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Strategic Sealift Shortfall Solutions
AUTHOR Major Michael D. Boyd, USMC
CSC 1990
THESIS:   There  exist  solutions to remedy  the  ongoing
decline  of the American flag fleet that can be  executed
to provide the strategic sealift necessary to both deploy
U.   S.   forces  to  contingency  areas and  to  give  the
American  economy the cargo shipping it needs to  enhance
economic growth.
ISSUE:    There  has been a historical correlation between
sealift  capability  and the ability  to  deploy  forces.
Once  the  greatest fleet in the world,   our capacity  to
sealift  is now deficient to meet our current  deployment
requirements,  and is projected to worsen by FY2000.  The
impact  has been felt in the private  sector,  where  the
merchant marine and shipyard/repair capabilities are dis-
appearing  rapidly.    The problem has been recognized at
the   highest  levels  of  both  government  and  private
industry,   and while the DOD effort has produced a  "band
aid" fix with mothballed ships of questionable readiness,
there  needs  to be a comprehensive rejuvenation  of  the
American merchant marine flag fleet to provide a long
term   solution.     Four alternatives are proffered:
Reliance on foreign flag shipping, airlift augmentation,
privatization  of the public assets or functions  related
to  providing a sealift capacity from the federal  public
sector into the private sector (the preferred solution of
the  author),  and the current status quo (doing  nothing
but  talk about it).    If there is no prompt and  drastic
action taken to execute one of the possible alternatives,
then   our   sealift capacity will   continue  to  decrease,
while   our   current partner in peace,  the Soviet  Union,
posssesses the second largest and most militarily-capable
fleet in the world,   having garnered a large share of our
NATO allies imported product transportation market.   The
problem with executing a solution for the problem is that
costs  are  inextricably  intertwined  with  the   common
perception  of a world in which peace is diminishing  the
historical threats.
CONCLUSION:    We no longer possess a valid deterrent
posture,  based  on our sealift capability.   If  we  wait
very  long  to  take action to  build  up  our  strategic
sealift capability, history may be beyond our shaping due
to our inability to rapidly deploy our forces.
THESIS  STATEMENT.   There exist solutions to remedy  the
ongoing  decline  of the American flag fleet that can  be
executed  to provide the strategic sealift  necessary  to
both deploy U. S. forces to contingency areas and to give
the  American  economy  the cargo shipping  it  needs  to
enhance economic growth.
I.     Historical perspective of sealift
       A.  Decline of flag fleet
	   l.  Affect on Deployment Capability
	   2.  Projections for the Future
	   3.  Affect on the Marine Corps
	   4.  Economic Repercussions
       B.  Recognition of the Problems
II.    Solutions
       A.  Reliance on Foreign Flag Shipping
	   	1.  Political Reliability Problems
	  	2.  Reduction of Allied Flag Fleets
       B.  Airlift Augmentation
	   	1.  Difficulty  to  Attain Strategic  Airlift
	   	2.  Limited  Lift  Capability  of   Airlift
       C.   Privatization
	   	1.  Definition and History
	   	2.  Types and Methods
	          (a)  Contracting out Services
	          (b)  Deregulating Statutory Monopolies
	          (c)  Denationalizing Publicly Owned Assets
		   	  (1)CONRAIL Example
		    	  (2) AMTRAK Example
	      3.  Detractors to Privatization
	          (a)  Mismanagement in the Environment Example
	          (b)  Corruption in Prisons Example
	      4.  Application of Privatization
	          (a)  Denationalization of RRF and NDRF
	          (b)  Deregulation and Contracting Out
		        (1)   National    Sealift  Policy
		        (2)   Enforcement  of  Jones   Act
                    (3)   Enhancement of New Shipbuilding
		        (4)   Deregulation  of    American
			   Flagging Requirements
       D.  Status Quo- the "Do Nothing" Alternative
	  	 1.  Politically and Fiscally Driven
	  	 2.  Status of USSR Flag Fleet
III.   Conclusions
       A.  Difficulties of Industrial Mobilization
       B.  Inevitable Loss of Deterrence Capability
     Over  75%  of  the earth's surface  is  covered  by
water.  Consequently, maritime projection of combat power
has universally confounded commanders.  Both Julius Ceas-
ar and Adolph Hitler,  although 2000 years apart,  had to
contend with the 18 mile channel between Dover and Calais
in  their  attacks on Britain.   Ceasar almost  lost  his
legions due to bad weather and adverse currents  prevent-
ing  the landing of his cavalry in 55 B.C.,  and  Hitler,
due  to his inability or unwillingness to cross the chan-
nel,  ensured  Britain's survival by enabling America  to
build  and man a vast armada of merchant marine  shipping
that  sustained  the two-theater allied war  effort  with
men, equipment, and logistics. (17:27,212)
      It is this American merchant marine flag fleet  that
concerns  me in meeting the potential deployment require-
ments that we embrace in our role as global  peacekeeper.
