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As of April 7, 2020, there are 4984 open recommendations, of which 369 are priority recommendations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented.
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Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of MARAD to study the potential availability of all qualified mariners needed to meet a full and prolonged activation of the reserve sealift fleet. In the study, MARAD should identify potential solutions to address the mariner shortfall if one is still identified.
Agency: Department of Transportation Status: Open Priority recommendation
Comments: In its written comments, DOT concurred with GAO's recommendation to study the potential availability of all qualified mariners needed to meet a full and prolonged activation of the reserve sealift fleet. DOT stated that MARAD had been reviewing the adequacy of existing plans to recruit mariner volunteers to crew the full reserve fleet. Furthermore, DOT noted that 13,000 mariners were required to crew all the vessels in the fleet for sustained operations. On June 15, 2016, GAO contacted MARAD officials to clarify the current status of the National Maritime Strategy, which DOT officials had stated would contain the results of their review. The officials said that the Strategy was still in the interagency process for approval and was not likely to be published until the end of 2016. DOT told GAO in December 2016 that it had conducted an exercise in September 2016 to test mariner availability for an initial activation of the full fleet. However, this exercise did not fully address GAO's recommendation, as it did not test for a full and prolonged activation of the fleet. Furthermore, DOT officials told GAO in April 2017 that the National Maritime Strategy had not been released and was awaiting review from the current Administration. As of May 2017, MARAD officials reported that they had established a working group to identify the total number of U.S. citizen mariners in the United States who, among other things, were available to crew the U.S. flag fleet and the surge sealift fleet in times of a national emergency and planned to report to Congress in December 2017. In a September 2017 Maritime Workforce Working Group Report to Congress, which a MARAD official informed us was sent to Congress in January 2018, MARAD estimated that there was a shortage of qualified mariners available to crew a full and prolonged activation of the reserve fleet. However, its estimate did not fully account for all of the potential sources of supply. In February, August, and October 2018, and May 2019, GAO contacted DOT to follow up on any actions taken. According to MARAD, as of May 2019, the National Maritime Strategy was still under interagency review and would likely be issued in February 2020. In December 2019, DOT again confirmed that the National Maritime Strategy was still under interagency review. DOT also informed GAO that a MARAD report to Congress on "Opportunities and Challenges to Increasing the Number of U.S. Coast Guard Credentialed Mariners" and which may address part of GAO's recommendation is under the review of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Furthermore, the Mariner Survey project, which DOT planned to survey all appropriately credentialed U.S. merchant mariners in 2020 (and again in 2022) to determine the number of qualified mariners willing and able to serve on short notice, has not yet been approved by OMB. Thus far, DOT has not indicated that it implemented GAO's recommendation to study the potential availability of all qualified mariners needed to meet a full and prolonged activation of the reserve sealift fleet, including reaching out to all potentially qualified mariners to verify their qualifications as well as ascertain their availability and willingness to crew the reserve sealift fleet in a full and prolonged activation.