2024 Maritime Action Items and Priorities

Rear Admiral Ann Phillips
Maritime Administrator, Department of Transportation (2022)

“As a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral with more than 30 years of service, I know the critical importance of our merchant marine to our national defense as well as to our economy. Particularly in a contested environment, it is American mariners who will answer the call—as they always have—to move the supplies we need to defeat any adversary.”

General Jacqueline Van Ovost
Commander, United States Transportation Command, Department of Defense (2021)

The Department of Defense relies on you to deliver our decisive military force – a job you have done for decades. This industry is crucial to advancing America’s interests. As a seafaring nation, our country has been, and is, and will continue to be reliant on the strength of the maritime industry and the many mariners who are known for their determination, their grit and selfless service.”

General Stephen Lyons
Commander, United States Transportation Command, Department of Defense (2020)

“With 85 percent of our forces based in the continental U.S., nearly 90 percent of our military equipment is expected to deploy via sealift in a major conflict. In order to deploy those forces, we require safe, reliable and ready U.S.-flagged vessels [and], mariners to crew those ships. . .” 

General Darren McDew
Commander, United States Transportation Command, Department of Defense (2017)

“We don’t know when, but someday the nation is going to come calling. When she does, she will need us, she will need our ships, she will need our mariners… if we do nothing now, the strength of the maritime fleet that brought the nation to war throughout history… that strength will not be here.”


History has repeatedly shown that the United States needs a strong, active privately-owned U.S.-flag commercial merchant marine to meet the economic and national security requirements of our Nation. In fact, it is the privately-owned U.S.-flag merchant marine, and its U.S. citizen crews, that enable the Department of Defense to do its job economically and efficiently. Our industry gives the Department of Defense the confidence of knowing that we will provide the civilian merchant mariners needed to crew the surge vessels called into action at the start of hostilities as well as the commercial sealift readiness capability and civilian merchant mariners DOD requires to provide the sustainment required throughout the extent of the war or other international emergency. As stated by General Jacqueline Van Ovost, Commander, United States Transportation Command: “We value the U.S. mariners operating U. S. vessels. And we recognize the important role our mariners play in the strength of our nation.”

Notwithstanding an unparalleled record of patriotic service to our country the continued viability of our industry is at risk. It is imperative that the downward trend in the number of vessels operating under the U.S.-flag must not only be stopped but reversed, and the outsourcing of American maritime jobs to the benefit of foreign workers be ended. As General Paul Selva, then-Commander, United States Transportation Command, warned in 2015: [the] “reduction in government impelled cargoes due to the drawdown in Afghanistan and reductions in food aid . . . the mariner base is at a point where future reductions in U.S.-flag capacity puts our ability to fully activate, deploy and sustain forces at increased risk.”

This dangerous decline in the American maritime manpower pool is a critical national security issue and must be reversed. It is imperative that Congress and the Administration take action to revitalize the U.S.-flag merchant marine, to put Americans back to work aboard U.S.-flag vessels, and to ensure that our country has the U.S.-flag commercial sealift readiness capability and civilian licensed and unlicensed American merchant mariners needed to support the Department of Defense and American troops whenever and wherever needed. Otherwise, we will be handing over to foreign flag vessels and their foreign citizen crews the security of our nation and the safety of American troops deployed overseas.

MARITIME SECURITY PROGRAM: The Maritime Security Program (MSP) and its fleet of 60 privately-owned militarily-useful U.S.-flag commercial vessels and their U.S. citizen crews form the basis of America’s commercial sealift readiness capability. As history has proven, American mariners never fail to sail into harm’s way when needed by the United States. In fact, the choice for our Nation is simple: entrust the security of our Nation and the safety of American troops deployed around the world to United States-flag vessels and United States citizen crews, or instead hope that foreign flag, foreign crewed vessels will protect the safety of American troops.   We ask all Members of Congress to support full funding in Fiscal Year 2025 for the Maritime Security Program at its authorized level.

TANKER SECURITY FLEET PROGRAM: In a letter to Congress in 2019, General John Broadmeadow, Deputy Commander, U.S. Transportation Command, warned that today’s fleet of U.S.-flag tankers “is insufficient to meet certain war plan requirements.” He further went on to say that “As our mobility analysis continues to refine requirements, a 10-tanker program will be a welcome start to begin to address the gap in U.S.-flagged bulk fuel delivery.”