Our fleet of 1946 contained over 4000 ships.  By 1969, it
had  dwindled to 1100,  (31:44) and at the present  there
are  less  than 300 privately owned American  vessels  of
1000  tons  or more in the active flag commercial  fleet,
with that number dropping daily as ships are laid up  and
sold  for  scrap.  (38:4)  We have gone from the  premier
sealift power in the world to number ten  overall.  (1:4)
The  President's  Commission on the Merchant  Marine  and
Defense  in July 1988 reported that we need an additional
155 militarily-useful ships to provide the sealift  capa-
bility  to deploy and sustain a single theater  conflict.
(9:12) This is compounded by the NATO estimates that 3000
ships  would be lost to attrition alone during the  first
90 days of Atlantic theater operations. (20:69)
     The  1984 Congressionally Mandated Mobility  Study
(CMMS)  computed  the strategic sealift requirements  for
major  deployments  at  one million short  tons  of  unit
equipment and sustainment.  (6:172)  Despite  substantial
federal  sealift enhancement programs to expand the Ready
Reserve Force in the past eight years to the tune of $7.5
billion, the U.S. total sealift capability stands at only
89%   of this goal.  FY2000 projections indicate that  the
flag  fleet decline will further reduce our capability  to
79%.  (9:15-6)
       Lest we think that these figures have no impact  on
the Marine Corps,  consider that Navy amphibious shipping
has slipped from 162 ships in 1967 to 63 in 1987. (27:44)
adding   to the  black bottom ship  requirements,  as  the
Assault  Follow On Echelon (AFOE) ship requirements alone
for  the  amphibious MEF can range as high as 56 cargo ships.
(40:C-2)   In an era of CINC apportionment and  interser-
vice role infighting,  even the Marine Corps can  consti-
tute  a  large deployment footprint,  when one  considers
that this represents over 20% of our total sealift  capa-
       The flag fleet decline has produced comcomittant
repercussions in commercial industry. As ships have gone
out  of the inventory,  over 76 commercial shipyards have
closed in the last five years,  leaving only six  private
sector  commercial shipyards capable of conducting  major
overhauls  and  drydock  work on ships over 400  feet  in
length in this country. (7:71)  Additionally, there has not
been  a single ship constructed in an  American  shipyard
since  1987. (30:101) Simultaneously,  the demise of  facilities
has  been accompanied by a "brain drain" of talent as the
personnel  who  crew,  repair,  and construct  ships  are
rapidly leaving the maritime occupations for more  secure
jobs.  Employment  in the U.S.  merchant marine fell from
40,000  in 1970 to approximately 12,000 in 1987.  (15:34)
The average age of a crewman is well over 50.   Added  to
this  picture is that 200,000 pierside industry jobs have
been  lost  in the last five  years,  52,500  being  ship
production workers. (10:89)   The criticality of the loss
of flag  fleet  capability  can be best underscored  by  the
words  of ex-President Reagan in a speech of January  17,
1987: (15:34)
     ... the continuing decline of the U.S. merchant
     marine and U.S. flag commercial shipping assets
     is a matter of concern.  This problem is com-
     pounded by the decline of the U.S. flag fleet
     which results in a reduction of the seagoing
     workforce to man all our U.S. flag vessels...
     The lack of merchant mariners in the near term
     could impede our ability adequately to project
     and sustain forces by strategic sealift.
     As described above, the current trend of decreasing
merchant  marine capability is disturbing,  and  requires
drastic  action  now  to  reverse  this jeopardy to  our
military capabilities.
