Making the Sea Safer: A National Agenda for Maritime Security and Counterterrorism
Protecting maritime commerce from attack or exploitation by
terrorists is critical to the future security of the United States.
To address this challenge, the Heritage Foundation conducted a
year-long project examining the foreign policy, economic, and
defense implications of this issue. Our research suggests five
critical proposals that must be on the agenda of the Bush
Administration and Congress. These initiatives are essential to
creating the kind of maritime security the nation will need in
the decades ahead.
Facing the Future
We cannot overestimate the importance and vulnerability of the
maritime domain. Approximately 95 percent (by volume) of U.S.
overseas trade transits the maritime domain. In addition, many
major population centers and critical infrastructures are in close
proximity to U.S. ports or are accessible by waterways. To address
this issue, the Heritage Foundation convened a Maritime Security
Working Group consisting of experts from Congress, government,
research institutions, and the private sector. In a series of
seminars during the last year, this group discussed and debated the
key policy, technology, economic, defense, and legislative factors
that might shape the future of the maritime security environment
and affect U.S. interests around the world. Proceedings from the
working group served as the basis for developing our
recommendations for national maritime security priorities. In the
next years, we believe Congress and the Administration must:
Create a Maritime Security Strategy. Much like the
national security strategy, Congress should require the President
to publish a broad and comprehensive maritime security strategy.
The strategy should be updated every four years. At a minimum, the
strategy must address: (1) promoting key initiatives such as
maritime domain awareness programs; (2) improving the defense of
U.S. waters; (3) enhancing international cooperation; and (4)
ensuring economic competitiveness and free trade.
Increase Coast Guard Funding for the Deepwater Program to
$1.5 Billion.Getting the "biggest bang for the buck" is a
worthwhile criterion for guiding spending decisions. In the realm
of maritime security that translates to fully funding the needs of
the Coast Guard, whose range of missions touch virtually every
aspect of protecting the maritime domain against terrorist attacks.
The current funding level for Coast Guard modernization is totally
inadequate. Doubling the annual budget for Deepwater-the service's
primary acquisition program-would not only establish more quickly
the capabilities needed for a long-term security system, but would
also garner significant savings in lower procurement costs.
Reducing life-cycle expenses by retiring older and less capable
systems would realize additional savings. Funding for the
increases should come from cuts in less essential programs, such as
port security grants.
Develop the Right Mix of Coast Guard and Defense Assets for
Homeland Security. Gaps between the resources and capabilities
of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of
Defense must be eliminated. In particular, the Navy must develop
additional means to conduct wide-area surveillance in the maritime
domain and counter sea-based missile and small boat threats. These
naval capabilities might well be "dual use," with force structures,
doctrine, and acquisition programs that could support domestic
security and overseas theater security, as well as
sea-line-of-communication protection. This might be done by
restructuring the Littoral Combat Ship program to support both
theater missions and working with the Coast Guard to protect
the homeland, as well as expanding requirements for the U.S.
Northern Command to oversee maritime security.
Develop Public-Private Partnership Contingency
Plans.Although the Department of Homeland Security has programs
underway-such as the Container Security Initiative-to engage the
private sector in combating terrorism, they may not be
sufficient. Indeed, it is not strategically prudent to pursue the
current combination of measures alone. Layered security, after all,
requires not placing all the eggs in "one security basket." The
Maritime Transportation Security Act required the establishment of
a program to evaluate and certify secure systems of intermodal
transportation. This has not been done. DHS should undertake this
effort, and in doing so, it should not necessarily assume that
solutions be conceived or implemented by the federal
In order to reduce risk, as well as exploit the capacity of the
marketplace to create innovative and effective solutions, DHS
must consider establishing mechanisms to allow the private sector
to develop and implement its own alternatives, including developing
contingency plans that might be implemented in response to higher
threat levels or in the event of certain events, such as a
terrorist attack against a port.
Improve Engagement with the Developing World.The
national security strategy rightly calls for encouraging economic
development through free markets and free trade and enhancing the
capacity of developing nations to compete in a global economy.
Concurrently, however, the United States is also rightly promoting
international security regimes designed to prevent terrorists from
attacking or exploiting global trade networks. Meeting these
requirements is difficult for developing countries that lack mature
infrastructure, robust human capital programs, and adequate
Today, many of these countries are not major trading partners with
the United States. Unless they determine how to meet emerging
international measures to combat terrorism, they never will be. The
United States can assist in this process by encouraging emerging
economies to participate in development programs such as the
Millennium Challenge Accounts. At the same time, the United States
should expand technical assistance initiatives to focus on security
programs and create one-stop shops for security assistance and
The challenges for maritime security are complex and growing.
Addressing vulnerabilities, ensuring access to the maritime domain,
and maintaining economic competitiveness while protecting U.S.
interests from sea-based attacks will be no easy task. The
strategic nature of the challenge requires a strategic response.
The next steps in that response must include drafting a strategy,
providing adequate resources to the Coast Guard, building a
companion capability in the Department of Defense, and engaging the
private sector and the developing world.
the Sea Safer: A National Agenda for Maritime Security and
Counterterrorism (PDF) - by James Jay Carafano,
Ph.D., and Alane Kochems