From EagleSpeak - Logistics, Logistics, Logistics: Can We Get the Army to the Fight?

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics: Can We Get the Army to the Fight?

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle belonging to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division offloads it to the port of Antwerp. In the event of a crisis, moving large numbers of troops and equipment could be a major challenge to the U.S. (U.S. Army photo)

Article links to DefenseNews:

The US Army is preparing to fight in Europe, but can it even get there?

The ships the U.S. counts among its ready stock available for a large-scale contingency are 46 ships in the Ready Reserve Force, 15 ships in the Military Sealift Command surge force, and roughly 60 U.S.-flagged commercial ships in the Maritime Security Program available to the military in a crisis,

this is really getting to be a worn out subject here…

the simple answer is we can but not to an extent the military would hope for if the fight were big requiring a dozen divisions to be sent by surge sealift UNLESS foreign ships with foreign national crews are expected to carry the freight!

the US military has NEVER before turned to ships flying the flags of nations other than our own before and in the past managed to get enough American citizen mariners manning US flagged ships to lift the cargo BUT the day has come when if they are to move a force the size of what was sent to Saudi Arabia in 1990 then they will not be able to get it done with Americans alone. Foreign vessels with foreign crews will be required. Only if the balloon goes up again will be find out if that will prove feasible…

but I ain’t holding my breath.

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The article in DefenseNews was written by a reporter with good knowledge on the subject, has information I’ve not seen in other publications. For example the implications of some of the ship is being steam.

For anyone interested in this subject it worth a read.

"Good knowledge of the subject? " Zero mention of the VISA ships–one of the main pillars of the national sealift contingency, especially for sustainment. Seems a point to bring up in any serious discussion of sealift, even if just to try and point out any perceived inadequacy. But once term ‘adequacy’ comes up, well, how much lift is really envisioned, and how long to obtain and maintain it (by whatever means)? This is a math problem, but those numbers are classified, and probably wrong, since it’s just a plan, and plans rarely get it right with decimal points.

So, let’s look at what has happened instead, and project from that. We very recently maintained two major combat theatres over a decade, separate smaller level operations in several theatres around the globe, and maintained sustainment of the large overseas foreign based US military presence without dragging the Jones Act fleet off their routes or drafting retired steamers to man the RRF --and how much of a roll did the RRF really play? The commercial sealift capability surged up to meet demand and shrunk as needed.

This is an easy drum to beat on, and if you appeal to military planners, mariners and related military industrial folks, they will always say more, more, more… but it’s hard to take seriously with a knowledge of the current force structure (the Army is in Europe, for one thing) and past performance. This, article makes no attempt to reconcile a demonstrated ongoing capability, or how the modern long term alliances change the dynamics of that future worst case scenario, or how it would be foolish to think foreign ships won’t be assimilated for money if needed, just sky is falling rhetoric…bring up WWII, or other anecdotes and repeat. Again. It is a ‘worn out’ subject as CC notes.

Sure, if someone is looking for comprehensive treatment of the subject EagleSpeak or DefenseNews is likely not going to be the primary source.

But for people with a dog in this fight what is being said and what people are reading at sites like this might be of interest.

Of course the facts matter, but what is being read and reported matters too. I just assumed this was understood.

Same as with Jones Act articles, attacks on the Jones Act are not new but if it was front page news in my small town local paper I would likely post that. If the response was “nothing new here” they would be missing the point.

YMMV as they say.

That is not true!!
There were a large fleet of foreign ships serving the US needs during WWII, both in the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Foreign ships were used to supply US forces during both the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as all your other wars since. In fact a lot of US military transport are still being carried on foreign ships to supply your bases around the world.

As member of NATO the US has access to a large active fleet of ships with the right design and capacity to handle any present and future need. No actual strategic need to keep a fleet of old obsolete ships that is not likely to be able to do much good in a hurry.
Forget about fighting old wars and look at what MAY be needed in the future, which is ships in active service, manned and ready.

Of course it is much better to try to avoid having to fight any wars ever again. But that requires new political thinking and strong diplomacy, as well as curbing the power of the Military-Industrial Complex: https://www.britannica.com/topic/military-industrial-complex

I gave a specific example here:

I’m not saying that the fact that some of the ships are steam will be new information to forum members who have been following this topic. I did say I’ve not seen that detail in other articles.

