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"Strategy is to war what the plot is to the play; Tactics is represented by the role of the players; Logistics furnishes the stage management, accessories, and maintenance. The audience, thrilled by the action of the play and the art of the performers, overlooks all of the cleverly hidden details of stage management"

LtCol George C. Thorpe, Pure Logistics (1917)

"I don’t know what the hell this logistics is that Marshall is always talking about, but I want some of it."

Fleet Admiral E. J. King to a staff officer (1942)
Following World War II the primary strategic sealift mission was to rapidly move men and equipment to Europe to defend against a Soviet/Warsaw Pact attack. The central front was 3,600 miles away and sealift would be provided by over 600 NATO merchant vessels and an active U.S. merchant fleet that still numbered 578 major ships as of 1978. Those 578 ships dwindled to 367 over the next 12 years. The Iranian crisis and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s focused emphasis on developing rapid deployment forces to respond to contingencies in distant regions, such as Southwest Asia, in addition to the continuing NATO mission in Europe.

The Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) provides ocean transportation for DoD cargo and U.S. forces around the world. More than 70 strategic sealift ships transport military equipment, supplies and petroleum to support U.S. forces overseas. This number is expandable and includes both government and privately-owned vessels — mainly tankers and dry cargo ships. In peacetime, more than 95 percent of DoD cargo is transported on US flag ships. MSC is able to provide rapid, sustained response in a changing world with three operational strategies — prepositioning, surge and sustainment sealift. There are several advantages to using sealift. Unit for unit, ships have a higher hauling capacity than aircraft. Ships can also carry heavy or outsized equipment. Ships can pre-position at sea near a projected threat area. They do not need overflight rights, and waters more than 12 miles from land are free for navigation. One disadvantage is the lack of speed in the majority of the sealift fleet. Some of the fleet also requires well-developed port facilities to transfer their cargo to the shore. Sealift ships have little or no defensive capabilities. They also rely heavily on civilian shipping lines and labor.

Looking at a notional 4,000-nautical-mile scenario comparing equal-cost ($20 million) lift forces [C-17s and the new large medium-speed roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ships] and assuming no prepositioned ships in the theater, airlift could deliver 72,000 tons of cargo in 36 days. Sealift, on the other hand, could deliver 3,960,000 tons in the same 36 days.

Military Sealift Command ships' noncombatant status makes them less costly to operate than combatant Navy ships. Traditional Navy ships are combatant vessels, meaning they have weapons aboard and are potential targets of enemy fire. As such, they must carry large crews to operate the weapons systems aboard and to protect the ships should they be damaged in battle. MSC ships are noncombatant vessels, operating behind the battle line, and are not considered likely targets of enemy fire. Their noncombatant status enables MSC ships such as the Lummus to maintain an average crew size of less than 40 while Navy ships of similar size generally have crews in the hundreds. MSC ships' merchant mariner crewmembers can also be hired as necessary, while the Navy, even in peacetime, must employ a large number of Navy combatant personnel in case of war. The skill levels of MSC's merchant mariners also enable MSC ships to operate with smaller crews.

International and maritime trade have been growing at twice the rate of the world’s economy for some time. Large merchant vessels are the most flexible and cost-effective modes of intercontinental and coastal transport. Increasingly, new markets and new resources are found overseas. As the world evolves from a collection of disconnected national and regional economies to one global inter-linked economy, freedom of commercial transit on the high seas and through straits and other navigational choke points becomes ever more important. At the same time, the ability of military forces to respond abroad in case of crisis requires the sealift and logistic support that can only be provided by the U.S. merchant fleet. The United States must assure a viable maritime industrial base to satisfy its commercial and military requirements. This is set forth in National Security Directive 28:

"The U.S. national sealift objective is to ensure that sufficient military and civil maritime resources will be available to meet defense deployment and essential economic requirements in support of our national security strategy. The Department of Defense will determine the requirements for sealift of deploying forces, follow-on supply and sustainment, shipbuilding and ship repair. In coordination with the Department of Defense, the Department of Transportation will determine the capacity of our merchant marine industries to meet these requirements and to provide the sealift required to support the essential industrial activity during wartime."

National Security Directive 28 reflects the link between the seagoing armed services, U.S.-flag merchant vessels, the merchant seamen who crew them, and the commercial maritime industrial base of ports, shipyards, and ship repair facilities. Playing a vital national security role since colonial days, the U.S. Merchant Marine is often referred to as another arm of the nation’s defense.

