Section 3: The Coast Guard and Homeland Security
Team of Teams: All-Hazard Incident Response Operations Call for U.S.
"The 'team of teams' partners during a disaster, creating a synergy of agencies, which in turn sends a message of reassurance to the American people."-Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, Deputy Combatant Commander, United States Northern Command
Haiti, January 2010
On 12 Jan. 2010 the earth beneath the Caribbean island nation of Haiti heaved and shook and the world responded. Its proximity to Haiti meant United States aid would come within days. Soon military and civilian responders from the United States were on the ground in Haiti providing humanitarian relief and searching the rubble of Port-au-Prince for survivors. In the following days and weeks more responders from across the region and from as far away as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and Israel would arrive to render expertise and assistance to a battered people.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) leads the federal incident response effort when disasters occur in the United States or its territories and coordinates response operations across all levels of government. However, when the United States responds to a foreign disaster as it did in Haiti, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency of the U.S. Department of State, assumes the lead for the U.S. response in close coordination with the affected nation. Unlike U.S. disaster response operations governed by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), response efforts in Haiti required the United States and other foreign responders to work with the Haitian government, ever mindful of a sovereign nation's legal authority over its own internal affairs.
The United States quickly emerged as the primary provider of foreign assistance and the coordinator of foreign disaster relief to a shocked nation of 9 million people. Under the apt name Operation Unified Response, the United States dispatched a robust multiagency response effort coordinated by USAID that included the Department of Defense's (DOD's) Joint Task Force-;Haiti out of U.S. Southern Command and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The U.S. Coast Guard has long operated in the waters around Haiti. Under federal law, the United States treats Cubans who defect as political refugees if they make it to U.S. soil. Haitians migrants, on the other hand, get repatriated to Haiti. Despite the U.S. policy, the political turmoil in Haiti since the early 1990s has resulted in on-again, off-again surges in boatloads of Haitians fleeing their nation for better opportunities in the United States The Coast Guard has been at the forefront of the effort to stem that flow. Frequently these efforts take on a humanitarian focus as many of the Haitian boats stopped are unseaworthy, woefully overloaded, and bereft of safety equipment, food, and water. Thus when the ground shook the Coast Guard was the first U.S. agency outside of Haiti to respond; the Coast Guard Cutter Forward (WMEC-911) arrived in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 13. Forward supported the relief effort for over a month before returning to its homeport in Portsmouth, Virginia in mid-February.1
Figure 1. PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti-Coast Guard Capt. John Little conducts a port coordination meeting while working diligently with other agencies to provide aid to Haitian earthquake survivors, 1 Feb. 2010.
The Coast Guard, a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since the department's creation in March 2003, quickly became a key player in the earthquake relief effort, easily leveraging its multimission capability. Port facilities in Port-au-Prince sustained tremendous damage (in fact, much of the port was in need of repair prior to the earthquake) and relief flights quickly overwhelmed the nation's major airport. The Coast Guard deployed an 11-person marine transportation system recovery unit (MTSRU) to assess the port and make recommendations to Haitian officials on the port's status and what it would take to restore the port's cargo handling capability. Coupled with assessing the port was the need to coordinate the flow of relief cargo ships converging on Haiti from around the world. The port's aids to navigation system needed repair and needed it quickly. The Coast Guard Cutter Oak (WLB-211), a sea-going buoy tender, left Charleston, South Carolina bound for Port-au-Prince to provide not only needed repairs but humanitarian relief efforts as well. A medical team from the cutter assisted other medical teams in Killick, Haiti. Additionally, the MTSRU operated a vessel traffic system from Oak that coordinated, in close conjunction with Haiti port officials, the flow of cargo ships in Haiti. Finally, as with most disasters, security of responders, of survivors, and of the port itself required attention. Members of Coast Guard Port Security Unit 307, an all-reserve unit which normally deploys overseas to provide shore-side and water-side port security when the United States conducts military cargo operations, performed the same mission in Port-au-Prince, ensuring that relief supplies arrived unimpeded. Coast Guard helicopters ferried badly injured Haitians to USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), the massive white-hulled hospital ship known around the world (along with its west coast sister ship, USNS Mercy (T-AH-19)). Coast Guard C-130s flew flights from air stations in south Florida to Haiti importing relief supplies and evacuating the injured to the United States for medical treatment.
Figure 2. PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti-U.S. Naval hospital ship, USNS Comfort, provides a platform for a U.S. Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a medical evacuation after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake destroyed much of Haiti's capital city, 20 Jan. 2010. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Blackwell.
Response efforts undertaken by the Coast Guard in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti are typical for a service able to marshal its resources and provide a wide range of assistance beyond what is typically tasked or expected. The Coast Guard has a long and storied heritage in disaster response since its inception in 1790 as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. Over the years the Coast Guard has expanded its mission set and emerged as a service well versed in providing a wide range of capabilities after a disaster. The assistance chronicled above is only a glimpse of the response capabilities the Coast Guard has at its disposal for use during disaster events. Another resource that characteristically works behind the scenes coordinates Coast Guard support to disaster-affected states and communities and to the federal responders assisting them. The U.S. Coast Guard emergency preparedness liaison officer (EPLO) team consists of a dozen seasoned Coast Guard reserve officers in designated billets who serve as forward sensors and provide early warning or situational awareness for unscheduled and scheduled events requiring civil support across America.
Team of Teams
At the annual national EPLO conference held in March 2009 in Henderson, Nevada, Lieutenant. General H. Steven Blum, Deputy Combatant Commander for United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), in his keynote address to service members, said the "team of teams" is a partnership that creates a synergy among agencies, which in turn "sends a message of reassurance to the American people." General Blum pointed out his support for the dedicated men and women in the program, saying they also provide insights into the political intent of the people who are to be supported. As a "multipurpose sensor" the EPLOs can engage with state and elected officials before a federal request for military assistance. By attending state hurricane exercises, regional interagency steering committee (RISC) meetings, and response planning conferences, EPLOs make contacts, swap business cards, and become familiar with the people and agencies they may later support.
