Release No: 049-97
October 01, 1997
HEADLINE:: SECRETARY OF DEFENSE APPROVES VOLUNTARY SEALIFT
February 4, 1997 (703)697-5737(public/industry)
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE APPROVES VOLUNTARY INTERMODAL SEALIFT AGREEMENT (VISA)
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 DoTs 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
VISA integrates the capabilities of the U.S. Flag fleet to augment the DoDs organic fleet of ships it uses to meet
contingencies. While DoDs 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 MARADs 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 todays 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.