The 1992 Mobility Requirements Study, the 1995 Bottom-Up Review, and the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review reaffirmed the requirements for "defense deployment." To deploy U.S. forces overseas and resupply them, the U.S. Merchant Marine provides U.S.-flag civilian-crewed commercial ships and civilian crews to government-owned support ships. These sealift assets account for about 95 percent of all the tonnage delivered in support of military requirements in peacetime and during times of crisis. Over 4,800 civilian mariners crew the 200 commercial vessels with military features which are included in the Afloat Preposition Force, Fast Sealift Ships, Ready Reserve Force ships, Maritime Security Fleet, and Navy Fleet Auxiliary Force. Over half of these sealift ships are actively deployed or are in commercial service around the globe.

The end state envisioned for strategic airlift and sealift assets to support a single Major Theater War (MTW) is based on the findings of the Mobility Requirements Study Bottom-Up Review Update (MRS BURU). At the farthest reaches of envisioned future threat environments, this single MTW set of lift assets is the minimum required for a moderate risk transportation solution. Sealift capacity is growing primarily by replacing smaller, aging ships with new Large [capacity], Medium-Speed Roll-on/roll-off ships. The LMSRs provide the platforms for the Army’s afloat prepositioning program and add significant square footage to the surge fleet. In addition, the Marine Corps is adding 3 additional RO/RO ships to their Maritime Prepositioning Ships program, bringing the total to 16. DOD is rapidly closing to within 550K square feet of the surge capacity required (10 million sqft) to move the force required for a single Major Theater War (MTW).

Strategic Sealift Force

Strategic Sealift Force ships are a part of the Local Defense and Miscellaneous Support Forces. This force consists of

Afloat Prepositioning Force

The Military Sealift Command (MSC) Prepositioning Program provides operationally ready ships to the military services and the Defense Logistics Agency. At the end of 1999, MSC’s Afloat Prepositioning Force consisted of 37 ships, with 35 operating at prepositioning sites in the Mediterranean Sea, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and Guam in the western Pacific. The Afloat Prepositioning Force is divided into three parts:
  1. Maritime Prepositioning Ships operated for the U.S. Marine Corps;
  2. Combat Prepositioning Ships operated for the U.S. Army;
  3. Logistics Prepositioning Ships operated for the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Defense Logistics Agency.

1 - Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS)

Thirteen MSC prepositioning ships are specially configured to transport supplies for the US Marine Corps. Known as the Maritime Prepositioning Force, the 13 ships were built or modified in the mid-1980s and are on location in the western Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The 13 Maritime Prepositioning Ships, or MPS, contain nearly everything the Marines need for initial military operations -- from tanks and ammunition to food and fuel to spare parts and engine oil.

Within the next few years, one additional Maritime Prepositioning Force vessel will be added to each squadron. Unlike the current ships which are all under long-term charters -- the Maritime Prepositioning Force (Enhanced) ships, or MPF(E), will be U.S. government-owned vessels crewed by contractor-employed mariners.

The MPS are organized into three squadrons, each commanded by a Navy captain. MPS Squadron One, usually located in the Atlantic Ocean or Mediterranean Sea, has five ships; MPS Squadron Two, usually located at Diego Garcia, has five ships; and MPS Squadron Three, normally in the Guam/Saipan area, has five ships.

Each MPS squadron carries sufficient equipment and supplies to sustain 17,000 Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force personnel for up to 30 days. Each ship can discharge cargo either pierside or while anchored offshore using lighterage carried aboard. This capability gives the Marine Corps the ability to operate in both developed and underdeveloped areas of the world.

The Navy-USMC maritime prepositioning program was begun in the late 1970s as a result of a DOD strategic mobility enhancement initiative to improve response times for SWA contingencies. Until the full Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) capability (specially built or converted ships) was achieved in the mid 1980s, an interim measure known as Near-Term Prepositioning Ships (NTPS) was created in 1980 to provide an initial response capability. The NTPS ships were on station at Diego Garcia by July 1980 and contained the equipment and 30 days of supplies for a USMC Brigade. By early 1985, the first combination RO/RO and breakbulk ships specifically built or converted for the Navy had been commissioned and were loaded with prepositioned vehicles, equipment, and supplies. By 1987,13 ships organized in three squadrons had been commissioned, crewed with civilian mariners, loaded, and deployed. The ships were more than just floating warehouses. Each of the three ships carried equipment for a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), along with enough supply sustainment for at least 30 days. The squadrons were associated with a specific MEB to ensure effective planning and training. MPS-1, associated with the 6th MEB and stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, was deployed in the western Atlantic; MPS-2, associated with the 7th MEB in California, was anchored at Diego Garcia; and MPS-3, associated with the Hawaii-based 1st MEB, was home ported at Guam and Saipan. Together, each squadron and its associated MEB become an MPF.

