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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

National Security

A Strong Maritime Transportation System equals Strength in International Waters.

As the agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation responsible for waterborne transportation, MARAD knows that a maritime transportation system must be safe, secure, environmentally-sustainable and designed to further America's national security in an increasingly globalized world.

How do we do it?

MARAD works day and night to maintain the U.S. maritime transportation system in a way that supports national security. How? In short: we maintain aggressive domestic shipping laws, effective supply chains and competitiveness in international trade. We do this at home and on the world stage, a system providing both national and economic security benefits:

  • At home, MARAD manages Aggressive Domestic Shipping laws, such as the Jones Act, which requires that shipments between U.S. ports use U.S.-flag vessels when reasonably available. In addition to its economic benefits, the Jones Act encourages the monitoring and mitigation of foreign vessels in American waters. We also run special-situation programs, such as providing Small Vessel Waivers and supporting compliance with the American Fisheries Act -- both of which promote the safe and legal use of American waterways.
  • On the world stage, MARAD provides effective supply chain and strategic sealift operations. We maintain the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NRDF) and its Ready Reserve Force (RRF) military subset, which together form a fleet of vessels able to support a rapid, worldwide deployment of U.S. military forces and supplies needed to engage our adversaries -- including cargo for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. MARAD also supports the Department of Homeland Security's enforcement cargo preference laws, which are designed to ensure that American carriers crewed by U.S. citizens have preference (or priority over foreign-flag vessels) when transporting cargo paid with U.S. tax dollars. These vessels bolster our international presence and provide an additional layer of surge support during United States conflict or crises. 

What are the benefits?

The benefits of a strong maritime transportation system to our national security are immediate and self-reinforcing. We can project American power and influence on a global scale, assist our allies and countries in need, respond to a crisis anywhere in the world, receive reliable access to our carriers' global logistics and distribution networks, and sustain a dedicated, loyal, U.S.-flag fleet of modern ships and highly-trained mariners.


For information about specific programs, refer to individual program pages listed on the left.