April 27, 2006 | Backgrounder on Department of Homeland Security
In 2003, The Heritage Foundation established the Maritime Security Working Group to examine the maritime security challenges facing the United States. The working group-composed of members of academe, the private sector, research institutions, and government-released a special report detailing threats and gaps in U.S. maritime security and expressing the need for an overarching strategic approach to addressing these shortfalls. In December 2005, the Administration released its National Strategy for Maritime Security. The strategy and its supporting interagency plans reflected many of the Maritime Security Working Group's findings.
This report addresses thenext steps that should be taken.
The most important task in maritime security is to safeguard the flow of global maritime commerce. In this follow-up report, the working group addresses the three most significant enablers to establishing the maritime security regime that the nation needs to protect trade at sea:
This paper summarizes the conclusions of the Maritime Security Working Group's first report and offers findings and recommendations for ensuring that the maritime component of the global supply chain is safe, resilient, and prosperous.
Implementing these measures will require
concerted and integrated effort from Congress and the
Administration, particularly the Departments of Homeland
Security, State, Defense, and Transportation.
Making the Seas Safer
In 2003, the Maritime Security Working Group released a special report, "Making the Seas Safer: A National Agenda for Maritime Security and Counterterrorism." The report explained:
Together these facts make the case for establishing clear and unambiguous priorities for improving maritime security.
The Importance of Maritime Security.The importance of the maritime domain cannot be overestimated. Almost one-third of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is derived from trade, and most of America's overseas trade is transported by ship. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, $1.3 billion worth of U.S. goods moves in and out of U.S. ports every day. In addition, many major urban centers (more than half of the U.S. population) and significant critical infrastructure are in proximity to U.S. ports or are accessible by waterways.
Maritime security also has a critical defense dimension. The vast majority of U.S. military forces and supplies sent overseas transit through U.S. ports. For example, in fiscal year (FY) 2003, the U.S. Military Traffic Management Command (now called the Strategic Distribution and Deployment Command) shipped more than 1.6 million tons of cargo in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. America cannot be prosperous or safe without access to the sea.
During the next 20 years, maritime commerce will likely become an even larger and more important component of the global economy. The main elements of this transformation will probably include continued growth in the seaborne shipment of energy products, further adoption of containerized shipping, and the continued rise of megaports as commercial hubs for transshipment and deliveries.
Barring substantial and unanticipated reductions in the cost of air transport, this trend will persist for the next few decades. Over 10 million containers, which account for 90 percent of goods transported across the seas, entered the United States in 2005. The number of containers entering the U.S. by sea could double by 2010.
Seaborne transport will remain critical to defense as well. Despite the anticipated development of a new generation of long-range global strike aircraft and rapidly deployable future Army combat forces, it is highly unlikely that the U.S. military will be able to sustain a major campaign in the foreseeable future without the capacity to transport significant assets from the continental United States by ship.
Long-Term Threats. The long-term maritime security threats to the United States are:
Wasting Scarce Resources. Efforts that waste scarce security resources on less credible challenges could prove to be just as dangerous as the realistic threats. Since September 11, 2001, some analysts have hyped the possibility of spectacular maritime attacks using nuclear weapons stowed in shipping containers or liquid natural gas tankers blown up in U.S. harbors. The Maritime Security Working Group found these scenarios less plausible or felt that post-9/11 security regimes made them less likely.
Qualifying threats is important. The U.S. simply cannot "child-proof" the entire supply chain, eliminating every conceivable vulnerability and opportunity to attack U.S. interests. Overly fixating on specific threat scenarios can lead to inefficient and ineffective use of resources. One such example is the misguided call by some Members of Congress to inspect every container bound for the United States because one could possibly be used to smuggle a nuclear weapon or a "dirty" bomb (radiological dispersion device) into the country.
Misguided Port Grants and Inspections. To counter the "nuke-in-a-box" threat, some propose spending billions of dollars on container and port security. This argument fails on five counts:
As a matter of common sense, the United States should not attempt to make every cargo container and port into a miniature Fort Knox. Securing trade requires an approach that is more comprehensive and effective than just putting up fences and gates, posting guards at ports, deploying radiation detectors at every entry, and inspecting all cargo containers as they enter the country-approaches that would waste security resources by inspecting things that are unlikely security risks and create isolated, easily bypassed chokepoints to address specific (and unlikely) threats.