      Four  alternatives  exist to  address  our  present
problems and future shortfalls in power projection.  None
is without its costs,  if not in resources, then in risk,
but  they are proffered as the personal feeling  is  that
America  is already years short and billions late in this
      First of all, continued and expanded use of foreign
flag  shipping  appears to be  perilously  political  in
nature.   Politics  in  our complex world extend  beyond
treaties into the private sector boardrooms of  shipping
companies which  may  be reluctant  to endanger their
status in foreign ports by hauling Uncle Sam's car-
goes. (1:4)  Additionally, there is the difficulty of in-
ducing commercial shippers to go into harm's way and risk
ships  and crews for bulk rate cargo revenues.  Personal
experience recalls that American shippers refused to haul
American  Embassy cargo into the Persian Gulf during  the
Iran-Iraq Conflict; could we expect foreign flag ships to
do  more for us,  given the rapidly-decreasing  600- ship
navy,  and its demonstrated inability to protect  tankers
(and itself) from WWI vintage mines destruction? (7:70) Add-
itionally,  our NATO allies, much more reliant on the
high seas for their continued economic sustainment,  are
experiencing  declines to their flag fleets similiar  to
ours  as  they have been outpriced priced by  the  third
world  shippers and the Soviet Union.  (44: 72) They  may
well  not  be  able to provide  the  support   that  they
currently promise. (12:54)
     For some of the same reasons,  increased reliance on
air  freight  is fraught with peril.   The CMMS  set  the
defense  goal for airlift capability at 66  million  ton-
miles  per  day of strategic (long range) cargo  airlift.
DOD has been struggling ever since to meet this  require-
ment,  and are approximately at 70% of that goal. (14:47)
Current projections of meeting this goal by FY 2000 rests
on  the willingness of Congress to appropriate funds  for
the new short-airfield capable cargo aircraft (C17)  that
will cost $117 million per copy for a total of $35.7
billion. (5:30) This project is in jeopardy, according to
the Transcom managers, and stretchout of the acquisition
process  is already in motion amongst the   Congressional
budget crunchers. (41:405)
     The crux of the matter with airlift is that, without
even  considering the maintenance,  crew rest  problems,
and susceptibility to attrition from enemy actions, the
airlift resources are but drops in the proverbial  power
projection  bucket.  One  merchant  ship can  carry  the
equivalent  of  600 C141 loads of equipment or  supplies.
(14:52)  One army division would require over 2500 C5 and
C141 sorties. (14:49)  The bottom line is that 95% of all
cargo would still require sealift movement. (5:31)
     This  author considers the solution of choice to turn
about the decline of the flag fleet and provide an ade-
quate  sealift capability for war as well as commerce  to
lie in "privatization".
       Privatization  is a relatively new concept in  this
country,  as  Webster's has no listing,  and it is  best
defined  as "turning over government businesses to  pri-
vate enterprise".  (11:281)  Historically,  privatization
was known, although by other terms, as early as the 1400s
when the Tudor Accession to the throne of England led  to
privatization  of  England's monasteries,  and  plots  of
common land. (3:2)
       Accordingly,  as befits history,  Britain has been
the world leader in the privatization movement. After the
postwar nationalization of British industry in the 1940s,
the election of Prime Minister Thatcher  in 1977 led to a
widespread  divesting  effort  to sell  off  state-owned
enterprises  to the private sector,  to  include  sealift
shipping.   (26:15)  Pointing  out the benefits reaped  by
government  through  privatization in  increased  private
sector  employment and corporate tax  base,  and  lowered
government  bureaucratic overhead,  the sales of  British
Petrol,  Gas,  and  Airports in 1986 enabled the  British
Government to lower the basic income tax from 28% to 25%.
