Why the MTS Matters

Coordination, leadership, and cooperation are essential to addressing the challenges faced by the Marine Transportation System (MTS). Information on the nation's mobility, safety, economic health, natural environment, and security must be shared among federal, regional, and local agencies, as well as private sector owners and operators.

This kind of coordinated approach, as seen in the Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS), can more effectively meet the needs of the MTS than can individual group efforts.

Marine Transportation System

CMTS Background

The Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS) is a Federal interdepartmental committee which is chaired by the Secretary of Transportation. The purpose of the CMTS is to create a partnership of Federal departments and agencies with responsibility for the Marine Transportation System (MTS). The CMTS is directed to do the following:

  • Ensure the development and implementation of national MTS policies consistent with national needs and
  • Report to the President its views and recommendations for improving the MTS


The authority to establish this Committee derives from a directive in the U.S. Ocean Action Plan, issued December 17, 2004: "Supporting Marine Transportation." According to the CMTS Charter, effective August, 2005, the CMTS and its constituent sub-organizations are responsible for the following:

  • improving federal MTS coordination and policies
  • promoting the environmentally sound integration of marine transportation with other modes of transportation and with other ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes uses
  • developing outcome-based goals and strategic objectives for the safety, security, efficiency, economic vitality, environmental health, and reliability of the MTS for commercial and national defense requirements, as well as a method for monitoring progress towards those goals
  • coordinating budget and regulatory activities that impact the MTS
  • recommending strategies and implementing plans to maintain and improve the MTS


In addition to the leadership of the CMTS, day-to-day management and policy guidance is provided by the CMTS Coordinating Board. The Coordinating Board is made up of the heads of MTS-related agencies: the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Director for Civil Works of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Administrator of the Maritime Administration. More than twenty different agencies and departmental offices with MTS interests are represented on the Coordinating Board.

The Chair of the Coordinating Board rotates annually among four agencies: U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Maritime Administration. The Board meets quarterly to consider, approve, and review the CMTS work plan tasks. Work plan tasks are carried out by task teams, or Integrated Action Teams.

The Executive Secretariat is the staff office that supports the activities of the CMTS, Coordinating Board, and task teams. The Director of the Executive Secretariat leads the staff office and acts as the Executive Secretary of the Coordinating Board. CMTS member agencies provide additional expert staff support to the Executive Secretariat.

While not directed in the CMTS charter, the Executive Secretariat operates a "working group" through which multi-agency staff participation and work efforts are encouraged and managed. The work plan tasks are proposed, led, and supported by the member agencies. For additional information on the work items, please contact the CMTS Executive Secretariat.