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|Military Sealift Command|
Seal of the Military Sealift Command
|Active||9 July 1949-present|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Current commander||RADM Mark H. Buzby, USN
The Military Sealift Command (MSC) is a United States Navy organization that controls most of the replenishment and military transport ships of the Navy. It first came into existence on 9 July 1949 when the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) became solely responsible for the Department of Defense's ocean transport needs. The MSTS was renamed the Military Sealift Command in 1970.
Military Sealift Command ships are civilian manned, and are referred to be as being in service, rather than in commission. Some, owned by the United States government, have the prefix USNS, standing for United States Naval Ship, whilst others, on charter or equivalent, are simply the normal merchant MV, SS, or GTS. Their hull numbers have the prefix T- in addition to the normal hull number that an equivalent commissioned ship in the USN would have.
Four programs comprise Military Sealift Command: Sealift, Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force (NFAF), Special Mission, and Prepositioning. The Sealift program provides the bulk of the MSC's supply-carrying operation and operates tankers for fuel transport and dry-cargo ships that transport equipment, vehicles, helicopters, ammunition, and supplies. The NFAF’s role is to directly replenish ships that are underway at sea, enabling them to deploy for long periods of time without having to come to port. The Special Mission program operates vessels for unique military and federal government tasks, such as submarine support and missile flight data collection and tracking. The Prepositioning program sustains the US military's forward presence strategy by deploying supply ships in key areas prior to actual need.
The United States Military Sealift Command has the responsibility for providing sealift and ocean transportation for all US military services as well as for other government agencies. It is a component of the United States Navy, reporting to Fleet Forces Command (USFFC). Military Sealift Command is also one of three component commands reporting to U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM).
Military Sealift Command reports to the Commander, U.S. Transportation Command for defense transportation matters, to the Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command for Navy-unique matters and to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition for procurement policy and oversight matters.
As early as 1847, both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy chartered American merchant ships separately. Following the Mexican-American War, Brigadier General Thomas S. Jesup, Quartermaster of the Army, recommended that the Navy be given responsibility for all water transportation requirements for the military. However, each service managed their own sea transportation throughout the nineteenth century and both World Wars.
In World War II, four different government agencies conducted military sealift functions, the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, the Army Transport Service, the U.S. Maritime Commission's War Shipping Administration, and the Fleet Support Services. To oversee these organizations, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) established the Joint Military Transportation Command.
On 15 December 1948, the Secretary of Defense James Forrestal issued a statement, "all military sea transport including Army transports would be placed under Navy command." Issues with funding held up the transfer of the functions to the Navy. The new Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, issued a memorandum on 12 July 1949 that detailed service responsibilities and the funding of the new Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS).
MSTS became the single managing agency for the Department of Defense's ocean transportation needs. The command assumed responsibility for providing sealift and ocean transportation for all military services as well as for other government agencies. The new command set up subcomponents, for example, Military Sea Transportation Service Pacific (ComMSTSPac).
Nine months after its creation, MSTS responded to the challenge of the Korean War. On 6 July 1950, eleven days after the initial invasion of South Korea by North Korean troops, MSTS deployed the 24th Infantry Division for duty in Japan to Pusan, South Korea. In addition to transporting troops and combat equipment to and from Korea, command ships supplied US bases and Distant Early Warning line construction sites and supported US nation building efforts from Europe and Africa, to the Far East.
The 1960s brought the conflict in Southeast Asia. From 1965 to 1969 MSTS moved almost 54 million tons of combat equipment and supplies and almost 8 million long tons of fuel to Vietnam. The Vietnam War era also marked the last use of MSC troop ships for personnel movement. Currently, most US troops are prepositioned by air.
MSTS was renamed Military Sealift Command (MSC) in 1970.
In 1971, Admiral Zumwalt proposed the use of MSC ships for direct support of the fleet at sea. Heretofore, these civilian-manned ships had only been used for point to point transport of cargo. To determine the feasibility of this concept, Admiral Zumwalt directed the formation of a special study group to recommend how the navy could better utilize the MSC fleet to save both manpower and money. The high cost of training personnel after the advent of the all-volunteer navy made it imperative that seagoing personnel be assigned to complex warships of the fleet whenever possible. The study concluded that significant savings could be achieved if civilian mariners could be substituted for uniformed navy sailors in fleet support ships.
In 1972 a joint U.S. Navy-Maritime Administration project called "Charger Log" was established to test whether or not a union-crewed merchant ship could provide some or all of the fleet support services normally provided by navy oilers. Extensive trials were conducted using the civilian manned merchant tanker SS Erna Elizabeth equipped with both alongside and astern fueling gear to test the feasibility of augmenting (not replacing) the service force with ships of the merchant marine. The success of 'Charger Log' contributed to the formation of the Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force.
The navy oiler USS Taluga (AO-62) was the first fleet-support ship to be placed under MSC control. Decommissioned on 4 May 1972, she was transferred to the MSC and redesignated T-AO-62. After her transfer, the ship underwent a thorough overall that included refurbishment of equipment, gear, and refueling rigs, modification of crew quarters, and the removal of armaments. She entered service with a crew of 105 civilian mariners hired by the government augmented by a sixteen-member naval complement.
