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9/26/2005
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Maritime Security: More Questions Than Answers

The United States has traditionally seen the seas as an open highway for commerce and immigration. Of course, these waterways are also used to smuggle contraband and, more recently, have the potential to become an avenue for a terrorist attack. The shadowy nature of terrorism turns conventional national defense strategies on their ear.

The United States has traditionally seen the seas as an open highway for commerce and immigration. Of course, these waterways are also used to smuggle contraband and, more recently, have the potential to become an avenue for a terrorist attack. The shadowy nature of terrorism turns conventional national defense strategies on their ear.

"It's the type of war that relies on suicide bombings and mass killings of civilians," James Woolsey, a Booz Allen VP and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said Tuesday in New York during his Maritime Security Conference presentation. "We are no longer in the business of opposing enemy battle fleets."

As a result, the U.S. military has had to view the terrorist threat in a different light. The Coast Guard, for example, has developed four pillars of maritime security: creating maritime domain awareness, building a nationwide maritime security regime, increasing operational awareness, and enhancing the country's response posture. Of these four, maritime domain awareness "is the most critical element of our maritime security strategy," Adm. Thomas Collins, U.S. Coast Guard commandant, said Tuesday during his Maritime Security Conference keynote. "MDA seeks knowledge of what's moving in and around our waters. And, quite frankly, we have gaps in this area."

These gaps include the ability to gather maritime domain awareness of vessels--including fishing, recreational, and commuter ferryboats--that don't have to provide documentation of their whereabouts or cargo. "You also need to classify risks so that you can target your efforts," Collins said.

Overall, however, the looming threat of a terrorist disruption to the shipping industry or interior supply chain has not impeded commerce. "For the vast majority of vessels coming into our ports, it's business as usual," Collins said, adding that only about 1% of ships doing commerce in U.S. ports has been ordered out of port over the past few years.

"Our nation needs the right tools to mitigate risk, and this means prudent investment in security systems," Collins said, adding that he knows the challenges of keeping an infrastructure up to date. "I have several ships that are old enough to collect Social Security."

This was a blog entry posted by Larry Greenemeier on Sept. 20, 2005 at 4:25 PM.

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