Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Testimony Transportation

Commerce, Science, and Transportation

March 24, 2004 20 min read
Jim Carafano
Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute
James Jay Carafano is a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges.

Statement of Dr. James Jay Carafano Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Mr. Chairman and other distinguished Members, I am honored to testify before the committee today.[1] Appraising the status of national efforts to enhance maritime security is a vitally important task. In my testimony, I would like to assess the progress that has been made in each of the areas related to implementing the national homeland security strategy, examine organizational issues that will affect the long-term development of a national maritime security regime, and reconsider the need for standards and metrics to evaluate preparedness and guide future efforts and investments.

The Challenge-Consequences, Size, and Scope

There are three reasons why the subject of maritime security requires national attention.

  •    First, the importance and vulnerability of the maritime domain cannot be overestimated. As you well know, 95 percent of U.S. overseas trade traffics the maritime domain. In addition, many major population centers and critical infrastructure are in proximity to U.S. ports or accessible by waterways.Maritime security also has a critical national security dimension.[2] The economic, physical, and psychological damage that might result from a significant terrorist attack targeting maritime commerce or exploiting America's vulnerability to strikes from the sea[3] is difficult to estimate. The September 11 terrorist attack on New York incurred well over $100 billion in losses to the U.S economy alone.[4] Given the nation's overwhelming dependence on ocean-going commerce, a similar sudden, unexpected attack in the maritime domain might easily exceed these costs. The United States lacks sufficient means to respond to maritime attacks with catastrophic consequences.
  •    Second, the size of the maritime security challenge is as daunting as the terrible consequences of a serious attack. The figures often citied are well-rehearsed: maritime security involves hundreds of ports, thousands of miles of coastline, tens-of-thousands of commercial and private craft, and millions of shipping containers. Even these figures, however, do not describe the magnitude of the maritime domain, which is truly global in nature, encompassing every ocean and the peoples and property of many nations.[5] Current initiatives, even when fully implemented, may be inadequate to address the global challenges of maritime security.
  •      Third, maritime security is truly a complex strategic problem encompassing a physical domain, land-based critical infrastructure, intermodal means of transportation, and international supply chains that covey goods, services, and passengers. The National Strategy for Homeland Security, issued by the Bush Administration in July 2002, identified six critical mission areas. These areas were established to focus federal efforts on the strategy's objectives of preventing terrorist attacks, reducing America's vulnerabilities to terrorism, and minimizing the damage and recovering from attacks that do occur. The components of maritime security cut across each of these functions.[6]Only a strategic solution can provide the comprehensive regime required to address such a complex strategic problem. The United States still lacks such an adequate, overarching approach to the challenges of maritime security.

While these challenges are indeed daunting, I would like to start off by commending Secretary Ridge and the entire Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the work that has been done over the last year in the area of maritime security. The war on terrorism is likely to be a long, protracted conflict, and the DHS has the difficult task of being on watch right now against possible terrorist threats and building a robust homeland security system that must stand for decades. While the nation's current maritime security regime is inadequate to meet long-term U.S. strategic needs, it represents a significant improvement over the pre-9/11 state of preparedness. The DHS has achieved a lot given the short time frame of its existence and the magnitude of the task it faces. Likewise, Congress has performed yeoman's service as well. The Maritime Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 produced major changes in the nation's approach to maritime security and, I believe, provided much of the legislative foundation required to implement robust national programs. But, there is more work to be accomplished. Rather than dwelling on what has been done well, I believe it is more important to focus on what can be done better.

A Strategic Assessment

One of the most important actions taken by President Bush's administration in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington was establishing a national homeland security strategy. In turn, the strategy defined the six critical missions required to protect U.S. citizens from transnational terrorism. I would like to review each in turn, highlighting where cautions or questions are in order.

Intelligence and Early Warning. The first critical mission area is intelligence and early warning. It includes activities related to detecting terrorists and disseminating threat information and warning. It is widely recognized that promoting intelligence sharing across the public and private sectors is the greatest challenge in this critical mission area. Effective intelligence sharing is a prerequisite for exploiting the full potential of national capabilities to respond to potential terrorist threats.[7] The emerging national maritime system certainly faces this challenge. However, intelligence and early warning in the maritime domain faces an additional obstacle. The United States lacks adequate situational awareness of activities in U.S. coastal waters and waterways. 

