USTRANSCOM Commander Backs Mariners, Jones Act


May 2015


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The commanding officer of the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) recently reiterated his strong support for the U.S. Merchant Marine and for a key maritime law named the Jones Act.


Gen. Paul Selva spoke at an April 14 forum just outside the nation’s capital, hosted by U.S. Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen. The gathering featured leaders from the military, Congress and various components of the maritime industry. Participants included U.S. Reps. John Garamendi (D-California) and Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut); Crowley Maritime Corporation CEO Tom Crowley and Maersk Line, Limited CEO/ President Russell Bruner.


During a discussion about implementing a national maritime strategy, Selva – who as head of USTRANSCOM oversees a vast network of aircraft, ships, vehicles and trains that move weapons and other materiel both in times of peace and war – was asked about his support of the Jones Act. He replied, “I am an ardent supporter of the Jones Act. [It] supports a viable shipbuilding industry, cuts costs and produces 2,500 qualified mariners. Why would we tamper with that?”


The Jones Act requires domestic cargo to be moved on ships that are crewed, built, owned and flagged American. Although the Jones Act fleet consists of privately owned vessels, many are militarily useful, and the law also helps sustain a pool of reliable, welltrained, U.S. citizen mariners. Many of those individuals also sail aboard ships that mobilize in support of our troops.


At the forum, Selva also talked about how maintaining a strong U.S. Merchant Marine helps protect American independence.


“When we get to the issue of national sovereignty [and] the capacity to use the national defense capabilities of the nation to impose our will as necessary on an enemy, that demands that we have access to a viable pool of merchant mariners who can crew those ships, who will make us successful,” he stated. “So finding a way to a strategy that says we value what the merchant mariners bring to the nation ... if we can find a congressional solution to build that manpower, I am all for it.


“My concern is that we still need to meet the requirements of an economically viable, militarily useful pool of ships and experienced mariners who are proven,” he continued. “That will make us successful in wartime. So as we commit as a nation to put our forces into harm’s way, we better be ready to deploy and sustain them with the tools of war that will make them successful. The men and women that do that are largely the men and women who volunteer to be part of our merchant marine.”




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