Small in numbers but strong in scope, this influential and resourceful team of men and women continue to fashion the Coast Guard's growing EPLO program into an impressive cadre of joint, interagency, and intergovernmental liaisons for disaster responses and events of national significance. The broad canvas of these events includes local incidents, such as floods and wildfires; catastrophic disasters with national effects to infrastructure, populations, and the economy, such as hurricanes or earthquakes; and national special security events (NSSE), including Republican and Democratic national conventions and Presidential inaugurations.
Coast Guard EPLOs are liaison officers dedicated to regional, state, and other emergency response organizations that coordinate federal response under the National Response Framework, the nation's all-hazard response guide.2 EPLOs deploy to one of FEMA's 10 regional response coordination centers (RRCCs), disaster joint field offices (JFOs), and, on occasion, to a state or local emergency operations center (EOC) to provide liaison and coordination of Coast Guard support as directed by FEMA to either the affected states or to other federal partners involved in the disaster response efforts. But how is this multiagency response coordinated with the state and other federal agencies when an incident exceeds a state's ability to respond? Legal authorities are spelled out in a large library of federal laws and regulations including the Stafford Act, which states that the President can, "direct any federal agency, with or without reimbursement, to utilize its authorities and the resources granted to it under federal law (including personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities, and managerial, technical, and advisory services) in support of state and local assistance response and recovery efforts, including precautionary evacuations."3
When a disaster requires a military response to augment the state and other federal agencies, Coast Guard EPLO's coordinate with the "team of teams." This robust team includes U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Marine EPLOs; regional U.S. Army defense coordinating officers (DCOs) and defense coordinating elements (DCEs); FEMA regions; federal and state agencies (including the National Guard); and other partners including volunteer and church groups. Member teams rally as trusted agents at ground zero by alerting, staging, and deploying resources anywhere in America to answer the call for help and provide civil support to the states and American citizens. It is important to note the distinction between what DOD provides under defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) and the Coast Guard's disaster operations support, which does not fall under the umbrella of DSCA. This subtle but significant difference sets the Coast Guard's disaster response apart from DOD's DSCA mission.
As a whole, EPLOs from all military services are relatively unknown outside the interagency preparedness and response circles in which they serve. The Coast Guard EPLO program officially began in 2006. Within a relatively short time, the Coast Guard employed EPLO skills and service capabilities to complement the "team of teams" and engage in disaster responses or events of national significance. The DOD EPLO program began in the 1970s. Today, the DOD program is a robust organization of more than 400 EPLOs assigned to work with all FEMA regions and with the states.
Because Coast Guard EPLOs are reservists, they often provide invaluable professional knowledge gained from their civilian career experiences, which may prove helpful when responding to disasters. Reservists in this program, when not drilling or on active duty, are professionals in a variety of industries and professions, including government (federal, state, and local), law, medicine, security, information technology, public relations, and other fields.
Coast Guard EPLOs arrive with unique capabilities and authorities that enable their service to deploy and employ forces before the military components within DOD deploy. The Coast Guard has a distinctive blend of military, humanitarian, and law enforcement capabilities and fulfills a significant role as a federal first response agency, operating with local partners and supporting local authorities. The Coast Guard further solidified its EPLO program with the release of Commandant Instruction (COMDTINST) 3025.1, USCG Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (EPLO) Program, in September 2009. This document now serves as guidance for the Coast Guard EPLO Program. Among its provisions, COMDTINST 3025.1 stipulates that each of FEMA's 10 regions will have a reserve EPLO assigned and that Coast Guard EPLOs "maintain contact and intercommunication between elements of the Coast Guard and partner agencies."4
An example of this unique, joint capability occurred in March 2009 in North Dakota when the Red River of the North rose to record levels. As a result, the governor declared a flood emergency across the state. Flooding progressed as the river overran Fargo, North Dakota's largest city of 90,000 residents. The Coast Guard brought in resources from far and wide to render assistance and save more than 100 lives. When flood waters surged and moved north toward Canada, the Coast Guard's emergency responders moved with it. The Coast Guard teamed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Customs and Border Protection, FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard, DOD, and numerous other agencies and volunteers to assist North Dakota.
Figure 3. An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Mich., flies over the flooded Red River. Another Dolphin helicopter, from Air Station New Orleans, accompanied it during the transit from Grand Forks to Fargo to stand by for rescue operations, 28 Mar. 2009. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Swanson.
Captain Charles Polk, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve (USCGR) officer, serves in his civilian occupation as an assistant federal security director with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a reservist, he was one of the first liaisons on scene in Bismarck when he was called away from TSA for nearly a week and deployed as the senior Coast Guard officer assigned to the state-federal JFO to help with the federal response to the Red River flood. The Coast Guard deployed four disaster assistance response teams (DARTs), shallow-draft boat teams used to rescue people from flooded structures; six HH-65C Dolphin helicopters from Air Stations Detroit, Traverse City, Sacramento, and New Orleans for search and rescue; and seven air boats. In addition to serving as the senior Coast Guard officer at the disaster's JFO, Captain Polk served as the lead for Emergency Support Function 9 (search and rescue) and as the Coast Guard "air boss," coordinating Coast Guard aviation assets providing search-and-rescue assistance to the citizens of Fargo and the surrounding area. "Lots of time directing what proved to be a very capable and hard-working staff," he said. "Overall, a great experience for an officer who had never been remotely close to either of the Dakotas."