While the U.S. Coast Guard recognized the critical importance of maritime domain awareness even before the 9/11 attacks,[8] current plans for enhancing domain have matured little. For example, the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) was established in 1972 to improve navigation safety by organizing the flow of commercial maritime traffic. There are 10 VTS areas scattered throughout the United States. These provide limited coverage of the maritime domain. In 1996, Congress required the Coast Guard to reassess future VTS requirements. This initiative resulted in the development of thePorts and Waterways Safety System (PAWSS), which is now in the process of being employed. MTSA requires most large commercial craft and vessels on international voyages to have Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking devices that will be monitored by PAWSS. PAWSS-VTS is intended to automatically collect, process, and disseminate information on the movement and location of ships in ports and on waterways using a network of radars and onboard ship transponders.

Unlike the U.S. air traffic control system, PAWSS-VTS will never be able to provide a complete picture of traffic in the maritime domain. PAWSS-VTS faces three major drawbacks. First, it will not be a national system. According to a report by the General Accounting Office, as currently envisioned, "for the foreseeable future, the system will be available in less than half of the 25 busiest U.S. ports."[9] Second, PAWSS-VTS was intended to support maritime safety and environmental protection missions, and has been pressed into service to support homeland security responsibilities. In this regard, PAWSS-VTS will be inadequate to meet emerging security threats. It will, for example, be of virtually no use in providing early warning of small boat threats such as the craft used to attack the USS Cole in October 2000 or large commercial vessels that might be hijacked or converted into covert weapons carriers. Third, PAWSS-VTS does not provide coverage "between the ports." Terrorists could well mimic tactics of drug smugglers and employ non-commercial vehicles such as small, fast, private boats with concealed compartments capable of storing 30-70 kilograms of material.[10]

Currently, the DHS has only two, very expensive and unattractive options for significantly expanding maritime domain awareness. It can direct additional investments in the land-based equipment and other infrastructures required to expand PAWSS-VTS and require additional craft to carry AIS tracking equipment, or it can rely on the surface and aviation assets of the U.S. armed forces (including the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy) to cover the large remaining gaps. Neither option appears particularly cost-effective nor sufficiently useful or flexible to ensure preparedness in a protracted conflict against an unpredictable foe.

Proposals to create a maritime-NORAD, might offer the basis for developing more practical alternatives.[11] Such an approach would probably require three elements to produce more promising alternatives to the long-term challenge of enhancing maritime domain awareness: (1) joint cooperation between the Department of Defense (DOD) and the DHS both in research and development and operational monitoring of U.S. waters, (2) close cooperation of the United States' northern and southern neighbors, (3) new and innovative technical solutions.

Border and Transportation Security. Protecting border and transportation systems includes managing the border and ports of entry, ensuring aviation and maritime security, and developing guidelines and programs for protecting national transportation systems. The key principle guiding federal investments in this area should be ensuring the adoption of a layered security system: a combination of effective, mutually supporting initiatives that simultaneously provide useful counterterrorism measures, protect civil liberties, and do not encumber the flow of travel and commerce.

Unlike many strategic challenges, overall, adequacy of resources for implementing new initiatives is not the most significant challenge in this critical mission area. Funding for the DHS role in one layer of the maritime component of border and transportation security, however, is an issue of major concern. In particular, the appropriation for the U.S. Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater acquisition program- long-term modernization effort to recapitalize the service's fleet of cutters, aircraft, sensors, and command and control-is inadequate.

The Coast Guard's fleet is old, expensive to operate and maintain, and poorly suited for some homeland security missions.[12] Deepwater was to be funded at $330 million (in 1998 dollars) in the first year and $530 million (in constant dollars) per year in the following budgets, but no annual budget before FY 2004 matched the required rate of investment. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard's increased operational tempo and expanded mission requirements since 9/11 have been wearing out the fleet faster than anticipated, putting the modernization program even farther behind schedule.

In the Administration's FY 2005 budget, Deepwater would receive $678 million, an increase of $10 million.[13] This level of funding is totally inadequate to support rapidly building up an essential component of the nation's homeland security system. Dramatically increasing the budget for Deepwater would not only establish the capabilities needed for a long-term security system sooner, but also garner significant savings (perhaps as much as $4 billion) in lower procurement costs.[14] Reducing life-cycle expenses by retiring older and less capable systems would realize additional savings.