(3:47)   Buoyed  by these and similar unprecedented  suc-
cesses,  countries as diverse as Portugal,  India, Japan,
France,  and  Sr  Lanka have joined in the  privatization
game.   Even Cuba allowed citizens to own their own homes
for the first tame since 1959.  (l8:4)
      To understand how privatization may aid the flag fleet,
one must first look at its types and methods.   There are
three  basic types of privatization open  to  government:
contracting  out public services, deregulating  statuatory
barriers  that  hinder private firms from competing  with
the  public sectors  and denationalizing  publicly  owned
assets. (3:14)
     Contracting  out public services to private  sector
companies   makes it possible for the government to  pay
potentially   reduced   rates   for   services   through
competitive  bidding.   A good example close to home   in
the   military  has  been  the  civilianization   of  many
maintenance    and   housekeeping    functions   formerly
performed  by  military members.   The latest talk is  to
privatize the commissaries and post exchanges. (20:144)
      Deregulating  statutory  monopolies  and  licensing
barriers   that   hinder  private   sector   firms   and
essentially negate their ability to compete with public
sector  organizations makes it possible for the  private
sector  to  compete with public  services.   The  British
deregulation  was found to actually improve the stability
of public functions by providing private sector  competi-
tion.   By  causing public sector organizations to become
more efficient,  they were able to lower their cost over-
heads, if in fact they were not privatized. (3:127)
Denationalization    involves   directly    selling
publicly   owned  assets  or  firms  into  the   private
sector. (3:29)  As previously mentioned,  deregulation can be
used to make public enterprises more attractive, but must
be   combined  with  a  comprehensive  program  by   the
government  to  create  an environment wherein  the  sale
becomes  possible.   A good example of a public relations
effort  providing   the  ambience to  ensure  successful
privatization  is the mad rush to buy shares  of British
Telcom  in 1984 when it was put on the market.   Its pre-
vious reputation of slow and poor service had been count-
ered by intensive P.R. (24:12)  Another example closer to
home  was the public stock offering sale of  Consolidated
Rail  Corporation (Conrail).  Formed out of the ruins  of
the  old Penn Central Railroad in 1976,  it was  upgraded
and by 1981, it was making a tidy profit when ex-President
Reagan  proposed  it  for  sale.    However,  even  after
Congressional  authorization,   it  took  five  years  to
complete the sale,  as lobbyists from rail corporations,
public  spending  coalitions  and  congressmen  from  the
affected region bickered over the need to keep the system
intact after its sale. (23:41)
      On  the  other hand,  inability in this process  has
rendered the government virtually helpless to economize
the services provided by the National Railroad Passenger
Corporation (AMTRAK.).  Created by the 1970 Rail Passenger
Service  Act,  $11  billion  has been spent to  keep  it
operating to date.  Despite attempts to cutback services
by Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan, intensive lobbying
efforts have kept every line operationg,  while the tax-
payer  subsidizes  60%  of  the  cost  of  every  ticket.
(18:166)   It is theorized that AMTRAK will never be done
away with or privatized until the political lobbyists are
overwhelmed   by the government's  ability to  make  this
"great white elephant train" profitable. (21:14)
     There   are  numerous  detractors to the  ideas   and
practice of privatization,  and their rationale, although
simplistic and narrowly scoped, requires mention.
     On  the environmental side  of  privatization,  the
potential sale   of   government  lands  by  the   Reagan
administration was severely criticized.   The short-term
nature  of  private sector managers  as  exemplified  by
over-grazing,   deforestation   and   overfarming   that
resulted  in  sucn  tragedies as the Dust Bowl  of  the
1930's  were  cited as indications  that  land  resource
management  must be entrusted to the government. (22:20)
     Probably the most powerful detractor is the  potent-
ial  for  corruption in conjunction with privatizing  ef-
forts.   Case studies have demonstrated that the shift of
functions  from  private to public is  often  spurred  by
exposure of corruption,  as in the movement to federalize
prisons  in  1891.   It took almost 100 years  for  the
public as well as the government to consider  privatizing
the  penal function,  even considering the  vast  federal
drain on taxes and administration,  due to the corruption
that became public shame in the 19th century. (18:149)
      Having illustrated some of the successes,  potental
gains,  and  frustrations and dangers along the  road  to
privatization,  one  may well ask what is there to priva-
tize and what role would privatization play in  enhancing
our flag fleet?
      Simply stated, it is this author's opinion that the
$7.5  billion  that  has  been  spent  by  the   Reagan
administration  in  building  and  maintaining   public
assets,  the  Ready Reserve Fleet (RRF) and the National
Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF), fully government owned and
maintained,  could be better spent in enhancing the U.S.
flag  fleet  through privatizing these assets and/or  the
functions they provide.  This effort will require a  combi-
nation of denationalization,  deregulation, and contract-
ing out services to accomplish our goal of providing both
the  strategic  sealift  lift for wartime  and  peacetime
economic development.
