Peter Navarro: President Trump takes bold step to transition veterans into US Merchant Marine

The following is text from an op-ed written by Peter Navarro, assistant to the president for manufacturing and trade policy and director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. 

Source: Fox News

On Monday, President Donald J. Trump will sign an executive order to help sea veterans seamlessly transition into the United States Merchant Marine. By simultaneously expanding veteran opportunities for great jobs at great wages while strengthening our Merchant Marine, this action embodies a key principle of the Trump administration: economic security is national security.

The civilian men and women of the United States Merchant Marine who pilot sealift vessels represent a mission-critical component of United States military readiness. During times of conflict, these mariners transport military goods such as tanks, helicopters, or even troops – often in hostile waters and at great personal risk.

In World War II alone, nearly 10,000 merchant mariners were killed by enemy fire and died at a rate of 1 in 26 – a casualty rate higher than any branch of the United States military. Their willingness to serve and their sacrifice continue to play a vital role in America’s defense.

President Trump’s latest executive order will help sea veterans, in services ranging from the Coast Guard and Marines to the Army and Navy, transition into the civilian workforce as mariners in several ways. First, the United States government will help pay various fees associated with merchant mariner credentialing and licensing, which can exceed a thousand dollars.

Second, and of even greater value, ­­President Trump’s executive order helps enable veterans apply their education and experience on military ships toward the mariner credentialing curriculum, thereby removing other costly barriers to entry. For example, mid-career seamen, 1st mates, and engineers will no longer be forced to re-enroll in basic maritime classes, the costs of which are estimated anecdotally by veterans to be as high as $25,000. As part of this effort, the United States government will further develop online resources to help veterans navigate the process of becoming a merchant mariner.

On the economic security front, the executive order will help American veterans more quickly find high-paying jobs worthy of their skill sets. On average, water transportation workers earn $65,720 every year, well above the national occupational average of $50,620. Workers in the merchant mariner categories routinely earn even more. This administration will always have the backs of veterans, from their days in uniform to their years in the civilian workforce.

On the national security front, this executive order will help address a significant merchant mariner shortfall. In the past several decades, the number of United States merchant mariners with unlimited oceangoing credentials who have sailed in the last 18 months has dropped below 12,000. According to estimates from the Department of Transportation, if the United States entered into a large-scale conflict that required the military’s full mobilization, we could fall short of the number of mariners needed to sustain contingency operations. In other words, after six months the most powerful country in the world could find itself challenged to supply its overseas military personnel.

On the chessboard of Trump administration workforce strategy, this executive order is part of a broader effort to assist our veterans and their spouses in their transition to the civilian workforce. For example, on May 5, 2017, President Trump signed into law the “Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017.” It requires the Secretary of Labor to establish a program that recognizes, and thereby incentivizes, employer efforts to recruit, employ, and retain veterans.

The Department of Defense, through the Military-to-Mariner Transition Program, has been actively working to remove barriers to employment by aligning Personnel Qualification Standards with requirements for merchant mariner qualifications, through the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program, and funding the attainment of credentials through the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line program. This executive order will further develop those online resources.

Executive Order on Supporting the Transition of Active Duty Service Members and Military Veterans into the Merchant Marine

Source: The White House

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to promote employment opportunities for United States military veterans while growing the cadre of trained United States mariners available to meet United States requirements for national and economic security, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  It is the policy of the United States to support practices and programs that ensure that members of the United States Armed Forces receive appropriate credit for their military training and experience, upon request, toward credentialing requirements as a merchant mariner.  It is further the policy of the United States to establish and maintain an effective merchant marine program by providing sufficient support and resources to active duty and separating service members who pursue or possess merchant mariner credentials.

A robust merchant marine is vital to the national and economic security of the United 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.  Attracting additional trained and credentialed mariners, particularly from active duty service members and military veterans, will support United States national security requirements and provide meaningful, well-paying jobs to United States veterans.

Sec. 2.  Definition.  For the purposes of this order, the term “applicable service” includes any of the “armed forces,” as that term is defined in section 101(a)(4)(A) of title 10, United States Code.

Sec. 3.  Credentialing Support.  (a)  To support merchant mariner credentialing and the maintenance of such credentials, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security, with respect to the applicable services in their respective departments, and in coordination with one another and with the United States Committee on the Marine Transportation System, shall, consistent with applicable law:

(i)    Within 1 year from the date of this order, identify all military training and experience within the applicable service that may qualify for merchant mariner credentialing, and submit a list of all identified military training and experience to the United States Coast Guard National Maritime Center for a determination of whether such training and experience counts for credentialing purposes;

(ii)   With respect to National Maritime Center license evaluation, issuance, and examination, take all necessary and appropriate actions to provide for the waiver of fees for active duty service members, if a waiver is authorized and appropriate, and, if a waiver is not granted, take all necessary and appropriate actions to provide for the payment of fees for active duty service members by the applicable service to the fullest extent permitted by law;

(iii)  Direct the applicable services to take all necessary and appropriate actions to pay for Transportation Worker Identification Credential cards for active duty service members pursuing or possessing a mariner credential;

(iv)   Ensure that members of the applicable services who are to be discharged or released from active duty and who request certification or verification of sea service be provided such certification or verification no later than 1 month after discharge or release; and

(v)    Ensure the applicable services have developed, or continue to operate, as appropriate, the online resource known as Credentialing Opportunities On-Line to support separating service members seeking information and assistance on merchant mariner credentialing.

(b)  The United States Committee on the Marine Transportation System shall pursue innovative ways to support merchant mariner credentialing, including through continuation of the Military to Mariner Initiative as appropriate, and shall provide a yearly status report on its efforts under the provisions of this order to the President through the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy.

Sec. 4.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


March 4, 2019.