While funding should be expanded there are aspects of the Deepwater program that should perhaps be revisited in light of how the U.S. maritime security structure has evolved since September 11. Among the issues that might be reconsidered is whether coordination of requirements and leveraging of research and development between the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy's littoral combat ship (LCS) program is adequate and properly synchronized.[15] Likewise, both programs should be assessed to see if they provide an adequate set of capabilities to respond to the small boat threat. Currently, the United States simply lacks an adequate capability to deal with an attack similar to the strike on the USS Cole (In particular, it is unclear if they have sufficiently exploited emerging non-lethal technologies that might be available). Additionally, it is not clear that short-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and manned aviation requirements of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Air and Maritime Operations have been adequately rationalized.[16]

Another issue that might be addressed is the requirement for Deepwater systems to provide security on the waterside of the ports. Most security plans acknowledge that security on the landside of port facilities is the responsibility of the port. There is often, however, an assumption that security of the water around the port should be the responsibility of the U.S. Coast Guard. While the Coast Guard has traditionally had responsibility for protecting defense-related port facilities, particularly during times of war, it is not clear that service assets should be the primary responders to security incidents in proximity to the ports. Over the long term, it might be more effective if close-in security needs are met by local port authorities[17] and Deepwater assets were focused to an even greater degree on extending depth and redundancy in the U.S. maritime security zone.

In contrast to funding for Deepwater, other initiatives in the border and transportation area are programmed to receive significant additional funding. However, of concern here is whether, even with adequate funding, they will provide the redundancy and overlapping security required for an effective layered defense system. Of principal concern are the initiatives intended to secure the supply chain that crosses the maritime domain including the CSI-Container Security Initiative (a program designed to target high-risk cargo for additional screening); CTPAT-the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (an initiative for encouraging the private sector to enhance supply-chain security); ACE-the Automated Commercial Environment (which will facilitate Customs oversight of lawful international commerce by streamlining data entry and information exchange between Customs and the trade community and facilitate cargo inspections and clearances); the inspection teams and technologies employed in domestic and foreign ports to screen high-risk cargo; and the shipping and port security measures mandated in MTSA and the International Maritime Organization's International Shipping and Port Security Standards (ISPS). While all these initiatives are worthwhile, each addresses only a portion of the challenge of providing security of maritime commerce and interdicting terrorist threats before they reach their intended targets. We will only know if they actually provide comprehensive security once they are all up and running in concert and appropriate metrics are developed to measure their effectiveness. This effort will take years and in the end may not prove effective. Nor is it clear these initiatives will be flexible enough to keep with the rapid changes demands and technological innovations of the 21st century marketplace.

It may not be 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 MTSA required the Secretary of Transportation to establish a program to evaluate and certify secure systems of intermodal transportation. It did not direct that these programs would have to necessarily be conceived or implemented by the federal government. In order to reduce risk, as well as exploit the capacity of the marketplace to create innovative and effective solutions, the DHS might consider establishing mechanisms to allow the private sector to develop and implement its own alternatives to the CSI/CTPAT regime.

Domestic Counterterrorism. This mission area comprises law enforcement efforts-principally by the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-to identify, thwart, and prosecute terrorists. The guiding principle for enhancing this critical mission area should be adopting programs that expand the capacity to conduct counterterrorism operations without impinging on civil liberties or detracting from other law enforcement priorities.

The addition of the U.S. Coast Guard to the DHS provides another additional tool for expanding the nation's capacity to conduct domestic counterterrorism in the maritime domain. Several initiatives are noteworthy. Since 9/11, many of the local investigation and inspections arms of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Offices have significantly shifted their focus to supporting domestic counterterrorism efforts. In addition, the Coast Guard created the sea marshals program to create a cadre of specially trained law enforcement officers to escort high-risk vessels into port.

While the Coast Guard law enforcement initiatives are a positive effort, there is little sign that the service is creating a comprehensive human capital plan, including the leader development training and education that are needed to fully exploit the potential of these programs. Likewise, it is not clear that Coast Guard and ICE law enforcements programs are being developed in tandem to create the objective law enforcement corps needed for maritime security. In fact, it is not apparent that the DHS has defined its long-term strategic needs in this area and that they dovetail with other ongoing federal and state efforts to expand the national capacity to conduct domestic counterterrorism.

Defending Against Catastrophic Threats. This critical mission area includes developing better sensors and procedures to detect smuggled nuclear, radiological, chemical, and biological weapons; improve decontamination and medical responses to such weapons; and harness scientific knowledge and tools for counterterrorism efforts. The guiding principle for investments in this mission area must be to focus funding on developing new means to prevent, respond to, and mitigate the unprecedented dangers posed by catastrophic threats.

