Securing the High Seas: America's Global Maritime Constabulary Power
This is the third in a series of reports on maritime security
prepared by The Heritage Foundation's Maritime Security Working
Group. This report addresses how to provide operational
recommendations to the group's previous proposals while making
the case that the United States, with its regional allies, must
develop the capacity to exercise "global maritime constabulary
Specifically, this report:
- Defines global maritime constabulary
- Identifies the roles and missions that are
related to global maritime constabulary power;
- Describes the role of friendly and allied
- Suggests how the private sector can and should
- Recommends a division of responsibilities for
maritime constabulary duties between the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast
- Identifies the budgetary, regulatory, and
legislative implications of the recommendations.
The Heritage Foundation's Maritime Security Working Group was
tasked to produce cutting-edge policy recommendations for
making the seas safer for the United States, its friends and
allies, and global commerce. In its previous two reports, the
group-composed of representatives from academia, the private
sector, research institutions, and government-addressed some of the
most pressing issues confronting maritime security.
In 2005, in its first report, "Making the Sea Safer: A National
Agenda for Maritime Security and Counterterrorism," the
group outlined the future threats to and gaps in U.S. maritime
security. Rather than focus on episodic, short-term issues like
inspecting containers, the group offered a broader and more
thoughtful assessment of the maritime challenges facing the
United States, including:
- Dependence on maritime trade. Maritime
commerce will be an increasingly important component of the global
economy. Modern maritime commerce is generally defined by large,
containerized shipping moving through megaports, which form the
backbone of just-in-time international trade.
- The economic impact of security in the developing
world. Developing countries may find it increasingly
difficult to meet the demands of international security regimes for
trade and travel. If this occurs, these relatively weaker economies
may become less competitive in global markets.
- Undersea infrastructure. Undersea critical
infrastructure, such as oil and gas pumping stations and
telecommunications cables, are fast becoming an increasingly
important part of the global economy.
- The potential for standoff attacks from sea.
State and non-state actors will be capable of attacking the U.S.
from their own territorial waters using unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs), short-range ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles,
possibly armed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The group
also recognized that terrorists could use small boats packed
with explosives, as was done in the attack on the USS
Cole, and employ floating improvised explosive devices
(IEDs) or naval mines against commercial shipping in U.S. waters
and overseas ports.
- The lack of visibility in noncommercial maritime
activity. Currently, the United States lacks
sufficient means to monitor maritime activity. Terrorists
could exploit this failing in many ways, such as by using naval
mines and other means to launch underwater attacks and using
private craft to smuggle small payloads into the U.S. outside of
ports and to attack targets in U.S. waters.
- Maritime criminal activity. Piracy, human
trafficking, and drug and arms smuggling will continue.
Terrorists could mimic or partner with criminal
- Internal threats from rogue actors and landside
attacks. The greatest vulnerability to maritime
infrastructure may be internal threats. These include
disgruntled employees who have an intimate knowledge of
operations and facilities with access to transportation and port
- The maritime domain as a target and facilitator of
threats against the environment. Opportunities for the
spread of infectious disease and other environmental threats
carried by seaborne traffic will increase as maritime commerce
- Anti-access strategies. An enemy might attack
vulnerable targets on U.S. territory as a means to coerce, deter,
or defeat the United States.
Overall, the report argued for a comprehensive, strategic
approach to making the seas safer, rejecting simplistic security
proposals that focus on inspecting containers and handing out
federal port security grants.
In 2006, the working group's second report, "Trade Security at
Sea: Setting National Priorities for Safeguarding America's
Economic Lifeline," made the case that, based on the nature of
existing and emerging threats, the United States' highest priority
in maritime security should be ensuring the resiliency of global
maritime commerce, thereby ensuring unimpeded trade and travel,
regardless of what terrorists might attempt in the maritime
environment. In order to protect maritime trade, the working group
focused on three essential enablers:
- Expanding the capabilities of the U.S. Coast
Guard by fully funding Coast Guard modernization and ensuring that
the service has the resources to perform all of its missions,
- Improving the sharing and use of commercial
- Enhancing international cooperation.
This report looks in greater detail at providing the enforcement
tools for making the seas safer. The principal recommendations
- Doubling the U.S. Coast Guard's active and
reserve end strength over the next decade and accelerating Coast
- Expanding the Navy's stated goal of 313 ships
by an additional 37 ships (the preponderance of which should be
nuclear powered, including additional nuclear-powered submarines)
and focusing Navy operations more on sea control and assured access
and less on maritime engagement and security missions; and
- Establishing a Common Maritime Security Fleet
Fund to bolster modernization.
Download Entire Report