- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2019

President Trump signed an executive order Monday that helps active-duty military and sea veterans transition into the Merchant Marine, which handles cargo and passenger shipping but can be called upon in wartime for sealift operations.

The order will waive licensing fees and let applicants count education and experience on military ships toward their certification as a merchant mariner, allowing them to skip training classes that can cost them up to $25,000.

Senior administration officials say it’s a win-win — veterans will find economic security and the nation will be secure, too, by having a steady supply of mariners to transport tanks, helicopters and even troops, if conflict erupts.

“Mr. Trump will always have the backs of veterans from their days in uniform to their years in the civilian workforce,” said Peter Navarro, assistant to the president for manufacturing and trade policy. “And we’re working on many fronts to make sure that our veterans and their spouses are able to seamlessly transition into the civilian workforce in a way which provides them with good-paying jobs that benefit themselves and this country.”

Water transportation workers earn an average of $65,720 every year, or above the national occupational average of $50,620, officials said.

Administration officials said the Merchant Marine is also a “vital part of U.S. defense industrial base.”

Though frequently moving goods in and out of navigable U.S. waters as civilian mariners in peacetime, they’ve played a key role in supporting the military, sometimes at great personal risk.

Officials said in World War II, nearly 10,000 merchant mariners were killed by enemy fire — a death rate of one in 26, or higher than any U.S. military branch.

Today, the number of qualified merchant mariners has dropped below 12,000. The administration says it’s a shortfall that leaves the U.S. unprepared for sustained operations at sea in a large-scale conflict.

“In other words, after just six months, the most powerful country in the world could find itself challenged to supply its overseas military personnel,” Mr. Navarro said.

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