Sen. Kelly, Rep. Waltz Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter Calling on President Biden to Prioritize U.S. Maritime Defense

This week, Senator and 25-year Navy combat veteran Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Representative and combat-decorated Green Beret Mike Waltz (R-FL-6), joined by a group of 17 bipartisan, bicameral lawmakers, sent a letter to President Biden urging him to strengthen the United States’ maritime power at a moment when the People’s Republic of China is extending its influence in the South China Sea and the Houthis are attacking shipping in the Red Sea.  

The group calls on the president to establish an interagency maritime policy director, designate maritime infrastructure as “critical infrastructure,” invoke the Defense Production Act for shipbuilding, and develop a whole-of-government maritime “de-risking” strategy to reduce dependency on Chinese maritime infrastructure and industry.  

“U.S. maritime infrastructure is aging, including in our naval and commercial shipyards, which once produced the world’s finest ships. We have allowed the U.S. flagged international trading fleet to decline precipitously, underinvesting in our Merchant Marine and maritime workforce to man our ships and shipyards,” the lawmakers point out.  

The letter also highlights the United States’ strong maritime tradition and that changing the trajectory of our shipbuilding and shipping industries won’t be quick after years of neglect. 

They continue, “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.”   

Co-signers of Kelly and Waltz’s letter are Senators John Boozman (R-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rick Scott (R-FL), along with Representatives James R. Baird (R-IN-4), Jack Bergman (R-MI-1), Byron Donalds (R-FL-19), Neal P. Dunn (R-FL-2), Brad Finstad (R-MN-1), C. Scott Franklin (R-FL18), John Garamendi (D-CA-8), Nick LaLota (R-NY-1), Doug Lamborn (R-CO-5), Richard McCormick (R-GA-6), James C. Moylan (R-GU- District At Large), John H. Rutherford (R-FL-5). 

Kelly earned his B.S. degree in marine engineering and nautical science from the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) and later an M.S. degree in aeronautical engineering from the United States Naval Postgraduate School. Kelly spent 25 years in the United States Navy as a pilot and is the first ever USMMA alumnus to serve in Congress. Last year, Kelly was elected chair of the USMMA Board of Visitors for the 118th Congress. 

Read the letter to President Biden here.