      Denationalization.   The RRF ships,  92 at present,
when added to the NDRF ships,  131 Liberty Class ships of
WWII vintage,  represent a sizable "band-aid approach" to
enhancing U.S.  strategic sealift capacity,  as the moth-
balled  shipping  provides few jobs and little  work  for
U.S.  shipyards and shipbuilders. (5:31) By selling off  these
resources  to  American shipping companies and  providing
Operational  Differential  Subsidies (ODS) to  make  them
competitive  with  foreign shipping,  we would  have  the
ships  on hand as well for peacetime aswell as  wartime.
Vice depending on laid-up,  mothballed ships to go to
underworked,  understaffed  shipyards for  massive  over-
hauls,  the  ships would be underway instantaneously,  as
diverted  from their commercial routes.   Would there  be
costs involved in this option?    Absolutely, but current
costs  ($1 million per ship/per year) (33:101) would  be
exchanged  with  increased  GNP  that  would  offset  the
potential outlays by the increased tax revenues generated
by  a  rejuvenated maritime industry.    It is  estimated
that the government would get back $1.25  n tax  revenues
from every dollar invested in this effort. (7:72) More import-
antly, the generation of a highly trained cadre of seamen
and shipbuilders and repairers that this country needs to
maintain both peacetime and wartime sealift capacity.
    Deregulation  and Contracting Out.  Recognizing  the
implications  of  the continuing decline of  our  sealift
capacity on national defense, Congress enacted Public Law
98-525 which established the Commission on Merchant  Mar-
ine and Defense,  charged with the responsibility to make
recommendations   for legislation and actions by both  the
executive  branch  and the private sector "to foster  and
maintain  a  U.S.  merchant  marine  capable  of  meeting
national  security requirements".  (30:39)  In  the  four
years  that the Commission was in existence,  the  yearly
reports  to  the President gradually took  a  trend,  not
towards  denationalizing  the RRF or  NDRF,  but  towards
enhancing the private sector operations by maximizing the
revitalization through government protections and subsid-
ies  designed to make private sector more  attractive
to use than government owned assets, and more competitive
against  foreign  sealift  sources.  (15:34)   Summarized
below  are  some of the recommendations to the  President
published  in  the Commission's fourth  report,  many  of
which contain the aspects of deregulation and contracting
out that privatization espouses.
     Establish  a  National Sealift policy  which  would
commit the government meeting both national  defense
and   economic   sealift  requirements   through   both
(DOD)  and   private   sector capabilities.  This policy
was signed last October and represents the first effort
by both private add government officials to cooperative-
ly seek solutions to our sealift shortfalls. (46:89)
     Revitalize  the U.S.  flag fleet in foreign trade in
direct competition with foreign shipping sources. (9:31) The
"Jones  Act",  Section 27 of the Merchant Marine  Act  of
1920, requires that all cargo moved between U.S. ports be
done by U.S. flagged ships.  However, as has been pointed
out, even government agencies (required to use U.S. flagged
ships by law) have been found to use foreign shipping  to
move  the majority of their cargo.  (16:28)  The  obvious
solutions  to either enforce the existing regulations  or
to  increase the ODS to make our shipping assets competi-
tive have yet to be applied.
      Another  suggestion  calls upon the  government  to
encourage  American shippers to upgrade all obsolete  and
outdated shipping (which includes the bulk of our RRF and
NDRF,  and  engage  in a government-subsidized  building
project  to  provide  shipping that will  be  competitive
technologically as well as cost-wise from the  reductions
of crews  and maintenance that are possible  from  using
existing  technology upgrades to forge a new flag  fleet.
(9:57)  Included in this program would be low-cost loans,
federal1y guaranteed,  to subsidize the sizeable costs to
build a ship in America, almost three times as much as in
Japan or the Far East. (44:28)
       Deregulation of the American flagging requirements
has been suggested to enable American shipping to become
competitive.    The exodus of American shipping companies
to flag their ships under Panamian or Liberian Flags  of
Convenience   (FCC)   was  due  to  the  severe   safety
regulations   imposed   on   American   Flag   shipping.
Consequently,  although  owned and operated by  American
companies,   these   ships,   known  as   Effective U.S.
