The Association of the United States Navy (AUSN) earlier this week posted a strong recommendation to fully fund the U.S. Maritime Security Program (MSP) for Fiscal Year 2014.
The association’s post is reprinted below; it’s available on the AUSN website by clicking HERE
The AUSN is self-described as “the leading voice for America’s Sailors and the premier advocate for a strong Navy. Founded in 1954, and 22,000-members strong, AUSN has long enjoyed its distinguished reputation with the Navy and Congress as an honest broker in the discussion of Navy requirements and programs.”
The Maritime Security Program (MSP) provides commercial sealift capabilities utilizing U.S. flag commercial ships and their associated intermodal and logistical networks to Department of Defense (DOD) operations around the world. MSP was initially authorized by the Maritime Security Act of 1996, P.L. 104-239, reauthorized by the Fiscal Year 2004 (FY04) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), P.L. 108-136, and most recently reauthorized in the Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) NDAA, P.L. 112-239. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, MSP ships carried 95% of DOD cargo bound for these two theaters. MSP has also provided for the establishment and maintenance of the critical logistical networks of the Pakistan Ground Lines of Communication (PAK GLOC) and Northern Distribution Network (NDN) for the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM). Currently, the MSP is funded by Congress at $174 million, but authorized at $186 million per year.
MSP provides DOD access to 60 U.S. flag military useful commercial vessels in the event of war or a national emergency and provides logistical networks like PAK GLOC and NDN. Its status as a vital support for DOD is being threatened by a Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) budget shortfall due to a $12 million carry-over funding anomaly. The funding shortfall is already raising readiness capability concerns. To maintain the MSP, Congress should correct the $12 million anomaly and appropriate $186 million for FY14. Failure to provide full funding of MSP at the $186 million authorized level will result in the removal of four U.S. flag ships from the program.
A further reduction, such as one imposed by sequestration, would mean that DOD could lose access to U.S. flag commercial ships with U.S. citizen crews, intermodal networks, and other logistics abilities. This development would also result in U.S. flag MSP vessels being less competitive in their commercial trade and ultimately the loss of U.S. flag ships and skilled U.S. citizen mariner jobs. The program currently saves DOD a significant amount of money while acting as the best example of a public/private partnership to satisfy national security requirements. To replicate the program through procurement and building of new ships, DOD would face an estimated cost of $65 billion as well as approximately $9 billion annually to maintain and operate the vessels.
In a 2013 hearing of the House Armed Services, Seapower Subcommittee, General William M. Fraser III (USAF) testified, “the loss of mariner jobs, access to the related intermodal logistics networks these companies provide, and potential loss of competition in certain trade routes may degrade our current support to forces deployed overseas and likely increase transportation costs to the government,” and that, “USTRANSCOM relies heavily on the significant capabilities the U.S. flag commercial sealift industry contributes to our nation.”
The Association of the United States Navy recommends the continued funding of MSP at $186 million for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) in Congressional Appropriations, thus maintaining, and providing the sufficient funds for, the continued sustainment of a 60 ship U.S. flag maritime security fleet, in order to meet DOD’s current and projected sealift requirements.