We have 80 ships, the Chinese have over 5,500

During Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. (USAF) to become the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) focused on the startling – and disturbing – disparities between China’s significant investment in its maritime fleet and America’s steady decline as a global sea power.

Sen. Kelly asked for – and received – Gen. Brown’s commitment to advance policies that will remedy the nation’s failure to invest in the U.S. Merchant Marine as well as its primary source of militarily obligated mariners: the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

Should we be required to engage militarily with China, it would enjoy an immense advantage. Having modernized and expanded its merchant fleet, the Chinese military can now tap more than 5,500 vessels to transport troops, supplies, fuel, armaments, and tanks.

As the senator points out, the U.S. has only 80 ships to accomplish the same mission.

This was not always so. Sen. Kelly makes a convincing case that since the 1980s a series of misguided – albeit bipartisan – policy decisions have resulted in underinvestment in mariner training, fleet modernization, shipbuilding, and port expansion.

Many in Congress understand that overlooking the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy was one of these glaring policy failures, especially with respect to its aging infrastructure.

We are indebted to Sen. Kelly and the other members of Congress and their staff who understand the severity of this situation and are working to remedy it. You can hear more from Sen. Kelly, as well as other members of Congress, on this important topic in this video, which was created as part of a USMMA Alumni Association and Foundation project that examined the logistics challenges and sealift requirements of a trans-Pacific sealift.