Captain Polk's disaster assignment placed him among a cadre of reserve officers in the 8th Coast Guard District, which extends geographically from the Gulf of Mexico north through the Midwest states to the Canadian border. He and the other district liaisons volunteer to serve on a roster of available officers deployable to disaster response locations on behalf of the Coast Guard, providing needed expertise and service knowledge to federal and state emergency managers on the capabilities and limitations of Coast Guard response resources. While not officially assigned as EPLOs, liaisons like Captain Polk give the 8th District a badly needed capability to put eyes on the ground during a disaster's early phases.
In the waning days of August 2008, Commander David Teska, USCGR, received a call from the 8th Coast Guard District in New Orleans. The district command center had been monitoring hurricane Gustav's predicted track, which was now five days away from making landfall along the Gulf Coast. This powerful storm seriously threatened the vulnerable city of New Orleans, a serious issue for area residents with memories of Hurricane Katrina still very fresh. The 8th Coast Guard District asked Commander Teska to quickly deploy to the JFO, located in a converted Dillard's department store in Baton Rouge.5 Within three days Commander Teska had packed his gear, said goodbye to his family in Lawrence, Kansas, and left his job working as the FEMA regional continuity planner in Kansas City, Missouri. He set up at the Louisiana JFO working to coordinate Coast Guard response operations in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Gustav's landfall. During the seven days he deployed to the JFO, Commander Teska worked to provide mission-essential Coast Guard aviation support, a part of the service's overall response. The Coast Guard flew search-and-rescue missions soon after the hurricane-force winds subsided to around sixty knots. Then crews provided levee over-flights for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In addition to supporting missions with small boats and first responders on the ground, the Coast Guard also flew in support of the mission needs of the U.S. Department of Energy by providing aerial inspection trips of Louisiana's oil production infrastructure. The mission included checking the economically critical Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, or LOOP, where tankers dock and offload valuable oil cargo without needing to transit up the Mississippi River.
But Coast Guard EPLOs don't just deploy in advance of a hurricane's landfall or when rivers flood. They also provide support to the U.S. Secret Service, which is the lead agency for declared NSSEs. For Commander Richard McLaughlin, USCGR, deployment meant duty in our nation's capital assisting with the coordination of DOD and Coast Guard support for the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009. Before the inauguration, Commander McLaughlin served a key role as a maritime domain duty officer assigned to Joint Task Force Headquarters-;National Capital Region (JTF-;NCR). JTF-;NCR serves as the military headquarters for land-based homeland defense, defense support to civil authorities, and incident management in the national capital region.6 The sheer complexity and magnitude of the Presidential Inauguration, coupled with its unique security challenges, made it a top priority for Coast Guard and DOD EPLOs.
Distinct from short-fuse events like the funeral for former President Gerald R. Ford held in January 2007, most NSSEs are planned well in advance and allow the luxury of extensive and detailed planning and rehearsals. "This advance notice not only provides significant time for planning, training, and logistics coordination, it also allows time for our forces to prepare to deploy. This might include requesting time off from their employers and making travel and lodging plans," Commander McLaughlin said. "Providing support for a natural or man-made disaster is much more challenging since it requires an immediate response with little to no warning of the time, location or type of event."
Commander McLaughlin served as the Coast Guard liaison to an active duty colonel assigned to FEMA Region III as the DCO. The U.S. Army has assigned a DCO, supported by a DCE to every FEMA region. The DCO/DCE teams serve as a single point of contact for the deployment and employment of DOD forces when requested by FEMA. The DCO/DCE teams are under the command and control of U.S. Army North (ARNORTH),7 the land component of USNORTHCOM at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas.
Even though the designation of officers to serve in the Coast Guard EPLO program is comparably recent, the men and women of the Coast Guard have proven essential to the nation's disaster response missions for 219 years. Seemingly, mainstream America truly became aware of them during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of Mississippi and Louisiana in August 2005. Yet these missions are not new and have long been familiar to those who live and work on the seas and waterways. The service's history of life-saving responses to the nation goes almost as far back as its inception. In the aftermath of the tragic sinking of RMS Titanic, Congress passed S.2337 in 1914-which President Woodrow Wilson signed into law on 20 Jan. 1915-creating the modern U.S. Coast Guard by merging the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service.8 The Lighthouse Service would join the Coast Guard in 1939.9
As the multimission maritime service within DHS and one of the nation's five armed services, the Coast Guard's primary roles include protecting the public, the environment, and U.S. economic and security interests in any maritime region in which those interests may be at risk, including international waters and America's coasts, ports, and inland waterways. Resources are applied towards performing in 11 mission areas: marine safety; search and rescue; drug interdiction; migrant interdiction; defense readiness; port, waterways, and coastal security; stewardship of living marine resources; marine environmental protection; fisheries law enforcement; aids to navigation; and ice operations.10 Current operations in Iraq have seen the Coast Guard deploy personnel and resources in theater, again to apply their skills and expertise where needed.
