In a letter to the House Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces Chairman Randy Forbes (R-VA) and Ranking Member Mike McIntyre (D-NC), the American Maritime Partnership (AMP) highlighted a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Puerto Rico and American shipping that says U.S. national security and military preparedness heavily depend on the Jones Act.
The Jones Act is a U.S. maritime law that mandates the use of vessels that are American-crewed, -built, and -owned to move cargo between two U.S. ports. “A decline in the number of U.S. flag vessels would result in the loss of jobs that employ skilled mariners needed to crew the U.S. military reserve and other deep-sea vessels in times of emergency,” the GAO said. “According to DOD officials, to the extent that Jones Act markets are unable to sustain a viable reserve fleet, DOD would have to incur substantial additional costs to maintain and recapitalize a reserve fleet of its own.” The GAO also said that loss of the Jones Act could result in “significant effects on shipyards and the shipyard industry base needed by DOD.”
The GAO report explained the important role of the American domestic shipping industry for the Department of Defense. In finding that “the original goal of the [Jones] Act remains important to military preparedness,” GAO made three particular points about the American domestic fleet:
•A strong domestic fleet is necessary to ensure an available supply of seafarers for times of national crisis.
•The American domestic fleet is a cost-efficient way to provide military sealift.
•A strong national shipyard base is essential to military preparedness, particularly today.
“As you know, DOD and the U.S. Navy heavily rely on commercial mariners, including many from the U.S. domestic fleet, for a variety of critical national security roles,” said AMP. “DOD has previously estimated that replacing the commercial maritime industry with military vessels would cost billions of dollars.”