CIMSEC – Based on data from the recent Maritime Workforce Working Group Report, there is an estimated 2,000 U.S. mariner shortfall for sustaining sealift in support of a major national mobilization lasting more than 6 months. This number could be even higher due to double counting mariners that are actively sailing and also serving as strategic sealift officers.
CIMSEC – To pace threats and ensure sealift survivability, America could relatively safely “smuggle” a certain amount of clandestinely loaded military materiel across contested oceans and through contested chokepoints, until reaching friendly offload destinations in theater.
CIMSEC – The medical fleet is often overlooked in discussions about Distributed Maritime Operations.
CIMSEC – The Army faces challenges with sea basing due to its focus on land warfare.
CIMSEC – Merchant mariners are essential personnel to America’s economy and warfighting enterprise.
CIMSEC – As the long arm of American military power, USTRANSCOM must have the capability to deliver forces anywhere in the world at lightning speed. Maintaining this capability means deliberately monitoring competitors’ capabilities and countering them when they threaten the ability to deploy military force.
CIMSEC – This article will survey some of the issues that have caused the Strategic Sealift decline, describe some mistakes that have been made in trying to correct them, and propose a few possible solutions to ensure the warfighters have the tools they need to quickly respond to emergent contingencies.
CIMSEC – The U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) Deputy Commander and the former Commandant of the Marine Corps are in one accord. These leaders have effectively parsed out two distinct dilemmas — an “away game” fight and a battle to get to that fight. The wicked problems facing the Marine Corps, its fellow services, and TRANSCOM are, in fact, components of a collective dilemma. The strategic competition milieu no longer differentiates between the frontline and the homefront as if there were combatants and non-combatants. It is a singular fight.
CIMSEC – Today, China is in the position that the U.S. found itself on the eve of the Second World War, with a large maritime infrastructure supporting a growing Navy and commercial merchant fleet with a global presence. China’s COSCO Shipping is the single largest maritime company in the world. At the same moment, U.S. Navy programs are foundering and most of the protections once in place to ensure a large domestic merchant marine and industrial base have been dismantled. One must envision what the next peer-to-peer naval conflict could look like for the United States, with a U.S. Navy that is first in the world, but severely challenged, and a merchant marine that is 21st and declining, versus a nation like China whose navy and merchant marine ranks second in both categories and climbing.
CIMSEC – With a bi-polar hegemonic world, the U.S. needs to take an immediate and serious deep dive into guaranteeing commercial cargoes for U.S.-flag carriers. This is not a new idea, but one worth revisiting. This proposal, if enforced by treaty or legislation, would have negligible impact on shippers while significantly improving the capacity and number of both the U.S.-flag fleet and U.S.-mariners.
CIMSEC – Recapitalizing strategic sealift vessels would provide a needed catalyst for green maritime technology development, driving toward the Biden administration’s new shipping climate target while improving the US Navy’s warfighting edge. A greener merchant fleet, enabled by technology developed during the recapitalization of the aging sealift fleet would address an important source of climate change and increase the sustainment reach of the logistics fleet. Such a maritime green revolution might even improve lethality.
CIMSEC – As a key provider of surge forces to crisis locations around the world, United States Transportation Command must confront any and all potential challengers it might face in the 21st century, specifically the rising maritime power of the People’s Republic of China. Challenges USTRANSCOM could face in this regard are threefold—the aging and inadequate nature of the American sealift force, the vulnerability of said forces to strategic chokepoints in the event of conflict, and the versatility and strength of the Chinese People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia.
CIMSEC – The intense focus on acquiring new and better combat capabilities with which to establish overmatch vis-à-vis emerging high-end competitors may have hampered Pentagon leadership from recognizing the fact that without sufficient strategic sealift, many modernization efforts may be for naught.
CIMSEC – If the United States finds itself engaged in peer-to-peer competition and conflict, as it has in the past during the First World War, the Second World War, and during the Cold War, it will find itself in a position that it has not been in for over a century; of a nation lacking a dedicated sealift force and a merchant marine only a fraction of a percent necessary to carry its own commerce.
CIMSEC – China’s growing navy and increasingly hegemonic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific have the potential to disrupt alliances and create a unique logistical problem for expeditionary U.S. military operations.
CIMSEC – From its earliest days when the American colonies were dependent on trade with Europe, the United States has been reliant on merchant shipping.
CIMSEC – The recent issues facing the Merchant Marine are not simply the product of COVID or other recent events. They are simply yet another expression of the longstanding problems of status the Merchant Marine has faced within the U.S. Navy.
– Navy Times – For nearly five months, thousands of civilian mariners assigned to the Navy’s fleet of U.S. Military Sealift Command ships have been living under what are believed to be some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the military. And those restrictions were dropped on them with almost no notice, according to their advocates.
– USNI News – An aging and inactive government fleet dependent on a shrinking pool of merchant mariners to get underway is how a new report describes the U.S. military’s strategic sealift capability.
– USNI News – When U.S. Transportation Command tested the ability of the nation’s maritime Ready Reserve Force to set sail on short notice, only about 40 percent of the vessels deemed ready were able to leave port.
– Defense News – The U.S. military in September ordered the largest stress test of its wartime sealift fleet in the command’s history, with 33 out of 61 government-owned ships being activated simultaneously. The results were bad, according to a new report.
– Defense News – The White House wants the U.S. Navy to go back to the drawing board and find new ways to replace its aging sealift fleet, a move that could set back efforts that military officials see as vital to maintaining the military’s ability to project power across the globe.
– USNI Blog – As a former surface warfare officer, now a civilian pursuing a merchant mariner license, I recently had the opportunity to serve onboard the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College’s training ship, the Empire State VI. I was assigned as a deck training officer and lab instructor, but I also received an immersive education in how the Merchant Marine trains its officers and operates its ships.
– USNI News – Running dark and nearly silent, last month a convoy of Military Sealift Command ships practiced delivering people and gear to the fight as part of a large U.S. Transportation Command surge sealift capability stress test.
– Defense News – America’s sealift fleet is responsible for providing the military with transportation across oceans, but despite seemingly universal acknowledgement that the fleet is in trouble, the current recapitalization plan significantly lags behind what the military needs to avoid a collapse in capacity, projected to start in 2024 if the current situation holds.