Coast Guard Ready to Meet Security Requirements, Commandant Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 20, 2005 To meet post-Sept. 11 security responsibilities, the United States Coast Guard has crafted and is implementing a transformation policy to ensure America's coastlines and waterways are safe, the Coast Guard's top official said June 17.
In an address to the City Club of Cleveland, Adm. Thomas Collins, Coast Guard commandant, highlighted the changes the Coast Guard already has made and spoke about the need for strong international and interagency partnerships to increase safety while stimulating the economy.
"Because the United States imports, exports, and moves more goods and materials than any other country, it naturally has one of the most extensive marine transportation systems in the world," Collins said. "And securing such an extensive system, while not disrupting its efficient flow, is a challenge."
The Coast Guard's post-Sept. 11 maritime security strategy has three critical elements, Collins said: enhancing awareness of vulnerabilities and threats on the water, creating an effective security regime, and increasing the Coast Guard's presence in the nation's ports and waterways.
The first element is perhaps the most critical, Collins said. The goal is to have complete knowledge of people, cargo and vessels that use America's maritime system, he said. This awareness would be called "Maritime Domain Awareness."
This awareness is important because it would allow the Coast Guard to identify risks and prevent incidents from happening. To achieve this type of awareness, there is a need for the right sensors and tracking systems, the right intelligence architecture, and the ability to globally share information quickly, Collins said. And the Coast Guard is putting together the policies and procedures to get there, he added.
Effectively preventing incidents requires not only awareness of threats, but also an effective security regimen to eliminate them, Collins said. Security standards such as perimeter security, access control, security plans and exercises, and security coordinating forums at the local and national levels need to be implemented, he said.
To anchor this security regimen, Congress passed two critical pieces of legislation in 2002: the Maritime Transportation Security Act and the International Ship and Port Security Code. The MTSA encompasses the domestic effort, while the ISPS focuses on international efforts.
Both of these acts were developed by the Coast Guard proposing standards and giving the maritime industry an opportunity to respond, Collins said. Already they have yielded results, increasing the required time for notice of arrival for foreign vessels and increasing the details required on all major vessels coming into U.S. ports, he said. In further efforts to increase security, the Coast Guard has partnered with the Canadian Coast Guard to promote security and safety in America and Canada's shared waters, Collins said.
The third element of the security strategy is to increase Coast Guard presence, and operational and response capabilities in America's ports and waterways, Collins said. This is key to the Coast Guard's ability to respond to suspected terrorist activities and help in recovery efforts if an attack occurs, he said.
To achieve this element, the Coast Guard is pursuing its largest recapitalization ever -- the "Deepwater System Program." In this program, the Coast Guard will build new communication and sensor systems, three new classes of maritime security cutters, and manned and unmanned aircraft, Collins said.
The Coast Guard has been adapting and will continue to adapt to meet the needs of post-Sept. 11 America, Collins said. The responsibility of protecting the nation's waters is one he does not take lightly, he said, and efforts are being made to contribute to America's security.
"We must and will not fail," Collins said. "The stakes are simply too high. The American people expect our best efforts, and they will get them."