A returnee from north Sudan carries a sack of flour distributed by World Food Program, in south Sudan in 2010. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

Regarding the April 23 editorial “A better way to provide food aid”:

The U.S. Merchant Marine is a valuable national asset that has always been there for the United States in times of war and national emergency. The U.S.-flag commercial fleet carried more than 90 percent of the materiel to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Defense Department has repeatedly stated that its reliance on this public-private partnership saves American taxpayers billions of dollars.

Our nation’s cargo-preference programs, including the Food for Peace program, are instrumental to sustaining the U.S. Merchant Marine and maintaining our national defense sealift capability, with the attendant billions saved. The minor savings from cutting cargo preference must be viewed with the huge cost of acquiring sealift capability by other means and the damage to our U.S. Merchant Marine that would occur.

The U.S.-flag international fleet has declined steadily in recent years because of a 2012 reduction in cargo preference for Food for Peace. We should reinstate the 75 percent preference for international food aid, reversing the damage to a national capability through shortsighted savings.

Skip Witunski, Arlington

The writer is national president
of the Navy League of the United States.