NTDA STUDY: MSP REMAINS ôLINCHPINö FOR U.S. MILITARY
A National Defense Transportation Association study concluded that the U.S. military would be unable to deploy or sustain its forces overseas without access to U.S.-flag commercial ships.
The NTDA’s Maritime Policy Working Group specifically reviewed the impact of the Maritime Security Program (MSP), which entered into effect in 1996.
MSP provides the military with ready-to-use access to 47 military-useful U.S.-flag container and roll-on/roll-off vessels during times of war and national emergency.
“(T)he Maritime Security Program is the linchpin in this country’s wartime U.S. commercial sealift capability,” said (Ret.) Vice Adm. A. J. Herberger, who oversaw the NDTA Sealift Committee Working Group that prepared the study.
In return, the federal government pays the MSP vessel operators $2.1 million per ship, “less than one-tenth of the estimated annual operating cost of providing the same capability using government-owned ships,” the NDTA said.
The NTDA study also cited that MSP:
* Increases the “capability, readiness and reliability” of U.S. strategic sealift through “immediate assured access” to intermodal operations of the MSP carriers.
* Allows immediate expansion of sealift capacity in an emergency.
* Provides access to trained STCW (Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping) certified U.S. crews.
* Saves the military billions of dollars in vessel and intermodal systems acquisition and maintenance.
MSP is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2005. MSP vessel operators and U.S. Transportation Command, however, have already started to lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill to renew and possibly expand the number of vessels in the program.
U.S. Maritime Administrator William G. Schubert is also expected to testify before Congress about the importance of MSP reauthorization soon.
“Our military can’t do it all alone,” said (Ret.) Gen. Kenneth Wykle, NDTA president. “We need our commercial shipping partners and this study demonstrates the absolute importance and tremendous benefits of this program.”