May 1, 2008 | News Releases on Department of Homeland Security

Heritage Panel's Report Explains How to Protect Freedom Of the Seas

WASHINGTON, MARCH, 2008-The threats to American national security have changed in recent years, so our military approach must change as well. A major new report from The Heritage Foundation explains how the United States can best protect its interests on the high seas.

"In this era of international terrorists, narcotics traffickers and sophisticated transnational criminals, either the world's navies and coast guards will command the high seas or non-state actors will exploit the power vacuum for unlawful purposes," warns the Maritime Security Working Group, a panel of experts convened by Heritage.

The working group recommends the U.S. Coast Guard play a larger role. "In previous wars, the Coast Guard operated under Navy command and control," its report notes. "However, for homeland security and global maritime constabulary missions, the Navy augments the Coast Guard."

This doesn't mean the Navy will go away. But, the experts warn, it should focus on its war fighting mission instead of attempting to police the high seas. The Coast Guard, for its part, should be the lead organization when it comes to helping our allies protect their shores, since it already has the most experience with those missions.

Meanwhile, the two branches of the service should develop better ways of sharing equipment and information, the panel finds. As the Navy and Coast Guard purchase new ships and equipment, they should make sure it can be operated by either service.

And our government should make funding the Coast Guard a priority. Too often it "loses funding battles in the administration and Congress when competing against more politically popular homeland security programs," the experts write.

Lawmakers should also refrain from passing counterproductive laws, the report says. "In 2007 Congress mandated 100 percent container screening of incoming cargo," the experts write. "This promises to increase the cost of doing business significantly, while adding little real security value." The panel encourages lawmakers to replace that law with policies that would encourage international cooperation and information sharing.

Finally, it's critical that the U.S. build alliances with other countries and with private businesses. Both nations and companies benefit from a secure maritime environment, the experts point out. Strong partnerships can help ensure that the high seas remain safe and free.

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