The MTD joined a coalition of U.S-flag unions, associations and businesses calling upon the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations to retain important maritime aspects of the Food for Peace (PL-480) Program.
In a letter dated April 15, 19 organizations reminded the elected officials of the importance of the program for a strong, viable U.S.-flag fleet. The letter was in response to a committee hearing on “American Food Aid: Why Reform.”
“At the outset, we believe it is important to note that one key component of U.S. maritime policy that promotes the use of U.S.-flag vessels and enhances the economic and security interests of the United States are the U.S.-flag cargo preference statutes,” the maritime coalition wrote to Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), committee chair, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), its ranking member. “They provide U.S.-flag vessels with a critical base of cargo, giving those vessels the opportunity to stay active while they work to compete against lower-cost and oftentimes tax-free foreign-flag vessels for the carriage of commercial cargos in the U.S.
“This in turn helps to ensure that the U.S.-flag vessels and their American crews remain available to DoD [the Department of Defense] in time of war or other international emergency.”
The letter acknowledged that the Congress and federal government are considering a possible revision of the measure. “However, we strongly urge that any proposal to reform or revise the PL-480 Food for Peace Program, our nation’s most successful foreign aid food assistance program, must ensure that the militarily useful U.S.-flag commercial vessels, American maritime jobs and worldwide logistical networks available to our nation through the Maritime Security Program [MSP], our nation’s most important commercial sealift capability program, are not adversely affected or lost.”
One scenario would eliminate the use of U.S.-flag vessels for delivering needed goods to foreign lands. The coalition letter quoted several military officers on the importance of the U.S.-flag fleet and properly trained American crews for successfully completing missions around the globe.
“Diminishing this capability through changes in the food aid programs means that our country will either have to rely on foreign-flag vessels and foreign mariners for advancing America’s security interests and supporting American troops abroad, or that DoD must build, maintain and operate the requisite vessels itself,” the coalition warned. “Most importantly, diminishing this capability through changes in the food aid programs will result in the significant reduction in the active pool of experienced civilian U.S. mariners available to crew the Military Sealift Command’s and Maritime Administration’s surge fleet as well as the privately owned commercial sustainment fleet when required to meet national defense objectives.”
The coalition ended its letter by stating it looks forward to working with the Senate committee on “legislation that both reforms the Food for Peace Program and enhances the U.S.-flag commercial sealift capability provided through MSP.”