Strategic Sealift Briefing

Jul 21, 2020 | DTJ Online, Fall Meeting 2019 Videos

“The United States remains the only nation on earth capable of deploying major forces anywhere in the world on short notice, sustaining them while they are in theater, and bringing them home safely when their mission is complete.” All of these capabilities, according to Bill McDonald, Director of Sealift Support at the US Maritime Administration (MARAD), require strategic sealift. It is, he said, the source of true American power in the world.

The comments were part of a briefing on strategic sealift made during Transportation Academy, which was held in conjunction with the NDTA-USTRANSCOM Fall Meeting. Both Transportation Academy and the Fall Meeting took place October 7-10, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Even if the US spent a trillion dollars on defense and had the best forces, strategic sealift remains a necessary capability. “Without the ability to put boots on the ground and keep them there as long as they need to be there, all the defense spending in the world will do us no good.”

The nation and its allies rely on US strategic sealift capability. America continues to maintain tremendous capability in this realm, due in part to programs such as the Ready Reserve Fleet (RRF), Maritime Security Program (MSP), and Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA), among several others.

However, the US fleet is far from what it once was. As an example, McDonald shared that there are 82 ships in the internationally sailing US flag fleet and 61 ships in the surge sealift fleet. But it took 380 vessels to support Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

MARAD, he shared, is committed to rebuilding that sealift capability—and with good reason. “The strategic sealift force is not just a war-winning capability for the United States; it is also a very effective means of preventing a war,” said McDonald.

“No enemy will dare attack us or our allies if they feel that the cavalry can come to the rescue [and] that we can deploy the necessary force to defeat their efforts. Conversely, in the event an enemy deduces that the United States is unable to meet its global obligations through its strategic sealift capability, we run the risk of a conflict.”

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