U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order Monday supporting transition of active duty service members and veterans into the United States Merchant Marine.
Under the order, it will be the policy of the United States to support practices and programs ensuring that members of the United States Armed Forces receive appropriate credit for their military training and experience toward credentialing requirements as a merchant mariner. The oder further calls for the establishing and maintaining an effective merchant marine program by providing sufficient support and resources for obtaining merchant mariner credentials.
The White House says the executive order is intended promote employment opportunities for United States military veterans while growing the pool of trained U.S. mariners, of which there is currently shortage, for the benefit of national and economic security.
“A robust merchant marine is vital to the national and economic security of the United States,” the executive order states. “Credentialed United States merchant mariners support domestic and international trade, are critical for strategic defensive and offensive military sealift operations, and bring added expertise to Federal vessel operations. Unfortunately, the United States faces a shortage of qualified merchant mariners.As our strategic competitors expand their global footprint, the United States must retain its ability to project and sustain forces globally. This capability requires a sufficient corps of credentialed merchant mariners available to crew the necessary sealift fleet.”
To support merchant mariner credentialing, the order calls a review of all military training and experience that may qualify for merchant mariner credentialing and, upon review by the National Maritime Center, be put towards credentialing requirements. The order also calls for the waiver of fees for active duty service members, if appropriate, or to provide for the payment of fees for active duty service members “to the fullest extent permitted by law.”
According to the Government Accountability Office, the United States currently has a shortage of over 1,800 American-citizen mariners in the event of a sustained military activation based on available data. In December, a GAO report called on the U.S. Department of Transportation to finalize a congressionally-mandated national maritime strategy as soon as possible. The strategy, which was originally due to be completed in 2015, is intended to address how to make U.S.-flag vessels more competitive in the international market, as well as how to ensure the long-term viability of U.S.-flag vessels and U.S.-citizen mariners.
The full Executive Order can be found here.