US Defense Lacks

Mobility, CredibilityLet's be clear about one fact. It costs money for a developed maritime nation to maintain a strong merchant marine. How much? Well, it costs more than the present price tag that belongs to the dying operating differential subsidy program, but in terms of national defense, it really costs very little.

This country has a forward defense strategy. We intend to fight any war on

shores other than our own. To do so, we must possess an assured way to get the required men, material and supplies to the war and sustain that effort. We spend hundreds of billions each year on defense, but virtually nothing on the sea-lift needed to transport the equipment we have bought. Thus, our defense strategy lacks mobility and, therefore, credibility.

We cannot expect shipyard workers to work for Korean wages nor can we expect our seafarers to accept Malaysian quality of life standards. Yet we need ships, shipyards and seafarers to be a maritime power. If it costs more money - and it will - then these highly leveraged dollars that would provide both capability and credibility to our armed forces should be considered well worth the cost.

Captain Robert W. Kesteloot, USN (Ret.) Vice Chairman Transportation Institute Camp Springs, MD.

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