The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Foreign Agriculture and the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee held a joint hearing on November 17th to “explore the interaction of food aid shipping and military sealift capacity, particularly that provided by the Maritime Security Program.”  Testimony was presented on behalf of USA Maritime by American Maritime Congress President James Caponiti and on behalf of maritime labor by Brian Schoeneman, Legislative Director, Seafarers International Union.    Also testifying were Paul Jaenichen, Administrator, US Maritime Administration; David Berteau, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness; John Murray, President and CEO of Hapag-Lloyd USA; and Philip Shapiro, President and CEO of Liberty Maritime Corporation.

Leading off the hearing, Assistant Secretary Berteau told the Representatives that “National security readiness hinges on the success of the Department of Defense in getting to the mission and sustaining that mission . . .The Department relies on the U.S. merchant marine as a key element of its readiness to perform all of its national security missions, working through a wide range of DoD commercial sealift programs that support deploying and sustaining military forces around the world. . . Ultimately, American depends on the Defense Department to be ready to execute all of its national security missions.  The availability of ships and mariners from the U.S. merchant marine is an important element of that readiness.”

Expanding on the importance of the U.S.-flag fleet to national security, Maritime Administrator Jaenichen told the Subcommittees that “The Maritime Security Program (MSP) fleet ensures military access to a global fleet of ships in ocean-borne foreign commerce with the necessary intermodal logistics capability to move military equipment and supplies during armed conflict or national emergency.  MSP vessels have been key contributors to our Nation’s efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq . . .  Since 2009, MSP carriers have moved over 90 percent of the ocean-borne cargo needed to support U.S. military operations and rebuilding programs in both countries.  The MSP also provides critical employment for up to 2,400 U.S. merchant mariners, creating a reliable pool of mariners ready to support the activation of the government’s sealift fleets.”

Following the hearing, the Chairmen and Ranking Democrats on both Subcommittees released the following statements, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the current PL 480 Food for Peace food aid program and highlighting the importance of a strong, U.S.-flag merchant marine:

“The agriculture and maritime communities have successfully partnered with private voluntary organizations to lead the global effort to alleviate hunger and malnutrition over the past 60 years. Today’s hearing reaffirmed the widely-held concern that disruptions to that historic partnership would have devastating effects on both our international food aid programs and our military readiness. Any effort to move away from in-kind donations in exchange for more cash-based assistance is concerning, especially since USAID has attempted to achieve these reforms by effectively driving a wedge between the maritime and agriculture communities. I thank my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for joining me in highlighting this important issue,” said Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC), Chairman of the Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.

“To remain a world power, with the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, it is critical that we maintain a robust fleet of United States flag commercial vessels to carry much needed supplies to the battlefield, food aid to countries in need, a large cadre of skilled American mariners to man those vessels, and a strong shipyard industrial base to ensure we have the capability to build and replenish our naval forces in times of war,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

“The United States, as a steward of the world, provides assistance to countries and regions that are less fortunate, and the farmers, ranchers, and dairymen that I represent in California’s Central Valley are proud that many of the commodities we produce go to individuals throughout the world who otherwise would go hungry and malnourished. Today’s hearing is important because it allows us to look at the challenges the maritime industry faces when transporting food products to countries and regions in need. International food aid programs are very beneficial for countries that do not have adequate resources to provide the quality of food that we produce here in the United States. From growing the fruits and vegetables to transporting them across the world, international food aid programs support good-paying jobs throughout the nation, especially in California and our Valley,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.

“The existing partnership between agriculture, the maritime industry, and government-sponsored food aid providers has been very effective in delivering aid where it’s needed most, while also supporting our domestic industries and our military readiness. A bag of American food delivered from an American ship is the best way to say that America cares. Keeping this partnership strong will also assist our troops in uniform: current sealift capacity is insufficient to meet needs that could arise in times of crisis, and maintaining a robust domestic fleet will help keep our military ready in an increasingly dangerous world,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
Written testimony provided by the witnesses from the hearing is linked below.

  • Mr. David J. Berteau, Assistant Secretary of Defense, Logistics and Material Readiness,
    Department of Defense, Washington, DC  (PDF)
  • The Honorable Paul N. (Chip) Jaenichen, Sr., Administrator, Maritime Administration, Washington, DC  (PDF)
  • Mr. James E. Caponiti, President, American Maritime Congress, Washington, DC  (PDF)
  • Mr. Philip Shapiro, President and CEO, Liberty Maritime Corporation, New Hyde Park, NY  (PDF)
  • Captain John W. Murray, President and CEO, Hapag-Lloyd USA, LLC, Piscataway, NJ  (PDF)
  • Mr. Brian Schoeneman, Political and Legislative Director, Seafarers International Union, Washington, DC  (PDF)

To view the recorded hearing:  VIDEO