11. The United States Maritime Commission
In 1936 Congress passed and Roosevelt signed into law the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, which created the United States Maritime Commission. FDR was interested in improving and modernizing America’s shipping industry, and his experience as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War One, when Kennedy had worked at Fore River Shipyard, impelled him to appoint Kennedy to the post of Chairman. The commission was established to monitor and modernize shipping and warehouse facilities in ports, shipyards, and their support facilities. The commission was also tasked with modernizing regulations and practices. Kennedy accepted the post.
One of the features of the Maritime Commission, included as part of the Second New Deal, was the authority to design and build 500 new ships, of several designs, over a period of ten years. Oilers, tankers, cargo ships, and passenger liners were all included, one of them being the transoceanic steamer SS America, which served in that capacity before being converted to a troopship during World War II. Both the US Navy and the US Merchant Marine were favorites of Roosevelt, who gave them his special attention, and his appointment of the post of Chairman was an indication of just how far Kennedy had risen in the president’s esteem over the course of his first term.