Congress to contact the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to urge the agency to include full MSP funding on its list of recommended actions.
It is important for the OMB and, indeed, the entire federal government to realize that there is strong bipartisan support for the program. The MSP became law in 1996 when a Republican-led Congress passed legislation that was signed by President Clinton to enact the original 10-year program. It has been extended for additional 10 years twice, thanks again to strong bipartisan support. The MTD was – and continues to be – a strong supporter of the program, going back to its formative stage during the George H.W. Bush administration with a Democratic-led Congress in 1992.