Contro1led (EUSC) shipping,  can not be counted upon  for
strategic  sealift in the same way as American Flag ship-
ping,  and there is considerable debate as to the  degree
to  which they would be provided in contingency response.
(14:69) These ships,  367 in all,  contain  all but three
passenger ships operating in the U.S.   littoral  waters,
and  sizeable  numbers of new and efficient cargo  ships.
Just  as an example,  it cost  approximate1y $20  million
per  ship  to reflag  three  commercial  Roll-On-Roll-Off
(RORO)  ships bought from  Norwegian companies and  moth-
balled into th RRF in 1986.  If American shipping compa-
nies  could  be  lured into reflagging their  ships  into
American flags  through either  economic  inducement  or
regulation  relaxation,  the sealift shortfalls could  be
substantially reduced without any further action. (7:72)
		      STATUS QUO
      The fourth alternative is that we do nothing in the
face of our current strategic sealift shortfall.    Unfor-
tunately, given the current politics of peace and detente,
and the euphoria that will surely drive America's leader-
ship   to  reduce  and  eliminate  her  active   military
strength, there seems to be little incentive to build and
maintain merchant ships and enhance the ability to rapid-
ly  deploy combat forces,  based on an ill-definable  and
uncertain threat of the present and future.
       Unfortunately, our  former  adversary,  the Soviet
Union, has been building a merchant marine that far out-
strips our own.   From the ruins of WWII,  they  now
have  built  a fleet of more than 2500 ocean-going  cargo
and cruise ships, capable of military use as demonstrated
by  their ongoing military export to both  client  states
and  arms buying third world nations.  (13:74)  They were
able  to  build  and maintain this  huge  flag  fleet  by
significantly  undercutting  sealift cargo  tariff  rates
worldwide  during  the 1970s,  and continue to build  new
ships  with the funds generated therein.  (10:78)  As  an
indication of their progress,  they now haul over 80%  of
France's  oil imports. (13:74).   Currently number two  in
Frances  oil imports. (13:74).   Currently number two  in
the merchant fleet world, (5:31) the "Evil Empire" is now
more  capable than both we and our NATO allies to provide
us with strategic sealift for the next major  crisis.
       America  has had the national will and  industrial
might to come from greater power projection shortages  in
past  conflicts,  ala  WWI and II.   Our mobilization  of
industry  has been unmatched, our touted ability to  rise
from  catastrophe  is something legendary.  However,  the
modern workplace, with the technological complexity  that
requires  between 14-18 years to develop an  new  weapons
system and field it does not give us the security blanket
of  knowing  that we have the time to build and  use  the
ships that we will need to project our forces in time  to
preserve   the peace. (47:24)  In our effort to  provide  a
balance  of power deterrence, it could be  restated  that
"for  the lack of a ship, the next battle will be  lost".
As  Admiral  Eccles  theorized over  30  years  ago  that
"Logistics is the-bridge between the national economy and
the  military capabilities of the nation," so too it  can
be  extrapolated that the sealift capability of a  nation
determines  that nation's ability to deploy and mass  its
forces  at  the  crucial point.  We no  longer  have  the
sealift   necessary   to  accomplish   our   peacekeeping
missions.  If we do not take prompt and drastic  actions,
we never will.
1.  Anderson, Jack. "Sea Lift Capability is Sinking,"
      Washington Post,January 11, 1989,Section F.,p.4.
2.  Bleiberg,  Robert. "Conrail's Future;  Unless  the
      Line  gets out of Government Hands,  it will have
      None. "Barron's,29 July 1986,p.
3.  Butler, Stuart. Privatizing Federal Spending. New York:
      Universal Books, 1985.
4.  Byrne,  Harlan.     "Team  Inc.:  Prospering with
      Privatization." Barron's,25 September 1989,pp.56-7.
5.  Cassidy,   Duane.   "United  States   Transportation
     Command." Defense Transportation Journal, (April
     1989) ,30-1.
6.  Cheney,  Dick.  Annual  Report to the President and  the
      Congress. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1990.
7.  Clarke,  Richard.  "Flags of  Convenience."  Defense
      Transportation Journal, (October 1989),68-72.
8.  Commission  on Merchant Marine and Defense,"Findings of
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