U.S. seagoing labor urges House and Senate to fully fund Maritime Security Program, Tanker Security Program

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The following letter signed by the presidents of four U.S. seagoing labor unions, including American Maritime Officers National President Paul Doell, and dated June 28 was sent to Congressmen David Price (D-NC) - chairman of the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies in the House of Representatives - and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), ranking member on the subcommittee, and to Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) - chairman of the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies in the Senate - and Susan Collins (R-ME), ranking member on the subcommittee.

On behalf of the undersigned American maritime labor organizations we are writing to express our strong support for President Biden's Fiscal Year 2022 budget request for $318 million for the Maritime Security Program and $60 million for the Tanker Security Program (TSP), as authorized by PL 116-283, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. We ask that full funding at these amounts as requested by the President and as authorized by Congress be included in your Fiscal Year 2022 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Bill. The full funding of these programs is extremely important to the U.S.-flag maritime industry and to the jobs of the licensed and unlicensed American merchant mariners we represent.

In November 2018, Rear Admiral Dee Mewbourne, Commander, Military Sealift Command stated: "From Desert Storm to Bosnia, from Afghanistan to Operation Iraqi Freedom, America's Merchant Mariners continue to serve on the leading edge of our defense transportation system, carrying the combat equipment and supplies needed by our joint warfighters. To carry that logistics power to the fight, we have always relied on our Merchant Marine. And they have always answered the call. Despite the dangers and long separations from home, our U.S. Merchant Marine has sailed in harm's way time and time again to make sure that American warfighters and our allies have had the supplies they need to overwhelm our adversaries."

Today, our industry is experiencing a dangerous decline in the number of trained and qualified American merchant mariners available to crew the surge and sustainment vessels needed by the Department of Defense to protect America's interests and to support American troops deployed around the world. In response, Congress has reaffirmed its strong support for the Maritime Security Program and included provisions in Public Law 116-283 that establish a much-needed tanker security fleet modeled after the Maritime Security Program and its maritime security fleet. As noted in a report released in February 2020 by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, "[the] Department of Defense faces a gap of approximately 76 fuel tankers to meet surge sealift requirements. A Tanker Security Program would be a rapid and cost-effective means to help address this gap . . ." Simply put, the establishment of this fleet would begin to reduce our military's reliance on foreign flag vessels by ensuring that the fuel the Department of Defense requires is supplied and transported by American mariners on U.S. flag commercial vessels, consistent with the priorities of our national defense.

The tanker fleet program offers the opportunity to not only increase the number of militarily useful vessels operating under the United States-flag to meet DOD surge sealift requirements, but to create jobs for licensed and unlicensed American merchant mariners, helping to address and alleviate the current maritime manpower shortage. As stated by General Stephen Lyons, Commander, United States Transportation Command, to the House Committee on Armed Services on May 18, 2021, "It's clear that we need to have a U.S.-flag capability to meet our national defense and national security needs . . . I think this program will be an important step to move us to a U.S.-flag dependency which I think is critical to the national defense."

As you know, since it was established in 1996, the Maritime Security Program continues to be a critically important component of our nation's military security, providing the commercial sealift readiness capability, worldwide logistical resources, and civilian merchant mariners needed by the Department of Defense to protect and advance America's interests and to support American troops deployed around the world. As a result, a bipartisan group of ninety-two of your colleagues signed a "dear colleague" letter supporting and urging full funding in Fiscal Year 2022 for the Maritime Security Program at the Congressionally authorized $318 million level.

We again urge that your Subcommittee act to reduce the outsourcing of American maritime jobs and to instead preserve and create jobs for American mariners by providing full appropriations for FY'22 for the Maritime Security Program and the Tanker Security Program.

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