America cannot afford the cuts to its Maritime Security Program (MSP) that are being considered in the nation’s capital due to a combination of sequestration and Congress’ failure to pass a budget. These reductions, which may take place beginning Dec. 1, will harm America’s national and economic security.
The MSP keeps 60 militarily useful, American-crewed, U.S.-flag ships in service so they’re available to our armed forces in times of conflict or emergency. The program is extremely cost-effective – American military leaders have estimated it would cost the government billions of dollars to replace all the assets our military receives through the MSP at a relatively tiny fraction of that amount ($186 million per year).
The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) has advised the SIU and others in the industry that there is a possibility of up to 20 vessels being removed from the MSP fleet (all of them SIU-crewed) as a result of contract terminations or suspensions. Calling the idea of slashing the MSP “penny-wise, pound-foolish” doesn’t begin to describe the potentially catastrophic consequences of such a devastating cut.
Our troops depend on the U.S. Merchant Marine; the heads of the U.S. Transportation Command and the U.S. Military Sealift Command recently stated that they simply couldn’t do their jobs without the vital support provided by our industry. Our capacity to support the troops is directly tied to full funding for the MSP.
The SIU urges Congress to fully fund a 60-ship MSP fleet. Our men and women in uniform need to know that when they’re sent into harm’s way, they can still rely on U.S. Merchant Mariners to deliver the goods to them, anywhere, any time.
We are working virtually nonstop on this issue, in collaboration with other maritime unions, vessel operators, and allies on Capitol Hill.