Another Day, Another Warning: America’s Alarming Maritime Deficit

More and more experts are sounding the alarm about America’s readiness and ability to fight a major war with China. It cannot be said often enough that the Navy is not responsible for moving warfighting supplies, fuel, and troops to the warzone. By design, this is the job of the U.S. Merchant Marine, and the role of the of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is to train the militarily obligated Merchant Marine officers who will command these vessels in times of war. The USMMA, one of our nation’s five federal service academies, supplies more than 80 percent of the USN Reserve Strategic Sealift Officers Force.

This Forbes article by the Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson reminds us that in wartime, “90% or more of military goods are moved to and from war zones by sea.”

He further writes that the Department of Transportation “has estimated that in a drawn-out sealift operation, the nation might lack a sufficient number of Merchant Mariners to operate both the ships transporting military cargo and those engaged in seaborne commerce.”

The nation must come to grips with this unsustainable situation.

It is vital that we have a robust U.S.-flagged commercial fleet run by U.S. companies and crewed by Americans. Unless we act, Thompson warns, we may face a catastrophic situation “because there isn’t enough domestically controlled and registered shipping to meet all needs, and the nation lacks the kind of shipbuilding industry needed to fill the gap quickly.”

Now in its 80th year, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy was established by Congress to provide the nation with the finest, militarily obligated mariners. Now is the time to focus not only on the needs of our merchant fleet, but also those of the Academy, where infrastructure remains essentially unchanged since the 1940s.