MSP Gets Funding for Fiscal Year 2014, Fight for Future Full Funding Continues

 

Union’s Efforts Instrumental in Key Victory for Maritime Industry

 

November 2013

 

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The last-minute deal reached in October to reopen the federal government and avoid default on the nation’s debt included full funding for the Maritime Security Program (MSP) for Fiscal Year 2014.

 

The SIU and the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO (MTD) played important roles in securing full funding for the program, which is a bedrock of the U.S. Merchant Marine. Part of that effort included working with allies throughout the U.S-flag maritime industry to alert Congress and the White House to fix an anomaly created when the program had some leftover funds that rolled into the Fiscal Year 2013 calculations. Preliminary budget figures for the coming year did not take that anomaly into account.

 

Bipartisan support on the Hill in both the Senate and the House corrected the problem. The MSP amount for 2014 returns to the called-for $186 million.

 

However, the compromise passed on Oct. 16 was approved only for three months. The union will work with the rest of maritime labor to monitor negotiations headed toward the Jan. 15 deadline, and will work with the Congress and administration to ensure full funding for MSP.

 

In taking the case for full funding of the MSP to Capitol Hill, the union and other backers of the program pointed out that any reductions would 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.

 

Before full funding had been secured last month, the SIU issued a statement that read in part, “The U.S. Maritime Administration 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… 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.”

 

Meanwhile, the MTD pointed out, “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 middleclass jobs.”

 

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 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 with additional 10-year terms twice, thanks again to strong bipartisan support. The SIU 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.

 

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