New study details importance of U.S. maritime industry to national security

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The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) recently released a new study detailing the benefits of the American maritime industry to national security, titled "Strengthening the U.S. Defense Maritime Industrial Base."

As a first-time review of the impact of the U.S. domestic maritime industry to national security, this historic report found that the domestic fleet provides the largest source of merchant mariners for U.S. surge sealift operations, supports shipbuilders that also construct government vessels, ensures the maintenance of the U.S. waterways and shipping lanes, and helps reduce the potential of foreign mariners illegally entering the United States, the American Maritime Partnership (AMP) reported in late February. AMP is a coalition of which American Maritime Officers Service is a member and which American Maritime Officers supports.

At a launch event of the new study, U.S. Maritime Administrator Rear Adm. Mark Buzby (U.S. Navy retired) addressed the importance of sustaining a strong and readied defense maritime industrial base, stating: "Implementing a national maritime strategy demands a national level effort, and a national will to support our shipbuilding and repair sector. It begins with this kind of report from CSBA, so I thank you again for your contribution to the debate and to the security of our great Nation. Together, we will continue to educate our Nation on the importance of maritime policy. It's critical to our economic and national security in the face of an increasingly contentious world."

Key findings include:

  • The Jones Act is an important element of America's defense maritime industrial base (DMIB) and should be maintained. As stated in the study, "the U.S. maritime industry is essential to American prosperity and security."
  • American mariners are crucial to national security. CSBA drilled down on the importance of domestic mariners in a contingency, saying: "The 3,830 mariners that operate large, ocean-going ships in the domestic fleet constitute about 29 percent of overall number MARAD estimates would be needed to operate U.S. surge sealift during wartime or another contingency." That 29 percent is the largest single commercial source of mariners, and was demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm when "the crews of 13 foreign ships refused to go into a war zone and deliver their cargo. Not a single American crew refused."
  • The Jones Act helps maintain shipyards and ship repair yards, which are crucial to national security. CSBA said: "The U.S. shipbuilding and repair industry is a major component of the defense maritime industrial base," and "without the Jones Act's requirements ... it is likely the U.S. government would have few, if any, shipyards available to episodically recapitalize its smaller vessels."
  • American vessels help maintain U.S. waterways and keep America secure. CSBA emphasized the role that American dredgers and salvage operators play, highlighting the importance of not having to depend "on foreign companies to dredge its dozens of naval facilities, potentially opening up opportunities for sabotage or the depositing of underwater surveillance equipment."
  • The Jones Act helps reduce illegal entry into the United States. CSBA noted that, "without the Jones Act's requirements, foreign companies could buy domestic carriers that operate smaller vessels and barges that ply U.S. rivers and intracoastal waterways."
  • The Jones Act makes America more secure amidst a growing threat from China and in the Pacific. In addition to helping serve commercial ports as well as strategically important military bases in the Pacific in Hawaii, Guam, and Alaska, the "[Jones Act] guards against the ability of China - the world's largest merchant marine and global port management system - to take over shipping to U.S. territories and gain local influence during peacetime, only to threaten or deny shipping to CONUS during a crisis or conflict."
  • China is a "growing threat" to American maritime superiority and national security. CSBA highlighted the subsidized nature of China's shipbuilding industry and that U.S. challenges in a conflict "would be exacerbated during a confrontation with China, whose government and corporations own the world's largest commercial shipping fleet." CSBA added: "the Chinese government has also slowly but systematically gained port access around the world for commerce, logistics and naval operations" as part of its goal of "boost[ing] trade and global influence by economic, political and military means."

Read the full study, "Strengthening the U.S. Defense Maritime Industrial Base: A Plan to Improve Maritime Industry's Contribution to National Security," by Bryan Clark, Timothy A. Walton, and Adam Lemon online at:

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