Another Important Voice On Our Woefully Weak Sealift

Nationally syndicated columnist George F. Will is the latest to weigh in on the alarming lack of readiness of the U.S. Navy and the nation’s moribund shipbuilding capacity. His opinion piece speaks for itself, but it is worth highlighting this comment by Sen. Roger Wicker: China has more productive capacity in one shipyard than exists in all U.S. shipyards combined.”

Time is running out. Policymakers need to come to grips with the fact that our maritime security has been overlooked for decades.  

Projecting power on the seas is not just about our Navy. It is not possible to prevail in a conflict without a strong merchant fleet. The vast majority of warfighting equipment and fuel is transported by commercial vessels that are commanded and crewed by trained U.S. merchant mariners. The US Navy Strategic Sealift Officers (SSO) force is comprised of merchant mariners who stand ready to serve when called upon. And the vast majority (over 80%) of these SSOs are graduates of one of our nation’s five federal service academies, the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA).

Mr. Will notes, “The U.S. military is experiencing the worst recruiting shortfall in 50 years.” As part of rectifying that, Congress needs to turn its attention to USMMA’s physical infrastructure, which is unchanged since its founding 80 years ago. This not only impedes attracting the best and brightest candidates, it also means that USMMA Midshipmen, all future military officers, are receiving their crucial training at a woefully outdated facility.