The success of America's military still depends on the nation's investment in the success of the U.S. Merchant Marine, said the Commander of U.S. Transportation Command, Gen. Darren McDew, during a speech at a National Maritime Day ceremony hosted by the U.S. Maritime Administration in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Merchant Marine's strong history of supporting the military's national defense goals should not be forgotten and can be seen in the mariners of today, he said.
"We have to continue to appreciate not only this industry, but the people who make it work," McDew said. "I appreciate every single day the ships that sail for USTRANSCOM."
The historical significance of the U.S. Merchant Marine was also underscored by Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby, who said mariners past and present have helped form the nation into what it is today.
"We're here today to recognize the many dedicated seafaring men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine who have fueled the economy of the United States and helped defend her for over 240 years," he said. "We owe a collective great debt of gratitude to our mariners.
"By delivering supplies to our military forces overseas (and) commercial cargoes here at home, they have helped establish the American way of life," Buzby said.
Part of what makes the U.S. the one superpower in the world is its ability to project might anywhere in the world at a moment's notice, McDew said. That capability begins and ends with the maritime industry and the commercial mariners who man commercial vessels.
That capability is still strong but it is time to re-evaluate how the nation can improve its support for the maritime industry, which should include recapitalizing the aging Ready Reserve Force fleet. Some of the ships in the existing ready reserve fleet are decades old. Modernizing such an aging fleet would dramatically improve strategic sealift planning and help the nation face the challenges of more technologically advanced threats, he said.
"We can bring an overwhelming force anywhere on the planet. That capability resides with the men and women in this audience, and the men and women you represent," McDew said. "We can't rest on our laurels. It's time we reinvest in our strategic sealift fleet and our ability to surge and sustain our war fight. We must recapitalize a fleet that is quite, quite old.
"The victories of tomorrow will depend on the men and women with saltwater in their veins," McDew said. "We can't move a decisive force anywhere on the globe at the time of our choosing without the maritime industry."