On the national security implications of international food aid reform…

“It’s incredibly serious.

“Fifty years ago, when our grandparents were going to war in Korea and Vietnam, the majority of the vessels used to help transport military goods – weapons, tanks – were on U.S. vessels.

“Right now, we don’t have the capability to transport everything on U.S. vessels. Some of our Department of Defense cargo is going on foreign-flagged vessels.

“That’s amazing to me.

“About 10 years ago, Canada was in a bind and had put a tenth of their tank division on a vessel and forgot to pay the transporter. So, they had to land Canadian marines on the vessel to get their tanks back.

“We’re heading in that direction. We’re about to outsource our ability to move our tanks.

“If we go to war with a neighbor, we don’t need the ability to ship. We’ll just cross the border. But we’re not going to war with Mexico or Canada. If we go to war, it will be in Asia – and we need our own vessels.

“Those vessels are currently being used for food aid. That’s one way to ensure they still exist.

“So, farm aid is tied to national security. I wish we had a more robust maritime industry but we don’t. We don’t subsidize the American industry like the Koreans and Chinese. Some people say the Chinese aren’t subsidizing, that’s not true – it’s called the state government.

“We don’t do that. And when we try to do that, people say, ‘these mariners are awful and want too much.’ But they are ensuring that when we go to war – and we will again – the ships are available and make sure we can transport our stuff.”

What’s your take on how many lawmakers actually know about this?

“Sadly, many of supporters of the maritime industry have died or left government.

“(Hawaii Sen.) Daniel Inouye was an incredible supporter and was in a leadership position on the Appropriations Committee. He was also a Medal of Honor recipient – he knew full well what could happen. (Kansas Sen.) Bob Dole knew what could happen.

“Others that were big supporters that have left include Louisiana Sen. John Breaux and Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor.

“The maritime industry has three current champions in the House of Representatives – (California) Rep. Duncan Hunter, (California) Rep. John Garamendi, and (Maryland) Rep. Elijah Cummings. They are incredibly smart men and they understand what is happening. We need more members like them who fully understand how the maritime industry directly impacts our national security.

“Many of the current lawmakers have never served in the military and don’t understand how the maritime industry impacts our nation. I’ve been very surprised to see many of the port-state members vote for the food aid changes. Do they not understand that the maritime stuff comes out of their ports? It doesn’t make any sense.”