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MaritiMe Security

Computer rendering of the Offshore Patrol Cutter from Eastern Shipbuilding, one of three shipyard groups competing for the program

Making sure the Coast Guard is mission ready In order to safely secure the Maritime Transportation System, the United States Coast Guard needs to inject new life into its aging fleet By Shirley Del Valle, Associate Editor


illions of dollars worth of cargo move through U.S. ports, waterways and vessels annually. Keeping the Maritime Transportation System (MTS) safe and secure—whether it is from a terrorist attack, drug smugglers in stealthy submarine-like vessels or illegal incursions into the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by foreign fishing vessels—is no small task. The task of protecting the MTS falls into the laps of an often under-funded U.S. Coast Guard. How big of a task is it? Testifying last month before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border & Maritime Security, Admiral Robert J. Papp, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, outlined what the Coast Guard does on a daily basis. “Every day,” said Admiral Papp, “the Coast Guard conducts search and rescue, escorts vessels carrying dangerous cargoes, interdicts drug and migrant smugglers, patrols our ports and waterways, enforces fisheries laws, responds to oil and hazardous material spills, maintains aids to navigation, screens commercial ships and crews entering U.S. ports, inspects U.S.flagged vessels, examines cargo containers, 28 MARINE LOG March 2014

investigates marine accidents, trains international partners, and supports Overseas Contingency Operations.” The hearing of the Subcommittee on Border & Maritime Security, chaired by Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), examined Coast Guard Homeland Security Missions. The focus of the hearing was to assess whether the Coast Guard had the assets to carry out all its missions. In her opening statement, Chairman Miller mentioned that since 9/11, the Coast Guard has taken on additional responsibilities—not an easy task given its aging cutter fleet. The chairman pointed out that the Coast Guard’s large cutters have an average age of more than 40+ years, while, by contrast, the average age of Navy ships is about 14 years old. The current Coast Guard fleet is providing less mission readiness, said the chair, in terms of lost operational hours and higher maintenance costs. The process of recapitalizing the fleet is a long-term, costly process, particularly in light of current budget constraints. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Coast Guard use a layered

approach to increase maritime security. This layered approach begins overseas at foreign ports, is projected on the high seas, and includes the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and territorial seas and ports. Working with its international and domestic partners, the Coast Guard uses its cutters, aircraft, boats, small craft and deployable specialized forces to improve security in the maritime domain. According to the Commandant, in 2013, Coast Guard forces conducted: more than 670 security boardings of high interest vessels; close to 8,500 security boardings of small vessels; more than 2,000 escorts of high-capacity passenger vessels; more than 1,200 escorts of high-value U.S. naval vessels transiting U.S. waterways, and; more than 690 escorts of vessels carrying certain dangerous cargoes. In concluding his testimony, Admiral Papp told subcommittee members: “The Coast Guard’s layered security regime is vital to the nation’s security. Our authorities, capabilities, competencies, and partnerships provide the President, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Defense, and other national leaders with a ready force and

March 2014 Marine Log Magazine  
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