Coast Guard EPLOs are Different
"What the Coast Guard is able to do and what it does in support of civil authorities, capabilities and mission requirements is determined by the needs of the specific event or scenario and always based on consultation with local, state and federal agencies," wrote Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen in his iCommandant Web Journal.11 DOD has a similar program, albeit much larger, with a regional emergency preparedness liaison officer (REPLO) and REPLO team assigned to each of FEMA's 10 regional officers and a similar team of state emergency preparedness liaison officers (SEPLO) assigned to state emergency management agencies. In a major presidential disaster declaration, FEMA may call upon DOD to deploy forces to assist affected states; if this occurs the FEMA federal coordinating officer will turn to the DOD DCO to coordinate the assignment and deployment of DOD forces to that state at the direction of FEMA. Before requesting federal or DOD resources, the states also have access to an intrastate disaster assistance program. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) provides intrastate mutual aid during disasters. Under EMAC, the requesting state pays deployment costs (typically partially reimbursed by FEMA under disaster declaration). EMAC has proven highly successful and states make good use of it when the situation warrants a bigger response than the affected state can manage.12
Coast Guard EPLOs come to a disaster representing a service that is unique in many ways. The service is a federal agency with missions that it regularly conducts under its own statutory authority. First responders are typically local and not federally sourced, but the Coast Guard often deploys or prestages-for instance in the case of hurricanes-so that its resources are immediately available when needed most. Because of that authority and first responder posture, Coast Guard resources typically respond to a disaster under the service's own statutory authority, such as 14 U.S.C. § 89, the section of the U.S. Code that gives the Coast Guard its law enforcement authority.
Deploying Title 10 DOD resources, such as a Navy construction battalion or an Air Force Reserve expeditionary medical system (EMED), requires a FEMA-issued mission assignment with state concurrence for payment of 25 percent of the mission's costs. FEMA does mission-assign the Coast Guard, such as when conducting search and rescue in urban areas like New Orleans in the days after Katrina, but extenuating circumstances (like operating in a nontraditional area or performing a mission it normally doesn't perform) must exist. Conducting search and rescue in an urban environment is outside normal Coast Guard search-and-rescue jurisdiction, so a FEMA mission assignment is appropriate. The EPLO plays a key role in this process by serving as the service's subject-matter expert to FEMA and other agencies on Coast Guard resources, advising what they can do, cannot do, and should not do. All this is done in close coordination with the respective Coast Guard district overseeing the Coast Guard's response to the event.
Legal Issues: Posse Comitatus Act
DOD has enormous capability to provide resources to an affected state in the aftermath of a disaster, but there are legal restrictions that limit the range of DOD's response. One of the more obscure and often misunderstood is the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA). Citizen complaints surrounding the use of federal troops to enforce local laws in the states of the former Confederacy during Reconstruction (1865-;1877) and questionable electioneering practices during the Presidential election of 1876 led Congress to pass the PCA in 1878. Specifically, the PCA states:
Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.-18 U.S.C. § 1385.
For DOD, the PCA prohibits the use of the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps to enforce federal, state, or local laws. Whereas DOD can provide logistical, medical, engineering, and other humanitarian assistance, it cannot deploy military forces (Title 10) to provide law enforcement support short of a declaration of the Insurrection Act or Martial Law.13 This restriction includes the National Guard when under federal control (Title 10 status), which states clearly that "the Army National Guard while in the service of the United States is a component of the Army."14 The PCA also applies to the Coast Guard only when "operating under the command and control of the Department of Defense."15
So, when does the PCA not apply? It does not apply to the National Guard when in Title 32 status or when employed on state active duty16 (SAD) and it does not apply to the U.S. Coast Guard in most situations.17 Unlike the National Guard, which loses law enforcement authority as prescribed by the PCA when activated under Title 10, the Coast Guard retains the law enforcement authority granted it under 14 U.S.C. § 89, even when activated under Title 10. Thus its unique status as an armed service with law enforcement authorities makes it a viable and flexible military and law enforcement agency.
The historical record of the use of Title 10 forces in domestic law enforcement is a brief one, as the PCA intended. The prime example unfolded in April 1992 in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating acquittal, when riots broke out across Los Angeles. The city, unable to quell the violence, requested state assistance. Governor Pete Wilson activated units of the California National Guard (under SAD), but more assistance was needed. On 1 May, President George H.W. Bush signed Executive Order 12804, evoking the Insurrection Act, federalizing select units of the California National Guard, and authorizing the use of active U.S. Army and Marine Corps units to assist in the restoration of law and order under the Operation Garden Plot plan.18 A total of 10,000 Guardsmen, 1,500 Marines, and 2,000 Soldiers operated under the command and control of Joint Task Force-;Los Angeles until their release on 6 May.19 Only once has martial law existed in U.S. history: following the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec. 1941, martial law went into effect for the Territory of Hawaii and lasted nearly three years.20
The legal authority for the Coast Guard's disaster response operations "stems both from the Coast Guard's authority to conduct search and rescue and our ability to provide assistance to other federal, state and local agencies when our personnel are especially qualified to do so," Admiral Allen wrote in his iCommandant Web journal. This relevance is provided by 14 U.S.C. § 89 while 14 U.S.C. § 141 provides that "the Coast Guard, upon request, may use its personnel and facilities to assist any federal agency, state, territory, possession, or political subdivision to perform activities for which the Coast Guard is 'especially qualified'." While rendering assistance to flooded regions, the Coast Guard was able to provide assistance on the water because of the authorities given by 14 U.S.C. § 89, which authorizes the Coast Guard to board vessels subject to the jurisdiction or operation of any United States law on the high seas or on waters of U.S. jurisdiction. Additionally, Coast Guard Captains of the Port have "extensive authority to control the anchorage and movement of vessels, [and] establish safety and security zones in U.S. ports and waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction...." According to an article in the 03-09 issue of USCG Reservist magazine "the Coast Guard restricted boat traffic on more than 200 miles of the Red River due to the flooding. A safety zone was established between Wahpeton, in southeastern North Dakota, and Pembina on the U.S.-Canadian border." A broad spectrum of Coast Guard authorities are found within other U.S.C. sections, including the grant of law enforcement authority for shore-side investigations and law enforcement activities under 14 U.S.C. § 95 and limited law enforcement activities for Coast Guard personnel ashore at maritime facilities under 46 U.S.C. § 70118.