The MPF concept performed largely as expected during the Persian Gulf War, due to an aggressive training, exercise, and maintenance program carried out during the 1980s. Exercises had established planning goals of about 250 strategic airlift sorties to deploy a MEB; this figure was confirmed by the 7th MEB, which deployed to Saudi Arabia using 259 sorties. (The additional nine sorties reflected the addition of an infantry battalion and more helicopter antitank assets to the MEB.) The expected time of 10 days to unload ships and marry equipment with arriving units was met by all three MPFs. In fact, 7th MEB combat elements occupied defensive positions near Al-Jubayl in August within four days of their arrival. The only problem encountered during initial deployment of the 7th MEB centered on refueling support to Marine fixed-wing aircraft flying from CONUS, which competed for scarce assets with other Service aircraft. Elements of 1st MEB and ll MEF, although deployed using MPF concepts, did not do so as complete units. Instead, their air, ground, and logistics elements were deployed and integrated into I MEF as they arrived, drawing their equipment from their associated MPS ships.

MPS Squadron One ships prepositioned in the Mediterranean participated in exercises Northern Lights and Sharkhunt in fiscal year 1999. Northern Lights exercised a multinational fleet of NATO maritime forces in crisis-response operations in the north Atlantic. Sharkhunt validated U.S. units’ proficiency in undersea warfare in a very challenging Mediterranean acoustic environment.

In October and November 1999, MPS Squadron Two vessel MV Hauge participated in exercise Bright Star. The exercise was designed to improve interoperability between coalition forces during joint operations. Hauge’s participation consisted of a partial download of the vessel’s cargo for use during this eleven nation exercise.

MPS Squadron Three vessels assigned to Guam and Saipan participated in a range of fleet support and training operations in 1999. The vessels also deployed to Gladstone, Australia, for exercise Crocodile 99, showcasing the versatility of the MPS and validating the full range of pierside, at anchorage and liquid cargo off-loads of which these ships are capable. The ships also participated in exercise Tafakula 99, promoting relations between the United States and the Tongan navy.

2 - Combat Prepositioning Ships

The Army Prepositioning Afloat (APA) / Combat Prepositioning Force [CPF] Combat Prepositioning [PREPO] afloat is made up of ships from the Afloat Pre-positioning Force (APF) of the Military Sealift Command (MSC). The flexibility inherent in the APF makes this force a key element in joint operation planning; the APF is capable of supporting the plans for the entire range of military operations. Pre-positioned cargoes aboard APF shipping include the capability to provide humanitarian assistance with food rations, medical supplies, habitability sets (i.e., tents), potable water-making machinery, engineer support equipment, and motor transport. To enable the early delivery of combat power to a theater of operations, additional equipment such as tanks and artillery are pre-positioned. Elements of the APF may be temporarily moved to take up position close to a potential employment area, either to signal national resolve during an evolving crisis or enhance the timely delivery of supplies and equipment upon the decision to deploy a decisive force.

The Department of Defense (DOD) maintains stocks of supplies and equipment, called war reserves, to support military units during a war or mobilization. War reserves stored within the continental United States are distributed as needed by airlift or sealift. War reserves are also stored, or prepositioned, overseas on land or on ships near an area of potential conflict. By prepositioning war reserves overseas, US military forces have the ability to respond quickly to a contingency. For example, at the beginning of the Persian Gulf War deployment in August 1990, equipment and supplies prepositioned aboard ships arrived at the theater more quickly than if they had been sealifted from the United States. At that time, the Army's prepositioning fleet consisted of four ships used primarily for carrying ammunition and port handling equipment.