From the DefenseNews Article:

The ships the U.S. counts among its ready stock available for a large-scale contingency are 46 ships in the Ready Reserve Force, 15 ships in the Military Sealift Command surge force, and roughly 60 U.S.-flagged commercial ships in the Maritime Security Program available to the military in a crisis,

of course…the US military did use ships from allied nations to carry cargo during several previous conflicts HOWEVER, the US first turned to and used the US flagged fleet. NEVER before has the US RELIED on foreign ships to transport its material to the fight in place of a US fleet.

The RRF is not VISA, MSC is not VISA. MSP ships MUST be VISA. But not all VISA ships are MSP. If you review the most recent MARAD US flag ships lists, you can identify the VISA ships–which will include ships from Pasha, Matson, Horizon, Liberty even Coastal.

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but the ships are manned by Americans…

nough said

In many ways they do. The US subsidiaries of the larger shipping companies in question are independent entities and cannot be overly influenced by the parent company. They also have to go to great lengths to display this to the government.

Another benefit of being tied in with a larger, global shipping company is the access to their logistics network, berths, and stevedoring.

It would be awesome if something like this still existed in the US but it does not.

The US Government should look for opportunities to buy entire foreign shipping companies with relatively new ships and infrastructure when those companies get into financial trouble. As they often do. The entire company can then be kept afloat and gradually “reflagged” US as a going concern, with new US headquarters, US managers, US crew, etc, while keeping the foreign sales, port, and logistics infrastructure. Obviously, the US Government would need to provide subsidies to offset the fact that it costs a lot more to operate US flag ships that are subject to US taxes and regulations.

US shipping has shrunk so small that it lacks competitive US shipyards, vendors, and economies of scale. It’s become a reinforcing downward spiral toward extinction. Whether we like it or not, nothing short of massive government policy and fiscal intervention can reverse this.

Compared to the cost of the US military, or many other government programs, the cost of creating a US foreign going merchant fleet of say, 300 ships (bought at bankruptcy sale prices) would be relatively small. A 300 ship fleet would be big enough to rebuild the US infrastructure necessary to support reasonably competitive US shipping.

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Why not convince some of the many US shipping companies that own huge fleets of modern ships and have their operating management based in the US, but register their ships under foreign flags, to re-flag at least part of their fleet to US flag?

There are also foreign companies that operate from US based offices but do not use US flag. Could some of those be enticed to change to US flag?

Maybe you should first talk about what it is that make them use foreign flags, while preferring to run their business from US soil. Is it as simple as the crew cost, or is it your outdated regulatory regime, with a lot of old protectionist regulations that does not add to safety, but do add to operating costs?

It has proven impossible to “force” anybody, US or foreign, to use US ships, so maybe it is time to try something new??:
If the US adopted IMO rules in full and allowed ships in international trade to use some foreign crews it, MAY have been possible to “level the playing field” to where US flag ships could actually compete on the world market. It would probably be a lot cheaper and a better strategic policy than to spend billions on old obsolete ships in mothballs that will never sail again.

Just my thought, but of course I’m just a stupid foreigner that doesn’t know anything about the American reality, never mind that it is quite obvious that what you have been doing doesn’t work.

Bring slavery back to Mississippi and cotton will be king again.

Oh yes; and stop believing that foreigners are "slaves"and Americans are “kings”.
Have a new look around and see what is the reality in the world.

The “slaves” may be those seafarers who are still “daily rated labourers” without job security, proper health care coverage, or union rights.

You missed the point completely.

It would be legally possible to pass laws forbidding American citizens, including American corporations, from owning flag of convenience ships. In effect forcing them to reflag US, or give up shipowning. However, it would not be politically possible to get such a law passed.

Government financial incentives are the method that is politically possible.

And if you did, what would be gained for the US fleet, or for US mariners?
As you say they they would give up shipowning directly through US companies and stop managing their shipping business from US soil, hiring US citizens to do so.
Would you stop US citizens from owning shares in foreign companies of any kind, or move abroad to work in any country that offer a more business friendly environment?
Carrots are probably better than sticks to reach your goal.

The article doesn’t say anything about major changes to the program. If the some of the ships are obsolete then new ships can be purchased.

According to the article, that’s the plan. This is from the article

In the 2018 and 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress freed up authorization for the Defense Department to buy up to seven commercial ships, built anywhere in the world, that could recapitalize the Ready Reserve Force.