Start Solving the Mariner Shortage Before War Breaks Out

In this opinion piece in RealClearDefense, Rear Adm. Mark Buzby (USN-Ret) calls attention to the acute shortage of U.S. Mariners. Not only are they crucial to a functional supply chain, they are tasked in wartime with transporting troops, supplies, fuel, and nearly every other item needed to fight a major war.

Adm. Buzby, whose decades of distinguished service to our country include serving as Commander of the Military Sealift Command and as Maritime Administrator, lays out a partial solution: Immediately increase the enrollment at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), the primary source of the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Sealift Officers (SSOs). The Academy is unique among maritime institutions in that all its graduates are obligated to serve as Merchant Marine officers in times of war and, because of an intensive and unrivaled curriculum, are ready to serve immediately upon graduation.

USMMA is the only federal academy that educates and graduates licensed Merchant Marine officers. It is also the only maritime school in which 100 percent of graduates both earn a Merchant Marine license and incur an obligation to serve their country for eight years.

The Academy has the capacity to increase the supply of SSOs and can move with haste to reverse this shortfall. Adm. Buzby has long warned of the perils associated with a weakened military sealift; USMMA has increased enrollment in previous times of a heightened need for merchant marine officers and can do so again.