Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Preaching to the Choir

 

March 1, 2020



We are occasionally complimented on our editorials, which makes us feel good, but we are obliged to point out that we have the good fortune to own the magazine, which makes it easier to say things an employee might not.

We are also usually “preaching to the choir.” With the exception of a few humorless scolds in Washington DC think tanks or the NGO community, our readers are commercial vessel owners or operators, or those that supply goods and services to the commercial maritime industry. When we write an editorial in support of the Jones Act, for example, we don’t expect angry letters.

We’re taking this opportunity to "preach" about a recent report that strengthens the argument for the industry and its beneficial effect on the country. The report, from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), is entitled, Strengthening the US Defense Maritime Industrial Base – A Plan to Improve Maritime Industry’s Contribution to National Security.

The report points out that a robust maritime industry, and the policies that support it, are increasingly important to US national security. Private shipyards build and repair US warships, sometimes alongside civilian vessels. US shipping companies and their civilian mariners transport military personnel, equipment, and supplies overseas. And private dredging, salvage, towing, intermodal transport, and Harbor services companies ensure the operation of America’s military and commercial ports and waterways.

This information is not news to you, but continues to be misrepresented in an entirely bipartisan manner by such entities as the liberal New York Times, the conservative Wall Street Journal and the libertarian Cato Institute.

Unlike the detractors of US sea power mentioned above, the report’s three authors have a combined expertise in: naval warfare, electromagnetic warfare, precision strike, air defense, electromagnetic spectrum operations, undersea warfare, expeditionary operations, personnel and readiness management, new operational concepts, trends in future warfare, Indo-Pacific security dynamics, Chinese military doctrine and capabilities, regional security dynamics, US force planning, nuclear weapons, missiles and missile defense, naval warfare, and long-term geopolitical competitions.

Whew.

These authors call for a comprehensive US national maritime strategy to grow the US maritime industrial base and increase its competitiveness. In contrast to preceding maritime strategies, the authors would like to see a strategy that addresses how the sea services, shipping companies, shipyards, and broader maritime industry would support US national interests.

Among some of the recommendations:

Restore the US Merchant Marine.

This would include replacing aging vessels of the MARAD Ready Reserve Force and MSC Surge Fleet. Specialized ships and tankers would be brought under US flag and government cargo would be increased.

Taxes and regulations related to mariner wages and repair duties would be reformed, recruiting and retention would be improved through new initiatives to ease credentialing and licensing and a Merchant Marine Reserve would be established.

Strengthen the shipbuilding and repair industry.

The US government would better integrate commercial and government construction and maintenance efforts, coordinating its ship construction with projected commercial orders and returning to multi-ship maintenance contracts to provide repair yards more predictability.

Implement a National Fleet for sealift gaps.

The US government would grow the fleet of US-flagged government and commercial tankers by increasing the amount of defense fuel sourced from US refineries. Dry cargo and munitions sealift requirements would be met by transitioning to an integrated approach, including:

• Replacing the Military Sealift Command Prepositioning Fleet with MARAD-chartered commercial ships;

• Recapitalizing and expanding the MSC Surge Fleet with former Prepositioning Fleet ships and new vessels with special capabilities like cranes or petroleum distribution systems;

• Expanding the MSP to replace today’s MARAD Ready Reserve Force; and

• Ending the MARAD Ready Reserve Force and reassigning the MSC Surge Fleet to MARAD.

The authors say this approach would improve the reach and competitiveness of the US maritime industry. It would meet DoD’s requirements and provide US shipyards with a more stable rate of work to avoid shipbuilding “boom and bust” cycles, creating sealift capacity faster, more reliably and cheaper than current US government approaches.

This approach would also ensure both a stronger maritime industry and a more secure country. Surely even the Cato Institute would approve of that.

Chris can be reached at chris@pacmar.com

 
 

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