The better answer to the nuke-in-a-box scenario as well as the much more credible threats is to increase U.S. efforts to interdict potential dangers before they reach the ports and use the best and broadest possible intelligence available, generated from a combination of commercial information and intelligence. In that regard, security measures should focus on building capabilities that will address a broad range of dangers rather than fixating on a few Tom Clancy-like scenarios.
Closing the real gaps in the U.S. maritime security regime is a good place to start. This means focusing the government on stopping terrorists and criminals and focusing the private sector on sensible, reasonable, transparent, and uniform actions that will enhance the security of the global supply chain.
What Needs to Be Done. The Maritime Security Working Group identified three broad capabilities that are needed:
Finally, the working group argued that
the United States needs an overarching strategy to integrate
its efforts in these key areas.
Yet much more work needs to be done. Addressing all the threats and vulnerabilities in the maritime domain is a daunting task. The Administration's strategy does not sufficiently prioritize the efforts that need to be made. The purpose of this second report is to identify the greatest vulnerability and the critical actions that will best address the weaknesses in the nation's current maritime security regime.
Safeguarding Trade First
Material progress in the 21st century is intimately tied to a system of international commerce and information that traverses the great oceans of the world-a vast global commons. It is the foundation of the world in which we live. The most important task in maritime security is to safeguard the relatively unimpeded flow of global maritime commerce. Ensuring the continuity of commerce and, in the event of a disruption, the rapid recovery of this capability should have the highest priority.
The maritime space for mutual enterprise is an enormous and complex economic domain made up of fishing grounds; telecommunications infrastructure; oil and gas extraction, refining, and distribution; and other global sea-based commerce centered on some 30 to 40 deep-draft megaports with extensive intermodal connections. These global trading hubs serve merchant ships carrying containers and other goods between the regions that produce them and those that consume or use them, including products such as oil and gas; raw materials; grain; break-bulk commodities (e.g., automobiles and palletized cargo); and other manufactures. This transnational and diffuse trading system is owned by the myriad stakeholders involved in such commerce.
No nation benefits more from this global maritime trading system than the United States. On an average day, nearly 700 ships larger than 300 gross tons and carrying goods and passengers approach the U.S. from foreign and domestic ports. In addition, an untold number of vessels penetrate the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone bound for non-U.S. ports and are therefore not required to report to the United States. Expanding the problem to a global perspective, at any given time, there may be 120,000 maritime targets of potential security interest.
Ports can also be tempting targets for terrorists. As points of entry and exit, they are critical nodes that could affect terrorist travel and movement of material support and weapons from foreign points. They are also prime targets for terrorist strikes. The economic, physical, and psychological damage from a significant terrorist attack that targets maritime commerce or exploits America's vulnerability to sea strikes is difficult to estimate. The 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington caused losses of over $100 billion to the U.S economy alone. Given the nation's overwhelming dependence on ocean-going commerce, a similar sudden attack in the maritime domain might exceed these costs.
U.S. ports should not be the only concern. The bulk of U.S. imports are shipped from a handful of foreign megaports. Disruptions in Singapore, Rotterdam, or Hong Kong could have an equally dramatic impact on the United States. Ports present a wide range of targets, depending on their size and location, and U.S. strategy should recognize this. While most of the funding to date has gone to a handful of large intermodal ports, smaller ports may be even more vulnerable to the smuggling of dangerous goods and people.
The stakes are high. A significant breakdown in the maritime transport system would send shockwaves throughout the world economy. In fact, in a worst-case scenario, a large attack could cause the entire global trading system to halt as governments scramble to recover. Drastic and inefficient solutions could be imposed, such as completely closing some ports and requiring duplicative and lengthy cargo checks in both originating and receiving ports.
Trade Security at Sea
The three most significant enablers to establishing the maritime security regime to protect trade at sea are:
Enabler #1: Fully Funding the Coast Guard
Given the multitude of threats and vulnerabilities in the maritime domain, strengthening the assets that address the greatest number of threats and vulnerabilities makes the most sense. The missions of the U.S. Coast Guard touch on virtually every aspect of maritime operations. Ensuring that the Coast Guard has the resources to perform all of its missions should be the highest priority.
The Coast Guard lacks adequate resources. The operational requirements for Coast Guard assets have increased significantly since 9/11. At the same time, tasks requirements have grown to include significant roles in counterterrorism and other homeland security missions.