What this means to our DOD and state partners in emergency management is this: there are options for Coast Guard support to civil authorities beyond the usual maritime safety, security, and search-and-rescue operations. These operations, which are available in addition to normal mission requirements and cannot be sustained without additional support, include:
All EPLOs have this in common: they are senior reserve officers who bring years of experience and service expertise which enable them to consult with state, local and federal partners and tailor the situation at hand with appropriate resources. With a coordinated and predesignated "team of teams," the nation is better prepared to effectively respond to all hazards: to incidents during a scheduled event, or to an unscheduled disaster. In 2008, the Coast Guard adopted its Guardian Ethos. Admiral Allen, in putting forward the Ethos, said that it "defines the essence of the Coast Guard," and is the "contract the Coast Guard and its members make with the nation and its citizens." The Ethos states, in part: "I serve the citizens of the United States. I will protect them. I will defend them. I will save them. I am their shield. For them I am Semper Paratus"21 The Coast Guard's EPLOs strive to personify the heart of the Guardian Ethos by being Semper Paratus-always ready-to respond when needed and to live and serve as the American public has come to expect.
Commander LaGuardia-Kotite, author of the award winning book So Others May Live: Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers Saving Lives, Defying Death, has over 20 years of experience in the U.S. Coast Guard including 10 on active duty following graduation from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. After serving as one of the Coast Guard's first EPLOs, she is now the Commandant's Press Secretary and in June returns to her assignment as senior reserve officer for Coast Guard Sector Mobile, Ala. Her next book, Changing the Rules of Engagement: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Vision from Military Women, will be released in 2011.
Commander Teska is a 1990 graduate of Officer Candidate School and is the Coast Guard EPLO to FEMA Region VII in Kansas City. He mobilized in January 2010 to Washington, DC in support of the Haiti earthquake relief efforts, and in 2008 he deployed to Baton Rouge for Hurricane Gustav. He has over 26 years of active and reserve military service in the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army.
Note: The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U. S. Coast Guard or the Department of Homeland Security.
3. Typically, federal agencies tasked by FEMA during a Stafford Act disaster do receive reimbursement under a process called Mission Assignments whereby FEMA directs a federal agency to provide assistance and then reimburses the agency for resource costs such as flight time and crew costs for aviation support.
5. At the time, Coast Guard EPLO billets were assigned to the Coast Guard's office of incident management and preparedness (CG-533). They have since been re-assigned to the districts as outlined in COMDTINST 3025.1.
8. A third agency, the U.S. Bureau of Marine Inspection, permanently came under the Coast Guard on 16 Jul. 1946, Office of the Coast Guard Historian, "http://www.uscg.mil/history/faqs/when.asp", accessed on 19 May 2009.
13. DODD 5525.5 prohibits "direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law." Domestic Operational Law (DOPLAW) Handbook for Judge Advocates, Vol. 1, 2006, Center for Law and Military Operations, p. 16.
16. The National Guard operates either in Title 32 status, such as during monthly drills and when on active duty for training (ADT), state active duty, as when called up by a state or territorial governor for disaster response, or Title 10, when called up by Congress or mobilized by the President to support national security such as the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. For an excellent explanation of the National Guard's legal statuses, see DOPLAW Handbook, Ch. 10, pgs. 195.201.
Reprinted with permission from Proceedings.
In June 2006, ADM Thad Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and Mr. Ralph Basham, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), chartered a senior guidance team (SGT) represented by flag officers and senior executives from both agencies to improve our near-and long-term efficiency and effectiveness. ADM Allen and Mr. Basham indicated that CBP and the USCG were committed to a "one team, one fight" approach to our nation's security, whereby improving our efficiency and effectiveness will provide greater results for our nation.
Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard have played significant roles not only during the early formative years of the United States,1 but throughout our nation's history. However, the threats of asymmetrical attacks have provided greater visibility to our agencies and more focus on and scrutiny of our missions. As ADM Allen has said in numerous forums following the September 11 terrorist attacks, "We (the Coast Guard) have never been more relevant, and we have never been more visible to the nation we serve." Clearly, the same could be said for Customs and Border Protection.
CBP and the USCG are two prominent law enforcement agencies in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with field presence in our ports of entry, between ports of entry (land and maritime borders), in coastal areas, in high seas, and in our international trade partners' ports. Both agencies also have broad statutory authorities, robust capabilities, and missions that are necessary for our nation's security. Therefore it is incumbent upon CBP and the USCG to work efficiently and effectively to better prepare our nation to prevent, protect, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other incidents of national significance.
In one of the first meetings of the senior guidance team, the leaders highlighted that there were three things that Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard needed to focus on, namely:
1. We need to better understand our dramatically changed operating environment.
2. We must change to sustain and improve our mission execution.
3. We must be more responsive to the needs of the nation.
As co-chairs for their respective agencies, Mr. Jayson Ahern, CBP Deputy Commissioner, and VADM David Pekoske, then USCG Deputy Commandant for Operations, quickly established ground rules for the senior guidance team. They agreed to meet quarterly and to form joint working groups to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of agency operations.
Initially the co-chairs formed work groups in:
Building on the successes of the initial work, the co-chairs recently formed additional workgroups in:
In January 2008 the co-chairs invited Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the senior guidance team meeting. Since then, ICE has been an active participant in the quarterly meetings and has gained valuable insight in the workgroup initiatives to date. In April 2008, the chairs decided to form a new workgroup on mass migration to better address processing migrants after they have been interdicted.
The Small Vessel Strategy Working Group
The small vessel2 environment is an area of significant concern, and is particularly vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists, smugglers, and other criminals. When attempting to address this risk, law enforcement personnel must be able to distinguish the relatively few individuals engaged in illicit activities among the vast number of legitimate vessel operators. The challenge is immense, involving more than 17 million registered U.S. recreational vessels, 82,000 fishing vessels, and 100,000 other commercial small vessels. Also, law enforcement agencies have very little operational awareness of these small vessels, which makes the sorting even more challenging.
