The Maritime Security Program (MSP) was first passed in 1996, and originallycomprised a fleet of 47 U.S. flag militarily-useful vessels. The MSP was reauthorized in 2003 and expanded to a fleet of 60 militarily-useful vessels for FY 2006-2015. On January 2, 2013, the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) extending the program to 2025.
MSP is a vital element of our military’s strategic sealift and global response capability. Congress authorized the current 60 ship MSP fleet on the basis that it was and continues to be the most prudent, economical, and necessary solution to address the current and projected sealift requirements for the United States of America. The MSP provides financial assistance to operators of U.S. flag vessels that meet certain qualifications.
The MSP maintains a modern U.S. flag fleet providing military access to vessels and vessel capacity, as well as a total global, intermodal transportation network. This network includes not only vessels, but logistics management services, infrastructure, terminals facilities and U.S. citizen merchant mariners to crew the government owned/controlled and commercial fleets.
“In Peace and War” is the motto of the US Merchant Marine. The critical need for our industry has been recognized during every international crisis in our nation’s history. In 1992, General Colin Powell, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated: “Fifty years ago, U.S. merchant vessels . . . were battling the frigid seas of the North Atlantic to provide the lifeline to our allies in Europe. The sacrifice of those mariners was essential to keeping us in the war until we could go on the offensive . . . In World War II, enemy attacks sank more than 700 U.S.-flag vessels and claimed the lives of more than 6,000 civilian seafarers . . . “
More recently, in 2008, Major General Kathleen Gainey, Commander, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, stated that “The merchant marine has always been there beside us . . .There is no amount of thanks that I could give you, because I am here to tell you, having deployed twice, I know how critical it is that equipment and those supplies are delivered on time. . . You are the fourth arm of defense and you are critical to this nation.”
Finally, in May 2015, Rear Admiral Thomas Shannon, Commander, Military Sealift Command, made clear the continued need for a U.S.-flag merchant marine and its American crews to ensure the military security of our Nation. As stated by Admiral Shannon: “It is our U.S.-flag merchant fleet and our mariners that ensure that our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and marines are supplied. From Inchon to Iraq, our mariners and our maritime industry delivered . . . Let us not as a nation sign away our remaining sealift capacity to non-U.S.-flagged fleets sailed by non-U.S. mariners.”