The strains are showing. Readiness rates of older Coast Guard ships have declined since FY 2000. Equally troubling, the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System-the plan to recapitalize its aging and increasingly worn-down fleet of cutters, patrol boats, and maritime aircraft-has encountered stiff resistance from Congress and the Office of Management and Budget. Indeed, under the current plan, it will take 25 years to complete the recapitalization of U.S. Coast Guard assets.
Efforts to expand maritime domain awareness are inadequate. Most traffic on the global commons is effectively invisible, given current capabilities. This makes detecting, identifying, tracking, and investigating without prior warnings or indications unlikely, if not impossible, in most circumstances. Most national assets are not focused on, accessible to, or configured favorably for maritime surveillance. The National Strategy for Maritime Security sets specific objectives for achieving improved MDA, but it does not explicitly identify which service or agency should coordinate national MDA efforts.
Maritime response and law enforcement capabilities are insufficient. The National Strategy for Maritime Security requires a system that will integrate and align all federal maritime security programs and initiatives into a comprehensive, cohesive, national effort of scalable layered security. However, the strategy does not explicitly indicate the best federal agency to integrate all maritime security programs and initiatives to achieve this layered defense. It instead relies on the principle of "mutual departmental cooperation" (i.e., the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security-more narrowly the Customs and Border Protection, which continues to act as a "Lone Ranger" bureaucratically). After four years, this hortatory device has proven insufficient to overcome bureaucratic and departmental inertia and squabbling.
Furthermore, the Coast Guard, which should be the lead agency in both military and law enforcement responses to maritime security issues, has not developed the law enforcement capacities to address current and emerging threats. Coast Guard personnel normally do only one or two tours in law enforcement assignments before mandatory return to assignments in their primary career field.
The Coast Guard's international role remains undervalued, underutilized, and underresourced. The Coast Guard serves as the lead maritime service in managing programs designed to increase the security of goods shipped to the United States from overseas. For example, through bilateral and multilateral engagements instituted under its new International Port Security (IPS) Program, it is continuing to internationalize the implementation and evaluation process under the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. During the past year, the Coast Guard continued to foster partnerships and build new regional cooperative relationships through international forums such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation group, and the Organization of American States. It also played a strong leadership role through the International Maritime Organization and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. In addition, the Coast Guard plays an important role in training paramilitary maritime police forces to combat terrorists and pirates on the high seas.
While the Coast Guard's international missions are expansive, they are underutilized and underresourced. The International Port Security Program, the only foreign port/country audit done to determine whether security measures are ISPS compliant, has not been aggressively implemented.With only a handful of trained professionals to conduct these audits, the Coast Guard's program lacks credibility.
The National Fleet Policy is inadequate. The National Fleet Policy is a joint U.S. Navy-Coast Guard declaration that calls (1) for using each service's "multi-mission assets, personnel resources and shore Command and Control nodes to optimize our effectiveness across the full spectrum of naval and maritime missions" and (2) for the two services to "work together to plan, acquire and maintain forces that mutually support and complement each service's roles and missions."
The Navy and Coast Guard have failed to implement the National Fleet Policy adequately. For example, one of the eight supporting plans for the National Security Strategy is the Maritime Operational Threat Response Plan (MOTR). However, much work remains to be done to determine the optimal mix of National Fleet assets necessary to respond to the most likely threats and to decide which service or agency has the lead in determining maritime threat responses. Likewise, the National Fleet Policy has emphasized hardware issues (ships, planes, and sensors) and neglected equally important efforts to harmonize operational programs such as intelligence and information analysis, training, and international assistance programs.
Congress and the Administration should:
Enabler #2: Getting the Information
Trying to attend to everything in the world of maritime commerce makes no sense. The goal should be to focus most of the security assets on the most dangerous and suspicious people, activities, and things. This will require more and better information, better analysis, better interagency coordination of related information, and better tactical and strategic use of information. This is the most important job, but it will not be an easy task.
Collection of data on the supply chain presents a Gordian knot involving myriad problems in focus, scope, and efficacy. Both government and the trade-driven commercial world need the right information to better assess the risks posed by global threats. International cooperation is required to ensure that the right kinds of partnerships are fostered across the vast distances of the supply chain to meet such diverse challenges as focusing resources on suspect cargo, containing the need to close seaports after incident or attack, and "rebooting" the infrastructure afterward.