To address this risk, the senior guidance team chartered a small vessel strategy working group in December 2006. In preparation for a DHS-sponsored National Small Vessel Security Summit, held in Washington, D.C., in June 2007, the team directed the working group to develop small vessel strategic principles. The working group developed the principles to address the broad framework needed to close some of the gaps and vulnerabilities that small vessels presented and to help shape the discussion with the stakeholders at the summit.
The DHS National Small Vessel Security Summit report was released by DHS Secretary Chertoff in January 2008. Based upon requests for more engagement from the small vessel stakeholders at the national summit, regional summits were held in Cleveland, Ohio; Orlando, Fla.; Long Beach, Calif.; and Cape Cod, Mass.
These provided more dialogue and feedback among DHS, its component agencies, and the small vessel stakeholders.
Following the summit, Secretary Chertoff directed the DHS Small Vessel Security Component Agency Working Group to take the recommendations of the stakeholders and findings from the summit and develop a DHS Small Vessel Security Strategy. Secretary Chertoff released the final strategy to the public at the American Boating Congress Legislative Conference held in Washington, D.C., in April 2008. The workgroup will also develop an implementation plan that will provide a roadmap of specific actions DHS will take to reduce the risk of small vessels.3
Joint Operations Center Working Group
Several recent presidential directives charged DHS to provide seamless, coordinated implementation of authorities and responsibilities relating to the security of the maritime domain by and among federal departments and agencies. Additionally, Section 108 of the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 (SAFE Port Act) directed that interagency operations centers be established at all high-priority ports.
The SGT recognized that DHS component agencies must work together at field levels to implement these strategies. This would promote a unity of effort for maritime planning and operations. The team also recognized that joint operations centers would provide the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities to ensure proper maritime domain awareness and to lead and manage operations. The SGT established the Joint Operations Centers Working Group to provide greater capability for CBP/USCG field units.
The Coast Guard's established Interagency Operations Centers/Command 21 (IOC/C21) Initiative (renamed from Command 2010) will provide capabilities to increase maritime domain awareness, automate data gathering, and provide a decision support capability that captures the actions and processes of the watch. To support the SAFE Port Act, IOC/C21 will also provide facilities to support the information sharing necessary to coordinate federal, state, and local port partner activities in the conduct of daily joint operations; sensors to establish enterprise radar and camera coverage throughout the port; and information management systems (called Watch-Keeper) to link information with operations to support decision making, situation awareness, joint planning, and mission execution.
IOC/C21 is the maritime component of the DHS Secure Border Initiative. The SGT agreed that implementing the acquisition of these major systems fell beyond the scope of this working group. However, the SGT directed the workgroup to take an active role in ensuring the necessary lash-up between the Secure Border Initiative and IOC/C21 project staffs to ensure good governance.
The workgroup also identified seven pilot port projects to review, hone best practices from, and evaluate various types of coordination models used (in-person, virtual, 24/7, and co-location of CBP/USCG units). Those ports where in-person coordination has been prototyped include Seattle, Charleston, and Detroit. Virtual coordination has been prototyped in New York and Tampa/St.Petersburg. Coordination using 24/7 CBP watch standers in the USCG command center has been prototyped in San Diego. The USCG and CBP have developed a planning proposal to collocate field units in Jacksonville.
A follow-on survey conducted in early 2008 revealed much greater interagency coordination, with notable increases in intelligence sharing (23%), joint vessel targeting (27%), coordinated patrolling (23%), and joint daily ops briefings (10%) from the previous year. The ports of Jacksonville, Tampa/St. Petersburg, and Charleston were also cited as being among the national leaders for demonstrating exceptional interagency coordination.
Joint Boardings Working Group
This working group focused on expanding joint CBP and USCG boardings to improve mission execution at the field level, and reduce the burden of potential multiple boardings on the maritime industry.
In October and December 2005, Customs and Border Protection and Coast Guard personnel participated in conferences to share the results of collaborative efforts, best practices, and obstacles they had to overcome to create a more effective working environment. They identified five overarching dual-agency law enforcement activities to improve mission execution, including vessel targeting, dual-agency boardings, information sharing, training, and professional exchanges.
As a follow-on, the workgroup directed implementation of the five joint CBP/USCG enforcement activities and directed development of local standard operating procedures to institutionalize and formalize these processes. CBP directors and USCG captains of the port were required to prepare joint quarterly status reports highlighting their successes in these five areas.
The first reports indicated they were achieving great success in terms of opening up the lines of communication, developing positive working relationships, increasing joint boardings and training, and developing officer exchange programs. The July 2007 reports highlighted that co-location of resources had been achieved by several field units, and standard operating procedures development, daily interagency briefings, joint targeting and boardings, and information sharing protocols had increased considerably nationwide.
To improve training, the Coast Guard's Maritime Law Enforcement Academy and CBP's Federal Law Enforcement Training Center partnered to consolidate curriculum from existing weapons of mass destruction courses. Staff developed a combined course and began training CBP and USCG field personnel beginning in the spring of 2008.
Field units began conducting joint training in law enforcement authorities; boarding team tactics, techniques, and procedures; use of force; standardized personal protective equipment; confined space entry; hazardous materials; and fraudulent document identification.
To provide stakeholder awareness and gain feedback, leaders from the working group met with the Commercial Operations Advisory Committee, National Maritime Security Advisory Committee, and the Maritime Security Coordinating Committee. These industry groups provided positive feedback and additional recommendations on boarding practices and training. For example, an industry representative recommended that a panel of industry members speak to law enforcement officers in training so they can better understand the industry's needs and concerns.