All Army war reserves (AWR) and pre-positioned stocks are managed by the Army Materiel Command (AMC), Alexandria, Virginia, with the Army Industrial Operations Command (IOC), Rock Island, Illinois, serving as AMC's management agent. Placing all five geographic sets of AWR under central management in October 1994, implemented one of the lessons learned from Operation Desert Storm. Previously, war reserve materiel was managed by theater commanders in chief. That allowed little flexibility in transferring stocks from one theater to another. In the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) central region "pre-positioning of materiel configured to unit sets," or POMCUS, made it easy for units from the United States to deploy to Europe and then draw their equipment. POMCUS was a key feature of the Reforger (return of forces to Germany) exercises. What was formerly war reserves and POMCUS stocks are now combined into AWR stocks. As U.S. forces in Europe drew down, the Army reduced its stockage to four brigade sets of materiel, and reduced the number of storage locations for AWR materiel to four sites in the Netherlands -- Brunssum, Coevorden, Eygelshoven, and Vriezenveen -- and two others at Bettenbourg, Luxembourg, and Zutendaal, Belgium.

The five geographic sets of AWR are located and managed as follows-

The Army Strategic Mobility Program (ASMP) supports the Army's strategy for providing a rapid deployment capability for Army contingency forces based in the Continental United States (CONUS) to meet regional commitments. The present National Military Strategy calls for forward presence, but with primary reliance on CONUS-based contingency forces. Only four of the Army's Divisions are stationed outside CONUS; the remaining Army divisional force is stationed in CONUS. The Army's global prepositioning strategy calls for 7 prepositioned brigade sets (two in Central Europe, one in Italy, one in Korea, two in SWA, and one afloat.). ASMP is key to ensuring these forces possess a credible power projection capability.

The ASMP Action Plan, published on 2 March 1993, resulted in the Army's developing the capability to provide a crisis response force of up to corps size with the following mobility standards:

For this program to be successful, three key mobility initiatives are critical: the acquisition of fast sealift shipping, the creation of an APA capability, and the infrastructure and procedures necessary to rapidly and efficiently deploy forces from their locations through CONUS ports.

A key aspect of ASMP is continued support of airlift and sealift acquisition programs. For airlift, this means support for building the Air Force's C-17 fleet to 120 aircraft as validated by the Mobility Requirements Study (MRS). For sealift, this means support for the acquisition of the nineteen large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) ships and expansion of the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) roll-on/roll-off [ RORO] fleet to 36 ships as recommended by the MRS. Twenty-nine ROROs are in RRF status. Two more have been purchased and will be modified to RRF standards wuth FY96 funding. The last 5 ROROs were unfunded as of August 1995. The last 5 ROROs are unfunded.

Under the ASMP umbrella, the Army has chosen to expand its afloat prepositioning program to accommodate not only the MRS directed afloat combat brigade, but also common equipment and supplies that facilitate rapid deployment. Included in the afloat prepositioning package are transportation and port opening equipment that are critical to reception, staging, off-loading and onward movement of deploying units.

AWR-3 ships carry a US Army Brigade Afloat along with Combat Service Support and Humanitarian Assistance cargo. As of late 1996 there were 12 Army PREPO ships deployed to USCINCPAC AOR as part of the Afloat Prepositioning Force (APF). These ships carry Army War Reserve Stocks No. 3 (AWR-3) cargo and consisted of seven RO/ROs carrying Army unit equipment. One Auxiliary Crane Ship (ACS), three LASH ships carrying ammunition, rations, and other non-ammunition cargo, and one Flo-Flo/Semisubmersible ship which carries Army port support equipment. In early 1997 this force was augmented by Strong Virginian, a lift-on/lift-off, multipurpose vessel that has a large 600-ton capacity cargo boom that allows it to lift extraordinarily heavy cargos. The ship carries small vessels such as utility landing craft and mechanized landing craft.

Eventually constructed or converted TAKR Large Medium Speed RO/ROs (LMSR) will replace the RRF ships supporting the APA program. In fiscal year 1999, two Watson-class LMSRs were delivered to MSC — USNS Sisler on 01 December 1998, and USNS Dahl on 13 July 1999. USNS Bob Hope, the first ship in its class, was delivered on 18 November 1998. Bob Hope and Sisler received their primary loads in Antwerp, Belgium, and deployed. Dahl loaded in Charleston and Antwerp in early 2000.

At the end of fiscal year 1999, the CPS fleet consisted of 14 ships: three conversion LMSRs, three new LMSRs, two container ships, one heavy-lift ship, one float-on/float-off ship, one crane ship activated from the Ready Reserve Force and three ammunition LASH barge ships. The CPS fleet will include up to 16 ships by 2001.

