Pro­tect­ing our south­ern bor­der with U.S. mariners

The Jones Act is a key to safe­guard­ing the na­tion’s en­ergy sup­plies

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Dun­can Hunter Dun­can Hunter, a Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can and for­mer U.S. Marine, is chair­man of the House Coast Guard and Mar­itime Trans­porta­tion Sub­com­mit­tee.

As chair­man of the Coast Guard and Mar­itime Sub­com­mit­tee in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, I am proud to be an un­wa­ver­ing de­fender of the Jones Act — a crit­i­cal U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity law that re­quires ves­sels mov­ing from one U.S. port to an­other must be U.S.-built and U.S.-crewed.

The Jones Act, in fact, is the quin­tes­sen­tial def­i­ni­tion of “Buy Amer­i­can, Hire Amer­i­can.” It’s also a point that Pres­i­dent Trump, along with his na­tional se­cu­rity and eco­nomic teams, would be well-served to rec­og­nize in the ef­fort to re­vive Amer­i­can in­dus­try and ca­pa­bil­ity.

While of­ten con­flated by for­eign in­ter­ests, the Jones Act en­sures that ves­sels and work­ers en­gaged in coast­wise trade are U.S.-com­pli­ant while pro­vid­ing do­mes­tic ship­build­ing and mariner ca­pac­ity to sup­port our armed forces at times of war.

Un­der­scor­ing the wide reach and ne­ces­sity of the Jones Act, U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion’s (CBP) Of­fi­cer Michael Herbert re­cently spoke to a group of mar­itime ex­ec­u­tives out­lin­ing the unique na­tional se­cu­rity chal­lenges his of­fice faces when polic­ing the Gulf of Mex­ico. He ad­dressed the in­her­ent dif­fi­cul­ties in try­ing to po­lice and protect the more than 95,000 miles of coast­line in the United States.

In his re­marks, Of­fi­cer Herbert spoke about the im­por­tance of the Jones Act and its crit­i­cal role in pro­tect­ing the home­land first and fore­most. In the Gulf of Mex­ico, for in­stance, this law also ap­plies to ves­sels ser­vic­ing the off­shore platforms that de­liver our na­tion’s en­ergy sup­plies — ex­actly the type of crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture that CBP and oth­ers are com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing.

Be­cause of this, the Jones Act has been sup­ported by ev­ery mod­ern pres­i­dent and has ex­plicit sup­port from our na­tion’s Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy lead­er­ship. To fur­ther em­pha­size this cru­cial mar­itime ca­pac­ity, CBP re­cently es­tab­lished the Jones Act Di­vi­sion of En­force­ment (JADE) in New Or­leans to sup­port the of­fice in en­sur­ing ves­sel com­pli­ance.

Go­ing even fur­ther, with the in­tent to ensure for­eign crews are pre­vented from gain­ing ac­cess to our most pre­cious and in­te­gral in­fra­struc­ture, CBP is­sued a re­vo­ca­tion of pre­vi­ous let­ter rul­ings af­fect­ing off­shore ser­vice ves­sels that al­lowed for­eign com­pa­nies and crews to take ad­van­tage of a loop­hole and cir­cum­vent the build and staffing re­quire­ments of the Jones Act.

Nat­u­rally, for­eign en­ti­ties are now up­set that their loop­hole has been closed and are mak­ing un­founded claims to pres­sure on the CBP to drop the re­vo­ca­tion.

The fact of the mat­ter is that if the re­vo­ca­tion pro­ceeds, as it should, there will be 3,200 U.S. jobs gen­er­ated in the Gulf of Mex­ico alone with ab­so­lutely no dis­rup­tion of off­shore en­ergy ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion. The added ben­e­fit of these jobs means that an es­ti­mated ad­di­tional 1,000 mariners will be qual­i­fied to help the U.S. Ready Re­serve Fleet, which is ac­ti­vated in times of war to move mil­i­tary cargo to war zones.

Fur­ther de­lay or ter­mi­na­tion of the re­vo­ca­tion, as de­sired by these for­eign en­ti­ties, would re­ward for­eign work­ers and com­pa­nies who are skirt­ing U.S. la­bor and tax re­quire­ments. Not only that, do­ing so would negate the more than $2 bil­lion that U.S. off­shore com­pa­nies have in­vested to expand their fleets to meet the ca­pac­ity re­quire­ments of this mar­ket.

Put an­other way, for­eign work­ers will con­tinue to ex­ploit this loop­hole and po­ten­tially gain ac­cess to our crit­i­cal en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture with no over­sight from CBP or the U.S. Coast Guard.

As Of­fi­cer Herbert rightly noted, “There’s no way that we could en­force our na­tional se­cu­rity laws with­out the Jones Act.”

There­fore, the choice comes down to supporting U.S. mariners and ship­yard work­ers, keep­ing U.S. crit­i­cal en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture safe with no dis­rup­tion to our off­shore en­ergy ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion and in com­pli­ance with U.S. law, or al­low­ing for­eign in­ter­ests to pre­vail in un­der­min­ing all of the above.

CBP’s in­tent to up­hold the ex­tra­or­di­nary im­por­tance of the Jones Act should be com­mended. No dif­fer­ent, it’s in Amer­ica’s in­ter­ests to rec­og­nize the sig­nif­i­cance of the Jones Act in strength­en­ing U.S. mar­itime and na­tional se­cu­rity.

The Jones Act has been sup­ported by ev­ery mod­ern pres­i­dent and has ex­plicit sup­port from our na­tion’s Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy lead­er­ship.

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