Through the 1970s and 1980s MSC provided the Department of Defense with ocean transportation as part of US deterrent efforts during the Cold War years. During the first Persian Gulf War, consisting of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, MSC distinguished itself as the largest source of defense transportation of any nation involved. Command resources delivered more than 12 million tons (11 million metric tonnes) of wheeled and tracked vehicles, helicopters, ammunition, dry cargo, fuel and other supplies and equipment during the war. At the high point of the war, more than 230 government-owned and chartered ships delivering the largest part of the international arsenal that defeated Saddam Hussein in Iraq. MSC was also involved in the the 2003 invasion of Iraq, delivering 61,000,000 square feet (5.7 km2) of cargo and 1,100,000,000 US gallons (4,200,000 m3) of fuel by the end of the first year.
Military Sealift Command is organized around four programs:
The Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force is the part of the MSC most associated with directly supporting the Navy. In 1972, a study concluded that it would be cheaper for civilians to man USN support vessels such as tankers and stores ships. The NFAF is the American equivalent of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary. These MSC ships are painted haze gray (except for the hospital ships USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) which are painted white) and can be easily identified by the blue and gold horizontal bands around the top of their central smokestack.
Military Sealift Command's Special Mission Program controls 24 ships that provide operating platforms and services for unique US Military and federal government missions. Oceanographic and hydrographic surveys, underwater surveillance, missile flight data collection and tracking, acoustic research and submarine support are among the specialized services this program supports. Special mission ships work for several different US Navy customers, including the Naval Sea Systems Command and the Oceanographer of the Navy. These ships like those of the NFAF are painted haze gray with blue and gold stack bands.
Military Sealift Command's Prepositioning Program is an element in the US's triad of power projection into the 21st century - sea shield, sea strike and sea basing. As a key element of sea basing, afloat prepositioning provides the military equipment and supplies for a contingency forward deployed in key ocean areas before need. The MSC Prepositioning Program supports the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and the Defense Logistics Agency. Prepositioning ships remain at sea, ready to deploy on short-notice the vital equipment, fuel and supplies to initially support military forces in the event of a contingency. The Prepositioning Program consists of 34 at-sea ships plus 2 aviation support ships kept in reduced operating status. These ships wear civilian livery, and are only designated "USNS" if government-owned; those chartered from civilian owners are either "SS" or "MV".
The mission of the Sealift Program is to provide ocean transportation to the Department of Defense by meeting its sealift requirements in peace, contingency, and war with quality, efficient cost effective assets and centralized management. This is achieved through the use of commercial charter vessels, Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off ships, and the Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force, including the eight former MSC fast sealift ships. Sealift is divided into three separate project offices: Tanker Project Office, Dry Cargo Project Office and the Surge Project Office.
On 9 January 2012, the MSC command organization was reorganizaed via a realignment of its structure to increase its efficiency while maintaining effectiveness. To better manage this new program structure, MSC repositioned three of its key Senior Executive Service (SES) personnel, with one SES acting as the program executive over MSC's government-operated ships, a second SES serving as the program executive over contract-operated ships, and a third SES overseeing total force manpower management for MSC worldwide operations. Also, MSC realigned two of its four mission-driven programs and adding a fifth program, as outlined below:
The Prepositioning and Sealift programs are unchanged by the 2012 reorganization. Additionally, MSC's 12 worldwide MSC ship support units (SSU) will now report to the MSC operational area command in their respective areas of responsibility (i.e., MSC Atlantic in Norfolk; MSC Pacific in San Diego; MSC Europe and Africa in Naples; MSC Central in Bahrain; and MSC Far East in Singapore). Formerly, these SSUs had reported to MSC's Military Sealift Fleet Support Command (MSFSC) in Norfolk. Finally, MSC established a competency-based support structure to provide the technical knowledge, skills, and abilities to the two program executives, with such functions as human resources, logistics, engineering, information technology, etc., competency-aligned in support of the programs.
Military Sealift Fleet Support Command, or MSFSC, is a subordinate command of Military Sealift Command and is a single Type Commander execution command having worldwide responsibility to crew, train, equip and maintain MSC government-owned, government-operated ships.
MSFSC is also responsible for providing support to other MSC assets as directed. MSFSC has ship support units, or SSUs, in Naples, Bahrain, Singapore, Guam, Yokohama and San Diego. The SSUs (except for Guam and Yokohama) are collocated with their respective numbered fleet operational logistics task force commanders and Sealift Logistics Commands, but are not within that chain of command. SSUs provide local TYCOM support to ships in their area of operations and report directly to MSFSC.
MSFSC was formed from the following MSC elements:
Operational functions previously performed by MSC area commands continue, but Type Commander functions were removed. The restructuring included integration with the Navy fleet logistics task force in each location.
MSFSC officially stood up on 13 November 2005.
Stand up of the Ship Support Units (SSU) followed establishment of MSFSC, their parent command. SSU San Diego stood up in conjunction with MSFSC. By late 2008, all subordinate SSUs were fully operational.
MSC headquarters is located at Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC. An additional MSC subordinate command - Military Sealift Fleet Support Command - in Norfolk, Va., is responsible for crewing, training, equipping and maintaining MSC's government-owned, government-operated ships. MSC also has MSC Offices and representatives that report to the area commands and Ship Support Units that report to MSFSC at key worldwide locations providing various services to the MSC fleet. These are located in San Diego, CA, Norfolk, VA, Naples, Italy, Bahrain, and Singapore. 
A Bulgarian vehicle disembarks from the USNS Red Cloud (T-AKR-313)
Polish Army trucks off-loaded from Ready Reserve Force ship MV Cape Trinity (T-AKR-9711)
Ammunition ship USS Shasta (AE-33), transferred to the Military Sealift Command in 1997
Hospital Ship USNS Comfort (T-AH-20)
Victorious-class oceanographic survey ship USNS Able (T-AGOS-20)
Media related to Military Sealift Command at Wikimedia Commons