3 - Logistics Prepositioning Ships

The LPS program operates eight prepositioning vessels around the world for the U.S. Navy, Defense Logistics Agency and U.S. Air Force. The Military Sealift Command has operational control of MSC chartered commercial ships and MARAD Ready Reserve Force (RRF) ships stationed at Diego Garcia and Guam/Saipan for the support of US Army, Air Force, and Navy Requirements.

US Air Force (USAF) Sponsored PREPO Logistics Prepositioning Ships Two PREPO ships, one LASH and one breakbulk, carry USAF munitions. The combination roll-on/roll-off/container vessels MV BUFFALO SOLDIER and MV MAJ BERNARD F. FISHER are located in Diego Garcia under MPS Squadron Two's operational control. The third Air Force vessel, MV CAPTAIN STEVEN L. BENNETT, began her prepositioning service in the first quarter of FY98 [replacing the AK 1005 AUSTRAL RAINBOW] and operates in the Mediterranean under MPS Squadron One's operational control.

US Navy (USN) Sponsored PREPO Logistics Prepositioning Ships The Navy uses the chartered breakbulk ship MV Green Ridge to rotate fleet prepositioned hospitals. The ship also is loaded with a 500-bed combat tactical zone US Navy fleet hospital, which supports a U.S. Marine Corps requirement for medical treatment ashore. This cargo is stored in ISO units within controlled temperature/humidity limits. For Navy prepositioning, MSC operates the Navy's first modular cargo delivery system (MCDS) vessel, SS CAPE JACOB, at Diego Garcia. The vessel, an activated Ready Reserve Force break bulk ship, carries Navy Ordnance and also has the capability to operate as a shuttle replenishment ship for naval battle groups.

Defense Fuel Supply Center (DFSC) Logistics Prepositioning Ships There are three PREPO tankers carrying petroleum (POL) products for use by service components as part of the prepositioned war reserve program of the DFSC. Two of these tankers are equipped with Offshore Petroleum Discharge System (OPDS) and are capable of in-stream discharge of POL. The RRF vessel SS Chesapeake activated and replaced SS Potomac in 2000. The third PREPO tanker is the USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) and is capable of console operations with additional manning and rig activation.

Surge Sealift

“Surge” includes ships from the US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM)-controlled fleet; for example, the Fast Sealift Ships (FSS), the Ready Reserve Force (RRF), Large, Medium Speed Roll-On/Roll-Off (RO/RO) (LMSR) vessels, and the commercial market (when contracted by USTRANSCOM for support of US forces). Surge shipping delivers the heavy combat power and accompanying supplies in order to facilitate the deployment of predominantly continental US (CONUS) based forces to anywhere in the world.

Large Medium Speed RO/ROs (LMSR) Because afloat prepositioning proved successful during the Persian Gulf War, DOD's January 1992 Mobility Requirements Study identified a need for the Army to preposition additional combat, combat support, and combat service support equipment and supplies aboard ships. These requirements included supporting the Army's objective of deploying a heavy corps within 75 days in response to either a northeast or southwest Asian scenario. The study established a requirement for an additional 3 million square feet of surge capacity and 2 million square feet of prepositioned capacity by fiscal year 1998. The study recommended that DOD acquire 20 LMSR ships, 9 for prepositioning, and 11 for surge to meet this requirement.

In its most recent requirements study--the 1995 Mobility Requirements Study Bottom-Up Review Update--DOD validated the study's recommendation and reinforced an earlier recommendation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to buy 19 LMSR ships and established a requirement for 10 million square feet of surge capacity and 4 million square feet of prepositioned capacity, for a total capacity of 14 million square feet.

The Army is currently transferring equipment aboard seven roll-on/roll-off ships to five larger temporary ships and then ultimately to eight new Large Medium-Speed Roll-On/Roll-Off ships by 2000. These prepositioning ships have been designed to provide a better controlled-humidity environment below deck, which should help reduce the deterioration of equipment while stored aboard the ships. These eight LMSR ships will provide about 2 million square feet of cargo capacity to preposition Army equipment for heavy forces and support units, nearly 50 percent of DOD afloat prepositioning requirements. The remaining 11 LMSR ships will move equipment quickly from the United States to areas of conflict.

