Strong bipartisan support for establishment of U.S. tanker security fleet

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The following bipartisan letter dated September 15 and signed by 34 members of Congress was sent to Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee James Inhofe (R-OK), Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith (D-WA), and House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX).

As you work to finalize a conference agreement on the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), we write to convey our strong support for retaining section 3511 of H.R. 6395, the William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. This provision would authorize the establishment of a tanker security program comprised of ten privately-owned, militarily-useful U.S.-flag product tankers crewed by licensed and unlicensed American merchant mariners.

We are deeply concerned about the decline in the number of militarily-useful commercial vessels operating under the U.S. flag and, consequently, in the number of trained and qualified American merchant mariners available to crew the vessels needed by the Department of Defense to protect America's interests and to support American troops deployed around the world. A tanker security program as passed in H.R. 6395 would begin to rectify this situation, adding additional commercial vessels to the U.S.-flag fleet and creating new jobs for American mariners. This program, modeled after the successful and cost-efficient Maritime Security Program, represents an important maritime policy initiative not only for the maritime workforce but for our nation's commercial sealift readiness capability.

Significantly, Lieutenant General, USMC, John Broadmeadow, Deputy Commander, United States Transportation Command, told Congress last year that "a 10-tanker program will be a welcome start to begin to address the gap in U.S.-flagged bulk fuel delivery."

In short, establishing a tanker security fleet would begin to reduce our military's reliance on foreign flag vessels by ensuring that a greater portion of the fuel needed by the Department of Defense is transported by American mariners on U.S. flag vessels. It would not promote or expand the production of petroleum products but would instead begin to end America's almost total reliance on foreign flag of convenience vessels to meet the energy needs of the Department of Defense at sea and around the world.

We urge that the FY 2021 conference agreement retain section 3511 of H.R. 6395.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Signing the letter were Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Brian Babin (R-TX), Don Bacon (R-NE), Donald Beyer (D-VA), Mike Bost (R-IL), Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Andr? Carson (D-IN), Gilbert Cisneros (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Jared Golden (D-ME), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Peter King (R-NY), Elaine Luria (D-VA), David McKinley (R-WV), Carol Miller (R-WV), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Chris Pappas (D-NH), David Price (D-NC), Max Rose (D-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Linda S?nchez (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY), Robert Wittman (R-VA), Don Young (R-AK) and Peter DeFazio (D-CA).

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