Report Shows National, Economic Security Benefits of Jones Act


December 2011


Back to Issue


A new report has reinforced that the Jones Act, a major pro-American maritime law, has a significantly positive effect on the national and economic security of the United States. The study, called “The Contribution of the Jones Act to U.S. Security,” was issued by the Lexington Institute, a think tank based outside of Washington, D.C. It compiles history and statistics to emphasize the Jones Act’s importance to the country.


The impact of the maritime industry on the United States goes back to before the country itself was even founded, the institute observes. The report points out that nearly all of the nation’s major cities were and are connected to waterways. The fact that many of the nation’s economic bases are connected by water exemplifies how unique and important the sea is to the development and sustainment of the country.


Not only is access to the open seas a vital part of our nation’s identity, but our inland waterways are important as well, according to the report.


“America’s inland waterways directed the expansion of the nation westward, helped to knit together the different parts of the country and is today a major avenue for national and international commerce,” according to the report. “The inland waterways of the United States encompass over 25,000 miles of navigable waters, including the Intracoastal Waterway, a 3,000-mile waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. This liquid highway touches most of America’s major eastern cities including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans and Mobile.”


Additionally, the institute demonstrates that the industry has played a big role in projecting American influence, trade, and our armed forces around the world. Having strong prepositioning forces, for instance, enables the U.S. to address threats to national security, help other nations and ourselves when it comes to natural disasters, and secure and facilitate trade routes, the study finds. All of these goals and operations are supported by an American-flag civilian fleet including work done by SIU members. And while prepositioning ships don’t sail in the Jones Act trades, they may rely on well-trained, loyal, U.S.-citizen mariners who at other times do sail on Jones Act vessels.


In short, according to this and other reports, having a strong civilian-crewed U.S.-flag fleet is vital to ensuring national and economic security. The Jones Act helps maintain such a fleet along with a viable pool of mariners. The alternative would be a dangerous option, especially in a time of crisis, the study shows.


“For decades, U.S. Merchant Mariners have provided essential support for the U.S. Navy during times of war and national crisis,” according to a statement released by the Navy and cited in the report. “Repealing the Jones Act would remove that support at a time when we are fighting two wars and facing a continuing threat from international terrorism.”


“Although the Jones Act was not written with today’s threats to homeland security in mind, its provisions provide an important base on which to build the systems, processes and procedures needed to secure America,” the report states.  “The provisions in the Jones Act regarding vessel ownership and manning simplify efforts to ensure that rogue regimes and international terrorists cannot strike at this country via its ports and waterways. One could readily assert that were there no Jones Act, Congress would have to invent one.”


Finally, the report calls upon the Obama Administration to back the U.S.-flag fleet in part by supporting the funding of pro-U.S. maritime legislation and programs.


The Jones Act is a longstanding U.S. maritime law that mandates the use of vessels that are American-crewed, -built, and -owned to move cargo between two U.S. ports. It helps maintain nearly 500,000 American jobs and pumps billions of dollars into the U.S. economy. Similar laws and statutes apply the same ground rules to the movement of passengers, towing, dredging, and marine salvage.


The Lexington Institute is a non-profit public policy group headquartered in Arlington, Va., that focuses on national security and other issues. It was founded in 1998.



Share |