As a result of the joint targeting initiatives at the field level, the SGT stood up a separate Joint Targeting Working Group in January 2008 to identify best practices in targeting processes and potential areas for more collaboration and analysis at the national level.
Building upon the success of the joint boarding program afloat, the workgroup began focusing its attention on pierside boardings and inspections to identify opportunities to expand CBP/USCG cooperation. The group established pilot programs at the USCG sectors and CBP field offices in
Seattle, Washington and Jacksonville, Florida. Subsequently, vessel agents and operators in these ports expressed the concern that joint pierside boardings and/or inspections are difficult for the ships to manage due to dissimilarities between the CBP and USCG focus. They indicated their preference to have sequential examinations to ease the burden on the vessel's crew. Based upon this feedback, the pilot ports began exploring the feasibility of one agency conducting business on behalf of the other, rather than joint activities.
However, the joint boardings have already proved to be safer, smoother, and more effective operations. They are continuing to provide more substantial enforcement results and improve overall situation awareness. Results include the identification and repatriation of numerous stowaways, seizure of containers due to trademark violations, seizure of contraband such as shark fin and narcotics, and several arrests.
Resumption of Maritime Trade Working Group
As far back as 2002, the Maritime Transportation Security Act required that the National Maritime Transportation Security Plan include a plan to restore cargo flow following a national transportation security incident. This concept again surfaced in Homeland Security Presidential Directive 13 and the National Strategy for Maritime Security. Subsequently, strategic concepts supporting efficient marine transportation system (MTS) recovery following a transportation security incident were documented in the Maritime Infrastructure Recovery Plan. Shortly thereafter, the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina also widely acknowledged that MTS disruptions can result in significant economic ramifications, and the U.S. must be prepared to execute efficient and effective MTS recovery management to minimize these negative effects. Most recently, the SAFE Port Act of 2006, Section 202, required that protocols for the resumption of trade be developed by July 2007.
The Coast Guard hosted a national maritime recovery symposium in August 2006 to further explore the issues and potential alternative solutions regarding developing robust MTS recovery and resumption of maritime trade capability. The symposium participants, executives from both government and industry, identified the need for:
Both the USCG and CBP have equities, responsibilities, and authorities that are brought to bear following a significant MTS disruption, and specifically following a maritime transportation security incident. The SGT recognized that the USCG and CBP must work together to develop and implement the necessary protocols and recovery management procedures to ensure the most efficient resumption of trade flow following a MTS disruption. Timely development of these protocols was also necessary to meet the requirements outlined in Section 202 of the SAFE Port Act.
The working group reviewed a draft strategy to enhance the security of the international supply chain and incorporated comments regarding resumption of trade principles. Group members then drafted CBP/USCG joint protocols for the expeditious recovery of trade and held discussions with components of the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, and Defense to explain the process and seek input. The protocols were signed by Commissioner Basham and USCG ADM Allen in the spring of 2008 and distributed to the public and maritime stakeholders.
The goals of the protocols are to:
As part of this effort, the Coast Guard worked with the Maritime Administration to create a port capability inventory of the 150 largest U.S. ports. This inventory will be used to inform national decision makers about port system capabilities. The USCG also drafted a Commandant Instruction that provides guidance to field units on including recovery in their area maritime security plans and creating recovery units within their incident command system. CBP also developed a Web-based messaging system to alert the trade community of significant disruption in trade flow in all modes of international transportation. CBP will coordinate each maritime message with the USCG to ensure the alignment of a unified DHS response.
About the authors
Captain Tony Regalbuto (USCG, Ret.) is a 1971 graduate of the State University of New York's Maritime College, earning a bachelor of science degree in meteorology and oceanography. He served on active duty for the Coast Guard for 31 years and was the acting port security director following the September 11 terrorist attacks. In his civilian capacity, he is currently serving as chief of the Office of International and Domestic Port Security Assessments.
Mr. Michael Perron graduated magna cum laude from California State University, Dominguez Hills, earning a bachelor of arts degree in political science, with a minor in communications. He served on active duty with the U.S. Army for 10 years as a military police sergeant and a Criminal Investigation Division special agent. He has been employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (formerly the U.S. Customs Service) for the past 21 years, including assignments as chief inspector, enforcement in Los Angeles and port director, Washington, D.C. He is currently assigned to CBP headquarters as the acting associate director for Deliberate Planning.
1. Responding to the urgent need for revenue, President George Washington signed the Tariff Act of July 4, 1789, which authorized the collection of duties on imported goods. It was called "the second Declaration of Independence" by the news media of that era. On July 31, 1789, the fifth act of Congress established the U.S. Customs Service and its ports of entry to collect the revenues. The United States Coast Guard, one of the country's five armed services, traces its history back to August 4, 1790, when the first Congress authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws, prevent smuggling, and protect the collection of the federal revenue.
2. Small vessels are characterized as any watercraft less than 300 gross tons, regardless of method of propulsion. Small vessels can include commercial fishing vessels, recreational boats and yachts, towing vessels, uninspected passenger vessels, or any other commercial vessels involved in foreign or U.S. voyages.
Note: This article was originally published in the spring 2009 edition of Proceedings.
Reprinted with permission from National Defense.
Last summer, as Russian forces lay siege to the nation of Georgia, the Coast Guard cutter Dallas, along with two Navy ships, sailed to the Black Sea to provide relief. The Coast Guard crew, under Operation Assured Delivery, docked at the port of Bat'umi, and delivered 80 pallets of humanitarian assistance supplies.
There are likely to be more joint missions such as these for the Coast Guard, officials said. The Dallas, prior to the Georgia mission, participated in Africa Partnership Station, an initiative to improve maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa.
