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  May 21st, 2024 | Written by

Navy Secretary Endorses Plan to Revitalize U.S. Maritime Industry

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In a recent Senate Armed Services Committee meeting, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro expressed strong support for a newly published congressional action plan aimed at reversing the decline of America’s maritime power. The plan, which calls for immediate and significant investments, was the focus of discussion, with Senator Mark Kelly emphasizing the urgent need to bolster the U.S. Merchant Marine.

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Senator Kelly highlighted the critical state of the Merchant Marine, citing its diminishing size as a national security risk. He referenced a detailed bicameral report titled “Congressional Guidance For A National Maritime Strategy,” which outlines a comprehensive approach to revitalizing the U.S. maritime sector. Secretary Del Toro, having reviewed the document, stated his agreement with all ten of its recommendations.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers behind the report includes Congressman Mike Waltz, Senator Mark Kelly, Senator Marco Rubio, and Congressman John Garamendi. Their call to action underscores the pressing need to rebuild the U.S. maritime industry, which is vital to both economic and national security.

The Decline of U.S. Maritime Power

The U.S. has seen a significant decline in its maritime capabilities due to decades of neglect from both the government and private industry. This has led to a reduction in shipbuilding capacity and a dwindling maritime workforce. The U.S.-flag shipping fleet, essential for transporting goods and supporting military operations, has also been significantly reduced. Meanwhile, China’s maritime capabilities have surged, with its shipbuilding capacity now 230 times greater than that of the United States, posing a significant competitive threat in the global ocean economy, valued between $3 trillion and $6 trillion.

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“We must act now, before it is too late, and make a once-in-a-generation investment in the future of America’s maritime power,” urged Congressman Mike Waltz in the report.

The report calls for immediate recognition of this issue by government leaders and the establishment of a National Maritime Council, led by a Presidential appointee, to develop and implement a national maritime strategy. It also emphasizes the need for Congress to fully fund maritime agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration, and Federal Maritime Commission, which have been hampered by underfunding and understaffing. For example, the U.S. Maritime Administration has less than 2 percent of the workforce of its sister agency, the Federal Aviation Administration.

Strategic Objectives and International Cooperation

The strategy advocates for enhanced international cooperation with allies to address resource competition, particularly in the Indo-Pacific and Polar regions. It stresses the importance of sharing responsibility for global maritime security and protecting critical maritime infrastructure. While there is significant military cooperation between the U.S. Navy and allied forces, economic and commercial collaboration, especially in shipbuilding and the Merchant Marine, is lacking. Notably, CEOs of major global shipping companies often engage with Chinese maritime officials, but rarely, if ever, with the U.S. Maritime Administration.

The congressional guidance underscores the vital role of maritime strength in maintaining national security and economic prosperity. A coordinated national maritime strategy is crucial to restoring and enhancing America’s maritime capabilities, ensuring continued access to and control of the world’s oceans.

The full guidance document calls for immediate, substantial investment to secure the future of America’s maritime power.