The Post’s May 13 editorial “Hurdles in reforming U.S. food aid” glossed over critical facts about the U.S. merchant marine and food aid programs.

The Post failed to discuss the important nexus linking food aid programs, the merchant marine and the overseas deployment of our military. The law requires the federal government to retain a skilled merchant marine and commercial fleet, to provide an adequate sea-lift capacity to support our military and to transport government-impelled cargo.

Food aid carried on U.S.-flag commercial vessels, pursuant to cargo-preference laws, has helped alleviate hunger abroad and supported thefleet essential to sustaining our military. Without such cargoes, we risk losing the approximately 100 oceangoing vessels still sailing under the U.S. flag.

The plain fact ignored by The Post is that no lower-cost alternatives exist to replace this vital sea-lift capability. Before we make dramatic changes to our food aid programs, we should acknowledge that such changes would undercut long-standing maritime policy and have demonstrably negative impacts on the U.S.-flag commercial fleet, U.S. seafarers, our national security and, indeed, our ability to provide reliable food aid to impoverished communities.

Elijah E. Cummings and Duncan D. Hunter, Washington

The writers are members of the House: Cummings, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 7th District and Hunter, a Republican, represents California’s 50th District.