Merchant Marine

The US Merchant Marine is an essential component of national defense. It augments the basic sealift capacity necessary to meet defense requirements. Experience gained during previous conflicts has emphasized the importance of Navy coordination with all segments of the maritime industry.

The Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration is charged with ensuring a viable US Merchant Marine and maritime industry to meet national security needs. The Maritime Administration, in cooperation with the Navy, supports programs directed towards sustaining the maritime infrastructure, including maritime education and training; National Defense Features and Title XI loans; operational differential subsidies and maritime security agreements; and the development of technologies and industrial processes. Inactive strategic sealift ships are positioned throughout the United States and overseas and are capable of being activated within 4 to 20 days. All of the vessels in 4 or 5 day readiness have a cadre crew of civilian mariners. These vessels have already proven their value in supporting defense deployments in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia.

National Defense Reserve Fleet

The National Defense Reserve Fleet (NRDF), under the custody of MARAD, is an inactive reserve source of basic Merchant design type ships that could be activated within 20 - 120 days to meet the shipping requirements of the United States during national emergencies. This fleet of about 100 ships consists mostly of World War II merchant vessels are available for use in both military and non-military emergencies, such as commercial shipping crises. Ships in the NDRF are regionally located at three fleet sites - James River, VA (East Coast), Beaumont, TX (Gulf Coast), and Suisun Bay, CA (West Coast). Naval auxiliaries are maintained at the fleet by MARAD on a retention basis for the Navy.

Inactive naval ships of basic merchant design, including ships of the Amphibious Force and excluding ships maintained in a mobilization status by MARAD for Military Sealift Command (MSC), may be laid up in the NDRF when overcrowded berthing conditions exist at a Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility (NISMF). Battleships, Cruisers, and Aircraft Carriers which have been stricken or those awaiting final disposition may be transferred to MARAD locations for berthing.

In World War II, civilian-crewed U.S. cargo ships controlled by the War Shipping Administration carried about 75 percent of shipments from the United States. Total cargo lifted between December 7, 1941, and the capitulation of Japan was approximately 300.5 million short tons. The U.S.-flag merchant fleet also carried the great majority of military personnel and civilians moving overseas and returning to the United States during and after the war.

Approximately 31.5 million measurement tons of supplies were shipped from the United States to the Far East during the Korean War. About 95 percent of these supplies were shipped by sea, with 80 percent carried by privately owned U.S.-flag merchant ships, and 15 percent by Military Sea Transportation Service ships -- all crewed by civilian American citizen seafarers.

Privately owned U.S.-flag merchant ships delivered 65 percent of the dry cargo shipments to support American forces in Vietnam, and Government-owned ships carried the balance. The Maritime Administration activated 172 World War II era Victory ships from its National Defense Reserve Fleet. Some 15,000 U.S. citizen merchant mariners crewed the vessels. Cargoes totaled more than 85 million measurement tons.


                         NDRF      NDRF Non-     Reimbursable
HOME PORT            Retention{1}  Retention{2}   Custody{3}    Totals

James River Reserve Fleet 
Ft. Eustis, VA            37           33             37          107

Beaumont Reserve Fleet
Beaumont, TX              39            8              4           51

Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet
Benicia, CA               24           22             35           81

Other Locations {4}       55            2              0           57

Totals:                  155           65             76           296 

1 Vessel being maintained for emergency activations, for historic display, 
or for spare equipment.  Number shown includes RRF ships.

2 Vessels pending disposal.

3 Vessels not in the NDRF program and owned by other government agencies 
or by the Title XI program.

4  Various outport locations within the continental United States. 
Three vessels are outported in Japan.

Ready Reserve Force (RRF)

The Ready Reserve Force (RRF) -- a government-owned, inactive fleet of former commercial ships of various types -- was created on 14 February 1977 specifically to enhance the readiness of sealift to respond rapidly in any contingency. The RRF (a quick response subset of the NDRF) is a select group of ships within the NDRF, which are relatively modern, highly militarily useful ships, rigorously maintained to meet Coast Guard and American Bureau of Shipping standards. The Ready Reserve Forceis the government's largest source of strategic sealift capability. RRF ships are berthed at Reserve Fleet sites located in James River, Virginia; Beaumont, Texas; Suisun Bay, California; and other locations in the United States and overseas. RRF ships are maintained in a readiness status such that they can be activated for service within 4, 5, 10, or 20 days after DOD requests them. The Department of Transportation, through the Maritime Administration (MarAd), manages and maintains the RRF ships, and DOD directs and controls operations once the ships have been activated. DOD's Transportation Command is responsible for DOD's RRF oversight and operational control.

