Panel: MarAd 'best suited' to continue operating USMMA

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd):

(WASHINGTON) — With the goal of enhancing the agency’s program performance and coordination on maritime-related issues, the Maritime Administration requested the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) – a nonprofit and non-partisan organization – to undertake an independent review of MarAd’s core functions.  Working with the administration, MarAd will give full consideration to NAPA’s recommendations, as the agency continues its efforts to improve its effectiveness, efficiencies, and ability to address current and evolving issues related to the maritime industry.

Summary of the NAPA report:

Our country’s economy is highly dependent on viable inland waterways, as well as coastal and ocean resources. The Maritime Administration is a small operational administration within the Department of Transportation with a broad mission to support the U.S. maritime industry. Its programs seek to support both the maritime industry’s commercial health and the country’s national security objectives. The Maritime Administration works closely with parts of the Department of Defense, which funds some of its programs.

This independent assessment, requested by the agency, provides a high level review of its programs and offers recommendations for improving the alignment of activities and authorities to enhance performance and meet key mission objectives in the 21st century. The Maritime Administration operates within a complicated tapestry of economic, political, and defense-related authorities and stakeholder groups. Given its modest budget and human resources, the Maritime Administration will need to improve its ability to prioritize, maximize, and focus its activities to address a plethora of challenging current issues.

The defense-related functions of the Maritime Administration play a key role in the mobility and logistic requirements articulated by the combatant commanders’ contingency and war plans. These plans involve supplying U.S. Navy ships, U.S. Coast Guard ships, allied Navy ships, and commercial sealift for logistical support worldwide. Additionally, ships of the Ready Reserve Force are routinely activated to fulfill emergency mobility requirements of U.S. forces. Interviews with the U.S. Transportation Command and the Department of Defense confirm that the agency has been effective in meeting sealift needs and has provided a needed bridge between the military and civilian merchant marine force through the Ready Reserve Force and the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement Program, which includes the Maritime Security Program. The nation’s security risks will increase should the Maritime Administration be unable to provide an adequate number of ships and qualified mariners to serve our national defense needs. While some analysts have proposed to transfer the agency’s defense-related work to the Department of Defense, this panel sees no apparent benefits to move MarAd and its commercial partnerships which provide defense-related capabilities. The panel thinks that a significant amount of additional analysis would be required to justify any potential change in the relationship between the Department of Defense and the agency.

The Maritime Administration struggles with its commercial industry-related work, partly due to its more amorphous nature and small size. The panel believes that the Maritime Administration must add further focus to these activities to align with a clearer mission that is more effectively communicated to stakeholders and to the general public.

The Maritime Administration also runs the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Several recent high-profile problems and challenges surrounding management of this institution have hindered its ability to provide an adequate number of credentialed mariners. Over the course of this review, the panel has seen the Maritime Administration take concrete steps to improve USMMA management and ultimately believes that the Maritime Administration is, on balance, best suited to continue operating USMMA. The panel concurs with the statements of U.S. Transportation Secretary Chao and the current Maritime Administration that the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy must be a priority for addressing challenges and driving continuous improvement.

The panel issues 27 actionable recommendations. By taking these actions and working with its many federal agency partners, the Maritime Administration can strengthen its contribution to further enhance its commercial and national security-related programs in support of the maritime transportation industry.

Click here to read the complete report.

By Professional Mariner Staff