The newly enacted federal budget passed by Congress and signed by President Trump includes the full $300 million funding for the Maritime Security Program (MSP).
This will allocate $5 million during Fiscal Year 2018 for each of the 60 vessels in the MSP fleet.
Established in 1996, the MSP ensures that the Defense Department has access to a fleet of militarily useful, U.S.-crewed, U.S.-flag vessels in times of war or national emergency. Companies whose ships are enrolled in the program also make sure their infrastructure is available. In return, the federal government provides an annual stipend through the MSP. Experts have estimated it would cost the government billions of dollars to replicate what the MSP (and its related Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement) provides.
Even though Congress approved a 10-year extension of the program through Fiscal Year 2025, legislators must approve its funding annually. While the president’s budget request for FY18 recommended funding MSP at $214 million, a significant cut, Congress rejected that recommendation and maintained full funding for the program. Strong bipartisan support – thanks to efforts by the SIU and other maritime unions, the Maritime Trades Department and other backers – in both the House and Senate made sure the program stayed at full strength in 2018.
In addition to the MSP, the omnibus spending bill contained $1.7 billion for the Food for Peace (PL-480) program. Under current law, 50 percent of the cargo generated for Food for Peace must be carried aboard U.S.-crewed, U.S.-flag vessels. Since its enactment in 1954, PL-480 is considered one of America’s most successful foreign aid programs.