As a result, Congress authorized the establishment of a tanker security program modeled after the existing Maritime Security Program. Initially authorized to include 10 privately-owned, militarily useful U.S.-flag U.S.-crewed product tankers, the program was expanded to include 20 U.S.-flag, U.S. crewed product tankers in Fiscal Year 2024. We ask all Members of Congress to support full funding in Fiscal Year 2024 2025 for the Tanker Security Program at its authorized level.  

CARGO PREFERENCE: U.S.-flag cargo preference shipping requirements mandate that a percentage of U.S. taxpayer financed exports and imports be transported on privately-owned U.S.-flag commercial vessels, to the degree such vessels are available at fair and reasonable rates. It is important to understand that every U.S.-flag vessel has important military utility by providing the employment base necessary to maintain the cadre of American merchant mariners needed by the Department of Defense. The full implementation of the cargo preference requirements to transport U.S. government cargoes helps guarantee that American maritime jobs will not be outsourced to the benefit of foreign maritime workers and that the dangerous decline in the number of available American merchant mariners will not worsen. We ask all Members of Congress to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are used to Ship American and that all Federal shipper agencies fully comply with the spirit and the letter of existing U.S.-flag cargo preference shipping requirements.

JONES ACT: The Jones Act, a cornerstone of American maritime policy, requires that vessels engaged in U.S. domestic commerce are owned and crewed by Americans and built in U.S. shipyards. The domestic American maritime industry strengthens U.S. national security at zero cost to the federal government.  The domestic maritime fleet provides capacity and manpower that the armed forces can draw upon to support U.S. military operations.  American ships, crews to man them, ship construction and repair yards, intermodal equipment, terminals, cargo tracking systems, and other infrastructure are available to the U.S. military at a moment’s notice in times of war, national emergency, or even in peacetime. The 40,000 Jones Act vessels operating in the domestic trades support nearly 650,000 American jobs and $150 billion in annual economic impact. An impressive five indirect jobs are created for each direct maritime job, which results in more than $41 billion in labor compensation. The industry moves a billion tons of cargo every year, which plays an important role in relieving congestion on the nation’s crowded roads and railways. The oceangoing vessels engaged in the Jones Act trades provide important employment opportunities for American mariners who are qualified to serve on vessels needed by the Department of Defense, thereby serving as a critical component of the maritime manpower pool. We ask all Members of Congress to affirm their support for this critically important national maritime policy and to oppose legislative efforts to repeal all or part of the Jones Act.

U.S. MERCHANT MARINE ACADEMY: Graduates of the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) are vital to the operation of military sealift in times of conflict and national emergency. Without a comprehensive capital improvement plan and timely execution moving forward, USMMA will continue to deteriorate –adversely impacting the recruitment of dedicated service-obligated midshipmen as well as the education and training delivered by this critical Federal institution. USMMA graduates – all militarily obligated – make up over 80 percent of the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Sealift Officer Force. Without them, the nation would have no viable – or reliable – means of manning vessels that move weapons, troops, fuel, and supplies in wartime.

USMMA’s campus remains largely unchanged from its founding 80 years ago. Beyond deteriorating buildings, the library, IT capacity, training labs, and physical readiness resources are woefully inadequate and shockingly subpar when compared to other federal service academies. While maritime technology has moved at breakneck speed, midshipmen learn, train, and study in antiquated facilities that hinder the Academy’s ability to educate and train to current standards. A 2021 report by the National Academy of Public Administration warned that “poor physical conditions on campus interfere with learning and the student experience.”

We ask all Members of Congress to support a substantial increase in USMMA capital improvement funding so the Academy’s modernization can be implemented before its physical condition prevents it from being able to adequately educate and train midshipmen who play a vital role in meeting the nation’s security needs.

STATE MARITIME ACADEMIES:  America’s six State Maritime Academies collectively provide approximately 75 percent of the new licensed officers for the U.S.-flag merchant marine.  As such, they play an important role in addressing the current national mariner shortage , a workforce crisis affecting military sealift and readiness.  It is imperative that Congress and the Administration act quickly and decisively to address and rectify the impediments affecting the enrollment of young people in the Academies, and the operation of the Academies themselves. 

2024 Maritime Action Items and Priorities Downloadable PDFs

  • Support the Jones Act (PDF)
  • Support Full FY’25 MSP Funding (PDF)
  • Increasing America’s Maritime Workforce (PDF)
  • State Academies – Solving the Mariner Shortage (PDF)
  • Support Full FY’25 Funding for the Tanker Security Program (PDF)
  • American Farmers Feed the World Act (PDF)
  • USMMA Campus Modernization (PDF)