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U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the chairman of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, urged his fellow legislators to ensure the Maritime Security Program (MSP) receives its full funding for Fiscal Year 2015.

Hunter spoke on the floor of the House during a June 9 debate regarding the 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill.

“The U.S.-flag fleet is critical to our military in delivering cargo overseas to our military to ensure proper readiness and sustainment,” noted Hunter. “The Department of Defense (DoD) for well over a decade has relied on MSP-enrolled vessels for sealift of necessary cargo into conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other troubled areas in the world, all at a fraction of the cost of what it would cost DoD to replicate that sealift if it had to build its own vessels.

“These military-sensitive cargoes are handled by U.S.-flag ship operators and mariners that must meet DoD and homeland security standards. They have a demonstrated record of delivering these cargoes efficiently and safely.”

The congressman concluded his remarks by calling on the House to bring the program’s funding level to the same $186 million mark that was “appropriated in [Fiscal Year] 2014, authorized by the Armed Services Committee, and requested by the president.”

Since its inception in 1996, the MSP has received strong bipartisan backing in Congress and the White House, while receiving the praise of military officials. The program provides an annual stipend to ensure 60 militarily useful U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed ships are available to the military in times of war or national emergencies. Companies that are contracted under MSP agree to make their infrastructure available to the military during the periods of war or national emergencies.