	Auxiliary Crane Ships T-ACS 
	Break Bulk/LASH Ships T-AK 
	Heavy lift / Roll-on/Roll-off Ships T-AKR 
	Product Tankers T-AOT 
	Troop Ships T-AP 

During the Persian Gulf war, 95 percent of the total cargo needed to support Allied forces went by sea. U.S.-flag ships crewed by American citizen seafarers transported nearly 80 percent of the oceanborne cargoes. These ships included privately owned merchant ships in commercial service, chartered ships, and 79 Ready Reserve Force (RRF) ships. On short notice, more than 3,000 civilian seafarers volunteered to crew the RRF ships. But during the Persian Gulf War, 75 percent of the Ready Reserve Force ships could not be made ready by their specified deadlines, mainly because of the ships' poor conditions and because of crewing problems.

In 1992, the Department of Defense (DOD) recommended spending almost $4 billion over 7 years to purchase more ships for the RRF and improve their readiness. The Mobility Requirements Study recommended that by 1999 the RRF consist of 142 ships, 63 of which would be kept in a high-priority readiness status. Of these 63 ships, 36 would need to be able to activate in 4 days and 27 would have to be ready in 5 days. However, the pool of U.S. merchant mariners available to crew RRF ships has been steadily declining for several decades. The decline in the number of available mariners should not immediately affect MarAd's ability to crew RRF ships. However, if the decline continues, MarAd's future ability to adequately crew these ships is questionable.

In 1992, three Ready Reserve Force vessels were activated to support the United Nation's humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in Somalia. These included two offshore petroleum discharge system (OPDS) tankers, the AMERICAN OSPREY and POTOMAC. The TS EMPIRE STATE, normally used for training students at the New York State Maritime Academy, was activated to repatriate troops from Somalia.

In 1994, the Maritime Administration activated 14 of its Ready Reserve Force vessels, this time to support Operation Support Democracy in Haiti. The ships transported military cargo from various U.S. ports to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. All were fully crewed by a total of more than 400 civilian American seafarers and were operational within four days of being requested, ahead of the military's activation requirement.

In June 1995, two Ready Reserve Force ships were activated to support NATO peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia. The CAPE RACE and CAPE DIAMOND carried more than 92 percent of the cargo transferred from the United Kingdom to Croatia. This included 2,015 military vehicles, 232 containers and 3,629 pallets of breakbulk cargo. On December 1, 1995, the CAPE RACE was again activated to support NATO activities in Bosnia, this time in support of Operation Quick Endeavor. A sistership, the CAPE RISE, also was called into service.

Maritime Security Fleet

The Maritime Security Program maintains a U.S.-flag merchant fleet crewed by U.S. mariners to serve both the commercial and national security needs of the United States. In accordance with the Maritime Security Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-239), the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD) entered into agreements with 10 shipping companies to participate in a program that would provide the Department of Defense (DOD) access to U.S.-registered commercial ships, their crews, and other related transportation assets in a time of national emergency. Maritime Security Program payments are paid to vessels operating in U.S. foreign commerce. Vessels include containerships, lighter-aboard ships (LASH) and Roll-on/Roll-off vessels (RO/RO). As of January 23, 1997, 47 ships were enrolled in the program. The MSF program replaces the Operating Differential Subsidy (ODS) program, which reimbursed American shipowners for cost differentials associated with operating under U.S. versus foreign registry, including higher crew, insurance, maintenance, and repair costs. The MSF program, in contrast, provides a reduced fixed rate to compensate U.S.-flag operators principally for the higher cost of employing U.S. citizens aboard U.S.-flag ships.

Voluntary Intermodal Shipping - VISA

The Voluntary Intermodal Shipping Agreement is a new initiative to make commercial, intermodal, dry cargo capacity and supporting global infrastructure available to meet contingency deployment requirements of the Department of Defense. Modeled after the US Air Force Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program, VISA will allow carriers to provide ships and trained crews in three stages depending upon the severity and expected duration of the contingency. VISA calls for comprehensive and integrated peacetime planning and exercises by the Maritime Administration, US Transportation Command, the Navy's Military Sealift Command, and the US intermodal ocean carrier industry.

Sources and Resources

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Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Thursday, October 19, 2000 6:13:29 AM