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate is to be commended for developing mission portfolios to address the most critical technology needs for the DHS.[18] On the other hand, it is unclear whether the DHS portfolios, which has not yet been publicly released, adequately reflect the needs of maritime security. Nor has the directorate forged a relationship with the science and technology community in the DOD that can conduct the joint development and acquisition of major programs that might benefit both the defense and homeland security community.

In addition, greater consolidation of research and development efforts in regards to supply-chain security is required. For example, the Administration proposes to phase out Operation Safe Commerce in FY 2005. Launched in November 2002, the program was in-tended to use pilot projects in the ports of Seattle-Tacoma, Los Angeles-Long Beach, and New York-New Jersey to test technologies and practices, including cargo tracking, anti-tampering "Smart Containers," information protection, and real-time data reporting.[19] However, it has shown only limited results, and the research and development effort could be performed better and more efficiently under a development program in the DHS Science and Technology Directorate.

As the DHS consolidates these programs in the directorate it should reevaluate whether they are consistent with the department's research priorities. It is not clear, for example, that "Smart Containers" are a worthwhile program for federal research. Any solution to implement smart containers should come from the private sector, which is in a better position to evaluate the utility of added security information as measured against the added cost. The DHS effort in this area might be more profitably focused on leveraging the security that might be provided by new commercial products and practices rather than developing and mandating standards and technologies to the marketplace.

Protecting Critical Infrastructure and Key Assets. This critical mission area includes national efforts to secure public and private entities. Since virtually all of the nation's critical maritime infrastructure and key assets are not federally owned, developing programs to ensure responsible, efficient, and cost-effective cooperation between the public and private sectors should be the principle guiding investments in this area.

Making the challenges of critical infrastructure protection in the maritime domain particularly pressing is that U.S. ports must comply with new security provisions detailed in MTSA and ISPS. However, in developing a funding strategy to improve port security, the Administration should not become overly "port-centric." Addressing all the critical infrastructure concerns at U.S. ports could well require many billions of dollars.[20] On the other hand, the DHS awarded only $245 million in port grants in FY 2003 (albeit the largest amount of any year to date). According to an unpublished analysis by Dr. Joe Bouchard, implementing MTSA at current funding levels (about $50 million a year) would take 112-162 years.

Yet, the current restraint in federal funding may be very appropriate. Addressing the considerable vulnerabilities of maritime infrastructure does not necessarily require a dramatic infusion of federal dollars. For example, effective intelligence and early warning, domestic counterterrorism, and border and transportation security programs can help to reduce risks to critical infrastructure by limiting the opportunities for terrorists to reach U.S. ports. With limited resources available in the federal homeland security budget, it is not apparent why a multi-billion-dollar port security initiative would be a superior strategic choice to a more balanced maritime security program.

In addition, the overwhelming preponderance of maritime infrastructure is in private hands. It is not clear that full-federal funding would be either appropriate or sustainable. Excessive funding would more likely create a condition of dependency with security declining as soon as the infusion of federal dollars ended. Initiatives that enable and encourage the private sector to take a more expansive and proactive role should be central to any protection program.

Federal port grants should used sparingly, as a tool to promote appropriate public-private sector solutions. More important than simply spending more money to help facilitate the development of maritime security programs, the federal government should help create a predictable business environment with (1) multi-year authorizations so that states, local governments, and the private sector would have a clear grasp of what funds will be available over the long term; (2) national performance standards so that they know what the federal government expects state and local governments and the private sector to contribute to critical infrastructure protection; and (3) a clear system of national priorities so that the preponderance of federal investments support the most critical strategic needs.

Emergency Preparedness and Response.This critical mission area includes preparing for, responding to, and mitigating the effects of terrorist attacks. The overarching principle that must guide funding is that federal resources should be used to assist in creating a true national preparedness system, not merely to supplement the needs of state and local governments.

Currently, the major challenges affecting an effective response to a maritime incident are the same as those affecting other types of domestic emergencies: interagency coordination, organization and communications, and convergence.[21] Establishing unity of effort is central to addressing all of these concerns.

The Coast Guard should be commended for its announcement in January 2004 to consolidate all its regional activities under sector commands, so that captains of the port will have all the assets available to support maritime security under their control. This initiative, however, does not ensure proper unity of effort at the port. In many ports, the Coast Guard, ICE, and port authorities, each with critical specific duties and authorities in regard to port security, have their command posts in different facilities, undercutting efforts to ensure effective integration of their efforts in times of crisis. The DHS should review the requirements for command and control at the ports and determine the needs for unified command posts, redundant command facilities, and virtually integrated command posts to ensure unity of effort for emergency response.

