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News Release


Release No: 049-97
February 05, 1997


Defense Secretary William S. Cohen approved the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA) on January 30, 1997. The VISA is an interagency agreement between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Transportation (DoT) and represents a new level of cooperation between the DoT's Maritime Administration (MARAD), DoD, and U.S. commercial shipping companies to meet military sealift requirements during contingency operations. VISA was approved by Secretary Cohen as an alternative to the current DoD Sealift Readiness Program (SRP). VISA integrates the capabilities of the U.S. Flag fleet to augment the DoD's organic fleet of ships it uses to meet contingencies. While DoD's fleet will primarily be used to move combat forces, the VISA capacity will be focused on the much needed resupply and ammunition needed by combat forces. The VISA program, which developed from lessons of DESERT SHIELD and STORM, parallels the existing DoD program to integrate civilian aircraft into the Defense Transportation System (DTS) called Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF). Implemented during the Gulf War, CRAF added significantly to the U.S.'s ability to move large numbers of troops and deliver high-priority parts and equipment globally. Like CRAF, VISA would be implemented in three stages, with the final stage being implemented only during times of gravest national crisis. The VISA agreement integrates commercial shipping capacity coming from three sources:

(1) Vessels enrolled in MARAD's new Maritime Security Program (MSP) which provides operating assistance to support continued presence in international trade of U.S. Flag vessels operated by U.S. merchant mariners;

(2) Ocean carriers transporting military cargo under DoD peacetime contracts; and,

(3) Other vessels volunteered by shipping companies for sealift contingencies.

VISA offers improved flexibility to meet today's demanding contingency scenarios. The new agreement, nearly two years in development, was reached as a result of close cooperation between the U.S. Transportation Command, MARAD, and commercial shipping companies. It has also resulted in an ongoing joint executive- level mechanism to exchange ideas and ensure understanding of sealift requirements and capabilities among participants. This creates closer working partnerships in peacetime instead of trying to create new arrangements during crisis situations. The VISA program provides a phased plan for U.S. carriers to provide their capacity to meet varying levels of crisis. The keystone of VISA is that for the first time, it brings the carriers into the DoD planning process. This enables carriers both to better meet defense transportation needs and to plan for options for their own operations to continue ongoing commercial arrangements during contingencies. One of the objectives of this joint planning is to develop contingency contracts with the various carriers that will provide DoD with assured access to their sealift capabilities. In return for their VISA commitment during contingencies, carriers will have priority to be awarded DoD peacetime contracts to move military cargo within the DTS.

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