The commanding officer of the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) recently reiterated his strong support for the U.S. Merchant Marine and the U.S. Maritime Security Program (MSP).
Appearing March 15 before the House Armed Services Committee’s Readiness Subcommittee, Gen. Darren McDew made it clear his command depends on civilian mariners and American-flag ships to deliver the goods for our troops. The MSP is an indispensable component of maintaining that capability, he said.
During hearing, chaired by U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia), Gen. McDew stated, “The nation is still a maritime nation…. I can deliver an immediate force anywhere on the planet tonight. But to deliver a decisive force it takes a fully-fledged, competent maritime fleet. And that’s what the MSP provides us.”
Gen. McDew described the privately operated, U.S.-flag international fleet as “vital to moving military goods and hardware.” Turning to the subject of American crews, the general stated, “Without mariners we don’t have a capability.”
This wasn’t the only time the general spoke up for the U.S. Merchant Marine since he succeeded Gen. Paul Selva at USTRANSCOM. In a widely hailed op-ed earlier this year first published and posted by The Virginian- Pilot newspaper, McDew wrote in part, “As a country, we have collectively worked to maintain a strong maritime industry that supports our needs. From enacting the Cargo Preference Acts of 1904 and 1954 to the Jones Act of 1920, and from a 1989 National Security Directive to the Maritime Security Act of 1996, we have sought to delay the day when U.S. national security interests could no longer be supported by a U.S. mariner base springing from our commercial sealift industry.
“In the 1950s, there were more than 1,000 U.S. ships engaged in international trade,” he continued. “Each of these vessels employed and trained a pool of U.S. mariners we could rely on in a time of war to sail our forces to the fight. Today, there are only 78.”
There has been a corresponding decline in the number of American civilian mariners, he pointed out. This puts the nation at risk, the general stated, because “the mariners who move international trade and those who transport wartime cargo come from the same dwindling pool of U.S. mariners. If that U.S. mariner base gets too small, we will have to rely on other countries to deploy our combat power.”