Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) were among those recently voicing support for full funding of vital program
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) were among those recently voicing support for full funding of the Maritime Security Program (MSP).
Last month, the House passed an appropriations bill that slashes $20 million from the MSP – a reduction that could remove six or seven vessels from the program. The Senate version of the appropriations legislation calls for full MSP funding for Fiscal Year 2015, which is $186 million.
Hunter, the chairman of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, spoke on the floor of the House during a June 9 debate regarding the 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill.
“The U.S.-flag fleet is critical to our military in delivering cargo overseas to our military to ensure proper readiness and sustainment,” noted Hunter. “The Department of Defense (DOD) for well over a decade has relied on MSP-enrolled vessels for sealift of necessary cargo into conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other troubled areas in the world, all at a fraction of the cost of what it would cost DOD to replicate that sealift if it had to build its own vessels.
“These military-sensitive cargoes are handled by U.S.-flag ship operators and mariners that must meet DOD and Homeland Security standards,” he continued. “They have a demonstrated record of delivering these cargoes efficiently and safely.”
The congressman concluded his remarks by calling on the House to bring the program’s funding level to the same $186 million mark that was “appropriated in [Fiscal Year] 2014, authorized by the Armed Services Committee, and requested by the president.”
Landrieu, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairs its Subcommittee on Homeland Security, said in a written communication June 14 she was “proud to report that the bills we passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee this week offset cuts to critical maritime programs that were included in the House of Representatives’ version. Our bill protects the Maritime Security Program from a $20 million reduction that would compromise our ability to maintain a U.S.-flag merchant fleet crewed by U.S. citizens to serve both the commercial and national security needs of the nation.”
Since its inception in 1996, the MSP has received strong bipartisan backing in Congress and the White House, while receiving praise from military officials. The program provides an annual stipend to ensure 60 militarily useful U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed ships are available in times of war or national emergencies. Companies that are contracted under the MSP or through the related Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement make their infrastructure available to the military as needed, too.
MSP backers describe the program as one of the best public-private partnerships in government. The DOD has estimated that replicating the sealift capability provided by the MSP would cost the government billions of dollars, for both ships and operating expenses.