With China encroaching on Taiwan and the Houthis raiding international shipping in the Red Sea, maritime security is crucial. Representative Mike Waltz (R-FL) and Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) spearheaded a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the Biden Administration urging the reinforcement of American naval power.
Aside from the threats of adversaries, the letter described how American ships, shipyards, and other infrastructure are becoming obsolete while the number of American Merchant Marine ships on the water has declined.
In May, Admiral Daryl Caudle told Defense News that the US Fleet Forces Command has suffered budget cuts in recent years and thus would require cooperation with private entities to adequately fund the modernization of naval infrastructure.
Rep. Waltz and Sen. Kelly acknowledged Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro's "maritime statecraft" strategy, which he first unveiled in a September speech at Harvard Kennedy School. Del Toro described this plan as involving investments in shipbuilding, updating shipyards, and greater cooperation with seagoing allies.
The letter by Rep. Waltz and Sen. Kelly expands upon this initial outline, calling for three new reforms to reinforce American maritime power. Firstly, they called for the appointment of a coordinator for naval strategy, "to synchronize national maritime policy and influence industrial base resource decisions across military, civil, and commercial dimensions."
Second, a Presidential Determination should be issued that would define the shipping and shipbuilding industry as critical infrastructure, which would allow the Department of Defense to invest in these sectors under the Defense Production Act.
Lastly, as part of del Toro's maritime statecraft strategy, Waltz and Kelly call for a specific outline on "de-risking" areas under the US naval domain from China and other oceanic threats because "our security and economic way of life relies on open and free sea lines of communication."
"America is—and will always be—a maritime nation. But after years of neglect, changing the trajectory of our shipbuilding and shipping industries is a task that will be measured in decades, not days, months, or years. We stand at an inflection point. We must act now--before it is too late--to reinvigorate American and allied maritime power on the seas," Waltz and Kelly's letter concluded.