Strategic sealift is essential to the U.S. Navy’s ability to carry out its sea control, power projection, and maritime security missions—and essential to strategic sealift is a cadre of Navy Reserve officers who provide emergency crewing and shoreside support for the Military Sealift Command’s surge sealift fleet and the Ready Reserve Force in times of national defense or emergency.
Strategic sealift officers (SSOs) today have two priority missions: to provide strategic depth as tactically trained, experienced, and credentialed licensed mariners; and to deploy operational capability through their subject-matter expertise in marine engineering, operations, and logistics and ties with the maritime ecosystem.
All members of the SSO force provide critical support to the Military Sealift Command, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Navy, and Maritime Administration. They devote years to acquiring the specialized training and education required to earn and maintain the U.S. Coast Guard merchant marine license and additional credentials from the International Maritime Organization—and they do this while being always ready to respond to challenges across the full range of military operations in the global commons.
SSOs’ maritime expertise is a force multiplier. Their broad maritime education, worldwide employment, and specialized work experience enable them to apply critical skills and nontraditional methods to overcome obstacles and meet any challenge. Despite their small numbers, they meet the demand for their distinctive services across an ever-increasing number of objectives.
Links to Industry
By leveraging the commercial employment of the SSO community, the Navy strengthens its strategic relationships with the maritime industry. Industry partners provide complementary capabilities and unique perspectives and information that improve the service’s understanding of the operating environment and expands its options.
Correspondingly, SSOs’ experience within the maritime ecosystem enables rapid identification of opportunities to apply commercial best practices to use resources more efficiently and optimize operations. Their understanding of research and development in commercial industry, including small companies and universities, can be leveraged to improve operations and assist with mission accomplishment. These mutually beneficial partnerships are crucial to the national security strategy.
The SSO community has evolved and expanded its service delivery beyond its original design. These officers support important lines of effort across nearly every Navy and joint maritime portfolio. With more than 17 years of operations supporting the war on terrorism, Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve, and more, they have been recognized as a force of capable, dependable, and innovative leaders.
However, we must do more to attract, retain, and promote top talent from the nation’s maritime academies. Until recently, our community of more than 2,200 reserve officers has not had a formal community management system. Career path development and management, mentoring, and education have been informal and not integrated with a larger strategy aligned with the strategic vision of the flag sponsor and other key Navy stakeholders. Given the importance of the mission and its ever-evolving scope and size, we must do better. Then, our strategic sealift officers can chart a course that will carry forward our nation’s strategic interests and serve as a cornerstone of U.S. national security.