U.S. Rep Hunter Stands Up for Maritime

 

September 2013

 

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Calif. Congressman a Key Ally to Industry, SIU

 

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) is once again showing why he is one of the maritime industry’s most strident defenders in Congress.

 

Hunter, who serves as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, has spent the summer standing up for policies that lie at the heart of maritime. In Congressional hearings and editorials appearing in popular Internet publications, Hunter has touted the benefits of laws and programs including the Jones Act and the Maritime Security Program (MSP), while warning of the dire consequences that would come if Washington tampered with them.

 

Seeing opponents of maritime attack these key programs, Hunter is quick to set the record straight.

 

“For reasons that are due to either a lack of understanding or appreciation for the U.S. maritime industry, the Jones Act is being misidentified once again as an impediment to job creation and even lower production costs,” Hunter wrote in a July 30 editorial appearing on CNBC.com.

 

While critics of the Jones Act – which requires all shipping between U.S. ports to be on American-made vessels with U.S. flags and American crews – often say the Jones Act leads to higher gas prices, Hunter said the argument simply doesn’t hold water.

 

“That presumption is nothing more than wishful thinking. There are many reasonable and relevant proposals to lower gas prices for American families and secure greater energy independence, but repealing the Jones Act is not one of them,” Hunter wrote. “At present, nearly 90 percent of the cost of gasoline is driven by three things: the price of crude oil, refining and taxes. The remaining 10 percent is attributed to marketing, distribution and retailing, leaving room, however big or small, for profit.”

 

The effects of repealing the Jones Act, Hunter said, would be disastrous. Aside from generating more than 500,000 American jobs and more than $100 billion in annual economic output, the Jones Act also ensures the nation has a fleet of American merchant vessels staffed with well-trained, dependable mariners who are available to the military during times of war and national emergency.

 

“From supplementing global defense sealift capability to revitalizing elements of a waning industrial base, the U.S. maritime industry is a security and economic asset kept strong and healthy by the Jones Act,” Hunter wrote. “America’s economic future depends on a strong maritime industry as much as it depends on domestic energy production and the success of other notable industries that are inextricably linked to its success.”

 

Concerned with the effects of across-the-board budget cuts on the MSP, Hunter penned another editorial to warn of the consequences of a shrinking U.S.-flag fleet. Writing for the popular website gCaptain. com, Hunter said the MSP – which provides an annual stipend to ensure 60 militarily useful U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed ships are available to the military – is vital to the country’s national security.

 

A reduction in programs like the MSP, he added, would lead to an unacceptable shortage in the U.S.-flag fleet.

 

“The U.S. is carrying just 2 percent of global cargo tonnage, down considerably from decades ago. The ramifications are not simply economic,” Hunter wrote. “There is also a direct impact on national security, resulting from the limitation of commercial trade vessels for military sealift under the Maritime Security Program (MSP).”

 

Because of the MSP, the U.S. military has a sealift capability worth billions of dollars for a small fraction of the price.

“Especially with an undersized naval fleet, the use of commercial vessels is needed to support operations by transporting military resources,” Hunter wrote. “With the emerging threats requiring straining naval assets worldwide, along with a shift in defense posture in the Pacific region, the support provided through the MSP, which is supported by 60 U.S.-flag vessels, is even more essential.”

 

Hunter’s aggressive defense of the maritime industry and its key programs comes on the heels of a May hearing by the Coast Guard and Maritime Subcommittee which focused on the good those programs do for the country’s national and economic security.

 

The SIU was among the organizations testifying at the hearing, which went into great detail about the benefits of the Jones Act, MSP and the country’s PL- 480 food aid program. As usual, Hunter took a strong pro-maritime stance at the hearing, arguing those programs – and the U.S. Merchant Marine – are vital to the nation.

 

“Beyond the important contributions to our economy, a healthy maritime industry is vital to our national security,” Hunter said during the hearing. “Throughout our history, the Navy has relied on U.S.-flag commercial vessels crewed by American Merchant Mariners to carry troops, weapons, and supplies to the battlefield.”

 

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