published Friday, October 28th, 2011

Maritime security official says strong naval force is vital

Kevin Tokarski manages maritime-related national security for the U.S. Department of Transportation as an associate administrator. He is one of four people speaking this morning as part of the Navy League National Convention's Sea Services panel. The convention brings together civilians and veterans of the maritime services to discuss informing the public about the importance of a strong U.S. naval force.

Tokarski spoke with Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Todd South in advance of his appearance in Chattanooga.

Q: Please tell us about the scope of your duties as a maritime administrator.

A: I'm responsible for making sure there are enough ships in the Ready Reserve Fleet to meet our economic needs and homeland and national security objectives. There are currently 46 Maritime Administration-owned cargo ships in the fleet and seven maritime academy training ships located at ports around the nation. They stand ready to be reactivated to load military cargo or respond to national manmade or natural crises such as hurricanes and earthquakes to provide relief aid. I also manage the domestic ship disposal or recycling program, which removes excess ships from the agency's fleet when they are no longer serviceable. In addition to the ships owned by the Maritime Administration, under the Maritime Security Program, the associate administrator coordinates with 60 commercial, U.S.-flag ships operating under an agreement to be available to move Department of Defense cargo on a priority basis in times of need.

Q: What maritime fields or personnel are under your watch?

A: I oversee one of the largest elements within the Maritime Administration, with over 300 employees at the headquarters in Washington, D.C., and in the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific regions across the country. In addition to these government employees, there are about 500 contractors and commercial merchant mariners employed around the Ready Reserve Force ships and National Defense Reserve Fleet sites.

Q: For states such as Tennessee that do not border the oceans, what role does maritime security play?

A: Marine transportation serves every American and business as nearly 90 percent of everything we consume and trade has been or will be transported on vessels. Further, marine transportation is exceptionally "green" with a minimum greenhouse gas emission per ton of cargo, reduces our nation's congestion on the roadways and employs hundreds of thousands citizens.

Both government-owned and commercial vessels are also important to the military, transporting our troops around the globe. This is the most important aspect of maritime security -- ensuring we have the necessary marine transportation available to protect the nation.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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