AMU Homeland Security Intelligence Opinion Terrorism

Coast Guard Is Essential to Meet the Challenges and Threats to U.S. Maritime Security

By Shelley Smith

Photo by PA2 Sara Francis/courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

From Homeland Security the American Forces Press Service article Coast Guard Essential to Victory Against Terrorism, May 21, 2008, by Gerry J. Gilmore, denotes Vice President Cheney speaking to members of the Class of 2008, at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. “The Coast Guard will be essential to the fight, and the Coast Guard will be essential to victory against terrorism.” Cheney said. “In its five years as part of DHS, the Coast Guard has undertaken the largest commitment at port security operation since the Second World War.”

The U.S. Coast Guard as part of Homeland Security has broad responsibilities along with other agencies for safeguarding the U.S. maritime domain and whose multi-mission functions are defined as; maritime safety and mobility, national defense, law enforcement, environmental protection, and humanitarian response.

However, while achieving great strides in some areas, the United States Coast Guard 2008 Budget in Brief and Performance Report issued February, 2007, exhibited the Coast Guard did not meet its target of 100 percent defense readiness last year. This was attributed to declining defense readiness targets among; major cutters, PSU readiness was below standard, SORTS5 readiness, full training readiness, and staffing shortages.

But, even though there is not full readiness in place in some areas, before the terrorism attack of 9/11, a good example of Coast Guard crew’s resilience and efforts in the battle against transnational crime, is demonstrated by a past and personal experience during 1989, as denoted by Anthony M. Davis, author of the recent book Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System.

“Back in ’89 I was onboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau. We were doing an Alaskan Fisheries Patrol in the Bering Sea when we were brought in to take down the “Red Fin”, a Taiwanese fishing boat attempting to set up an illegal fishing scheme where they would pay $1 million. The problem for them was that they paid the cash to undercover agents.” This event was further published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer,

A report prepared by the Office of Naval Intelligence, Threats and Challenges to Maritime Security 2020, March 1, 1999, describes an increase in growth and interdependence among states, increased economic integration of nations, and population growth that will increase maritime activities and a substantial increase in illegal and illicit activities. With the oceans being a primary source for food, transportation, and energy, there will be an increase in need for regulations among the nations and international cooperation of fisheries management and other to protect the seas and oceans to be able to defuse conflicts that may arise.

The United States is a coastal nation state and illicit drug and other types of criminal trafficking have been a constant that are projected to continue into the future. Container shipping, density of shipments, and regional transportation systems are being taken advantage of as criminals and terrorists devise new methods of using the system to further spread and speedup their illicit products and to continue to facilitate money laundering activities. As violence and open conflicts continues, so will the desire, demand, and competition for small and large arms.

Despite law enforcement and Coast Guard growing capabilities, illicit drug and weapons trafficking will continue into the future. However, the Coast Guard gained an advantage by being able to increase vessel inspections of towing vessels and barges by way of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2004. It provides authority to the Coast Guard to establish regulations and standards, increasing the vessels subject to Coast Guard inspection by 40 percent.

One of the many hats worn by Davis had been as Chief of Intelligence with the Coast Guard in Mobile, AL. He expressed the importance of citizen involvement during a radio interview with a nationally-syndicated radio program. “The common citizen out there, they know the area, they know the waterways, they know when something is awry and they can report it”, he said.

With so many stakeholders; state, local and federal officials, merchant mariners, offshore industry personnel, ferry operators, recreational boaters, sport and commercial fishers and other, the Coast Guard have conducted outreach programs to contact, educate and distribute literature to millions of people. They have educated and made the public aware of invasive species that can create tremendous damage to U.S. agriculture, forests, and the marine environment through shipping volume and trade. They have responded and proved effective during natural and environmental disasters.

However, even if the number of incidents and volume of waste dumping in the ocean and other marine environments becomes more strictly regulated, catching dumping violators will continue to remain another enforcement challenge until the public becomes more involved in reporting these and other acts as national security watchers to help safeguard the nation that they cohabitant and reside in.

About the Author

Shelley Smith is an expert in analysis and research on varied national and international issues, homeland security, terrorism and counterterrorism, law enforcement, criminal justice systems, and other. Smith has an A.S. in Criminal Justice with Honors and a B.A in Intelligence Studies. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Intelligence Studies Capstone with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies at American Military University.

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