It may also be worth reviewing whether national plans are adequate to deal with the consequences of catastrophic or multiple attacks on geographically disparate maritime targets.[22] For example, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration halted all civilian aviation. In the aftermath of a maritime attack, similar concerns might call a halt to U.S. maritime traffic. In this event, mechanisms to rapidly reestablish confidence in the supply chain and resume the flow of commerce in order to minimize economic disruption and restore public confidence will be vital. If adequate public/private sector plans do not exist to address such contingencies, they must be rapidly developed.

Organizational Issues

While the issues raised in each of the critical mission areas deserve attention, together they still do not address the core issue of how well the nation is doing in preparing a maritime security system that will protect us during a protracted conflict against threats that will surely change and evolve to test the defenses we throw up to frustrate them.

We will not be able to depend on the terrorists to provide us measures of success. The fact that al-Qaeda operatives took five to seven years to plan and execute the September 11 terrorist strikes is a cause for concern. It could well be a half-dozen years before the DHS faces its first great test.

For now our metrics of success must rely on measuring our capacity to implement strategy. The first task should be revisit the basic organization and missions of the DHS. Here a lesson from the Cold War is instructive. The National Security of Act of 1947 created what became the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency, the nation's two premier weapons for defending against the Russian bear. Yet, it soon became apparent that in the enabling legislation neither organization had been crafted perfectly to match the nation's emerging strategy of containment. Two years later it was necessary for the Congress to revisit the organization and missions of the departments. At the same time, some of the most difficult and obvious challenges, such as how to promote jointness (operations involving more than one of the military services), were ignored. As a result, organizations and practices became institutionalized, and it took over 40 years to resolve some of the obstacles to effective operations.[23]

Congress can help the DHS avoid a similar fate if it begins now to assess how well the department is organized to implement the emerging national strategic priorities. One area that should be addressed is assigning responsibility for directing national maritime strategy. Clearly, emerging strategic requirements call for an integrated system of layered security initiatives. Yet, there is no single over arching strategic concepts that defines how ongoing initiatives will be forged into a coherent system or makes the hard choices for prioritizing scarce resources. In part, the lack of unifying maritime strategy is understandable-four major organizations play prominent roles (DOD, and within the DHS, the Coast Guard, ICE, and the TSA-Transportation Security Agency) and arguably their roles and missions overlap. Congress might profitably look at the prospects for consolidating missions, assigning one entity within the DHS the role of providing overall strategic planning and operational control of maritime security and responsibility for coordinating with DOD. At the same time, Congress might revisit the regulatory functions of the components in the DHS to see if the Departments of Transportation or Commerce might more appropriately perform them, allowing the DHS to focus more of its resources on homeland security. Finally, a crosswalk needs to be performed between the performance metrics established by each agency for measuring progress to ensure that they are integrated and complimentary.

Another area that deserves further attention is an examination of how we will train the next generation of leaders that will be responsible for implementing the future national maritime security system. Currently, the nation lacks an overall homeland security training and education strategy. Training is not only essential to prepare leaders for the difficult and complex decisions they will face in a crisis, but also to evaluate readiness, determine the effectiveness of programs, and identify needed improvements. Meanwhile, education is critical in preparing leaders to respond to long-term challenges.

The advanced degree program offered by the DHS through the U.S. Naval Post-Graduate School is one admirable initiative, but it is not enough. Other professional development opportunities for emerging senior leaders are also needed. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, conducts a program called Seminar XXI for the federal government. Seminar XXI provides a year-long series of lectures and workshops for mid-grade professionals on international affairs. A similar program targeted on homeland security might be equally useful. In the same manner, the national community might benefit from the establishment of a national homeland security university modeled on the military's war college system.

Finally, any national leader development effort will have to include a plethora of state and local leaders and private sector leaders. The nation's network of junior colleges, which have become the hub of continuing adult education throughout the country, may provide the best venue for offering appropriate leader development opportunities.

Congress might consider guiding the DHS training and education effort by creating mandatory training, education, and experience requirements similar to the provisions established in the Goldwater-Nichols Act to foster jointness among the military services.

Over the long term, the capacity of the national maritime security system to exploit the initiatives currently being put in place will be more dependent on the quality of the decisions made by its leaders and the programs they implement than on the structure of the system itself. The nation would be well served if we gave equal attention to both sides of the equation.

I, again, thank the committee for the opportunity to testify on this vital subject and I look forward to your comments and questions.


Jim Carafano
James Carafano

Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute