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The Maritime Security Program (MSP) is extended at its current 60-ship level until 2025 as the National Defense Authorization Act became law with President Obama’s signature on January 2.

The program, which came into being in 1996, provides an annual stipend for up to 60 militarily useful U.S.-flag commercial vessels. In return, companies that participate in the program make their intermodal capabilities available to the military in times of national emergency or war.

When the MSP originally was passed with strong bipartisan support, it covered only 47 ships and was projected for 10 years. However, the program proved so successful, it was extended for an additional decade (through 2015) and the number of vessels increased to 60 before its 2005 deadline. The latest bill – supported once again by the Department of Defense, the Maritime Administration and elected officials from both political parties – secured the program at its current capacity.

The authorization act calls for a gradual increase in the annual stipend during this third 10-year period. Such funding still must be approved annually by Congress.

There was concern that MSP funding would be reduced if automatic federal spending cuts (known as sequestration) occurred on January 1. However, the tax bill passed at the last minute by the 112th Congress and signed by the president pushed sequestration back by two months.

The MTD’s maritime affiliates have stated they will continue to meet with members of Congress and the administration to promote the interests of U.S. citizen mariners and U.S.-flag shipping companies during the upcoming budget debate on Capitol Hill.

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