After extensive coordination with several Navy organizations and the U.S. Maritime Administration, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics approved revisions to the latest CNO Instruction (OPNAVINST 1534.lD) transitioning the Merchant Marine Reserve (MMR) Program into the Strategic Sealift Officer Program (SSOP) on June 10.
The SSOP supports national defense sealift requirements and capabilities, which are executed by Military Sealift Command (MSC). The program provides the Navy with officers that possess sealift, maritime operations, and logistics subject matter expertise, and further hold U.S. Coast Guard credentials as merchant marine officers.
"These changes will help align and improve support to Military Sealift Command and numerous other Joint and Navy commands," said Vice Adm. Bill Burke, Deputy CNO for Fleet Readiness and Logistics, who is the SSOP program sponsor. "This revision improves stewardship, integration, and opportunities for about 2,400 Navy Reserve officers."
The SSOP, like the old MMR Program, will continue to provide the capability for emergency crewing of sealift ships and shoreside support to Navy commands that require unique maritime expertise. Further, this change provides opportunities for greater operational support to the Navy by expanding selected reserve (SELRES) billets and active duty recalls to SSOP officers.
"The improved program aligns strategic sealift officers under MSC to provide the best use for their training as both Navy officers and licensed Merchant Marine officers," said Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, commander, MSC, who is Flag sponsor of the program. "It also expands training requirements to ensure that these officers are best ready for mobilization."
"Both the Navy and the officers in the SSOP will benefit from improvements such as increased opportunities to serve, better alignment of name to its military purpose, streamlining to a single designator, and improved training consistent with other Navy communities" said Rear Adm. Buzz Little, commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command. "This new SSOP builds upon the tradition of the MMR, by becoming more ready, relevant, visible, and providing greater opportunities for service."
(By: Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Strategic Mobility and Combat Logistics Division)