The government is often asking for information from the wrong people. The best information typically comes from the parties that generate the data, are close to the source, or need it for critical decisions. Discussions about the burden of ensuring trade security have centered mostly on the maritime realm, particularly on the role of maritime carriers. However, carriers are only one of nearly 30 components in the supply chain. In a deregulated world, even though they are visible and regulated targets, they have little need to know detailed information about the freight that they carry on board. It is not the carriers' business to maintain the kind of information required for security purposes beyond securing their half of the logistics handoff at pickup and delivery, nor do they have business reasons to maintain the technical expertise to verify their cargoes with certainty.
While we have not ignored the responsibility of manufacturers and retailers to ensure the generation of adequate knowledge about their overseas shipments and the dissemination of that information to the appropriate authorities, the government has been reluctant to regulate these parties in any meaningful way.
Transportation and logistics data tend to be complex and "dirty."Right now, much of the data that are available from parties to the supply chain are raw, not standardized, and unconnected-with a typical overseas trade involving 20-25 parties, 30-40 documents, 200-plus data elements, 90 percent repetitive data reentry, huge error rates, and highly heterogeneous sources and users of data using various means of communication. In other words, one never quite knows what one will get. Electronic systems vary in their utility, sophistication, and penetration among the parties to a trade event. Much of the world (including much of the U.S.) still conducts much of its business with phones, faxes, and e-mail.
Data collection within the transportation network is very difficult. Not only are there myriad different electronic systems and formats, but there also are 500,000 variations of the tracking codes for international port, origin, cargo, and other data categories for the more than 3,000 ports worldwide. Other systems are not even electronic. Yet another problem is "compliance friction," the predictable tensions that occur when a single agency is charged with both gathering anti-terrorism intelligence from supply-chain entities and enforcing compliance by these entities with regulations. In such a setting, the parties required to provide data, even if reassured that they will be protected from regulatory scrutiny, are unlikely ever to cooperate fully.
The leadership role played by the Department of Homeland Security and the maritime industry has been inadequate. Fundamental issues about how best to share information between the government and the private sector have not been addressed adequately. The effectiveness of the Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), which are supposed to facilitate the flow of information between the private sector and the government, has been uneven. In the maritime domain, the ISAC is run by the Coast Guard, a federal agency. That is wrong because ISACs are supposed to represent sector leadership and commitment to establishing effective public-private partnerships. By abdicating responsibility for the ISAC, the private sector has demonstrated a serious lack of commitment.
Freight forwarders and other service providers could be a big part of the solution.Forwarders and other middlemen at the data and operational levels are in a critical control position in overseas supply-chain transactions, but they have not been formally engaged as a significant part of the security process. The middlemen handle the money, goods, and documents involved in a transaction as well as the classification of merchandise. However, historically, they have been at odds with U.S. agencies such as the former U.S. Customs Service and the Federal Maritime Commission, and these "compliance frictions" work against their fuller participation in the security process. Part of the problem has also been that no business model has been proposed for purchasing the middlemen's data, a pool of market information that vastly outstrips government data in both quality and detail.
Congress and the President should:
Enabler #3: Enhancing International Cooperation
Almost nothing can be accomplished to make the seas safer without international support, standardization, and joint effort.
Federal agencies have disparate programs to assist countries in enhancing their maritime security. Various federal agencies conduct port and security assistance programs overseas, and there is often little requirement that the programs be synchronized or integrated. The Department of Homeland Security provides inadequate leadership in international trade security affairs. Congress has yet to create an Under Secretary for Policy to lead in this area, and the department does not have effective and integrated international operations.
In addition, the United States lacks an integrated, interagency approach to addressing regional issues, including many maritime security challenges. The Pentagon has a Unified Command Plan (UCP), which establishes regional military commands, but the current UCP, like previous ones, focuses primarily on planning military operations. As a result, cooperation between the Pentagon and other federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations on regional security operations has been inadequate.
Much if not most of the data, information, and intelligence needed for MDA initiatives is owned by nongovernmental, non-U.S. entities. While many foreign countries have already taken stock of their own maritime security needs and, in some cases, have arrived at programs and procedures that are different from what the United States plans, continued U.S. leadership is necessary to coordinate efforts. Once plans are in place, they become hard to change.