The Coast Guard's traditional role has been to undertake missions off U.S. shores-"the home game"-while the Navy has usually worked overseas-"the away game." But the Coast Guard has officially incorporated into its doctrine the idea of further integration with other military branches. And it is increasingly putting this idea into practice.
In October 2007, the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard released a joint document, entitled "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower," which outlines this new doctrine of cooperation. "Coast Guard forces must be able to operate as part of a joint task force thousands of miles from our shores," a pamphlet describing the document said. "And naval forces must be able to respond to operational tasking close to home when necessary to secure our nation and support civil authorities."
"It's the first time in history, at least that we found documented, that the commandant of the Marine Corps, the commandant of the Coast Guard and the chief of naval operations signed a joint document that began to define how [they]...will work with each other," said Rear Adm. Jody Breckenridge, director of the Coast Guard's strategic transformation team. She spoke at the annual National Defense Industrial Association's Coast Guard conference and exhibition. The challenge for the Coast Guard will be to implement those ideas, she said.
"I think the biggest [challenge] is operationalizing the joint maritime strategy that the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and the Navy have signed. That is going to be the way forward," she said.
In line with the new doctrine, the service will increasingly act in places where the Navy might not. This could include places where sending a Navy ship overseas, even to deliver aid, could give the wrong political message, said Dana Goward, director of Coast Guard assessment, integration and risk management. Anchoring a naval vessel off another country's shores could be perceived as threatening, he said. The cutter Dallas that helped to deliver relief supplies to Georgia is one example.
"In many instances a Coast Guard boat is much more acceptable to a foreign nation because it is not from the [Defense Department]," Goward said. These types of missions will increase, he added. "When natural or manmade disasters strike, our maritime forces can provide humanitarian assistance and relief, joining with interagency and nongovernmental partners," the joint document said.
The vast majority of the world's population lives within a few hundred miles of the ocean, the document noted. "Social instability in increasingly crowded cities, many of which exist in already unstable parts of the world, has the potential to create significant disruptions. The effects of climate change may also amplify human suffering through catastrophic storms, loss of arable lands, and coastal flooding," the document said.
In response to these climate change concerns, the Coast Guard is also filling in a gap in the Arctic, where it operates the nation's fleet of polar icebreakers. Melting sea ice has made the region a potential hotspot as various nations lay claim to its waters and natural resources.
"That's a direct example of how we are a unique force provider for the [Defense Department] and the Navy," Goward said. "The Navy doesn't have any icebreakers there."
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen said cooperation between his service and the other branches is growing. He is speaking to the Navy about how to best integrate the use of unmanned aerial vehicles into the new National Security Cutters, which are designed to operate thousands of miles from U.S. shores. "Our intention is to be joint and to be closer," Allen said of the Navy and the Coast Guard.
The Navy is now allowing Coast Guard personnel to try out for its elite, special operations teams, the sea, air and land forces, commonly known as the SEALs. Those who make it through the two-year training program will be assigned to a SEAL team for five to seven years, although they will remain officially part of the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard is unique among the armed forces because it operates in two worlds. As a law enforcement agency, its personnel can make arrests where their military counterparts are prohibited from doing so under the Posse Comitatus Act. "Frequently we will put law enforcement detachments aboard naval vessels.... That ship will fly the Coast Guard [flag] to show that it is now a law enforcement vessel," Goward said. If that boat encounters any illegal activity, it can take action, he added.
The two branches have also conducted joint exercises. More than 930 Navy and Coast Guard active-duty and reserve personnel participated in the maritime security operations exercise Seahawk in the summer of 2007. The exercise's goal was to boost interoperability, officials said. It focused on preventing violent extremists from using the sea as a route for attacks on land.
The Coast Guard also maintains a joint training center at the Marine Corps base in Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Coast Guard's Special Missions Training Center offers courses, teaches doctrine and conducts testing and evaluation of equipment.
The program is a part of an effort to provide standardized port security training for Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps personnel. Coast Guard courses range from basic skills in securing ports to lessons in pursuing non-compliant vessels. Marine Corps classes include small boat unit leadership. Navy courses give instruction in such subjects as combat and interdicting small craft.
As the Coast Guard aims for closer partnerships with the rest of the military, the question arises of whether true jointness is feasible. Cooperation entails precise planning and careful coordination. But Allen said relations between the branches of the military are good and that he expects integration to improve.
Note: This article was originally published in the Jan. 2009 edition of National Defense.
Reprinted with permission from Faircount Media Group and Coast Guard Outlook.
The damaged USS Cole (DDG 67) is towed away from the port city of Aden, Yemen, into open sea by the Military Sealift Command ocean-going tug USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168) on Oct. 29, 2000. Cole was placed aboard the Norwegian heavy transport ship M/V Blue Marlin and transported back to the United States for repair. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was the target of a terrorist attack in the port of Aden Oct. 12, 2000, during a scheduled refueling. The tragic attack killed 17 crewmembers and injured 39 others. DoD photo by Sgt. Don L. Maes, U.S. Marine Corps
A small boat comes alongside the USS Cole, moored at Aden, Yemen, and explodes. The October 2000 terrorist attack killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured 39 more.
The terrorists who attacked the French supertanker Limburg in October 2002 did so in a small boat packed with explosives.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists, who struck Mumbai in November 2008, killing 166 people over three days, came by sea in a hijacked ﬁshing boat.
In April 2004, three dhows packed with explosives approached the vital Iraqi Khawr al Amaya Oil Terminal in the northern Arabian Gulf when one was approached and boarded by U.S. sailors and Coast Guard personnel from the USS Firebolt. The dhow exploded, killing two sailors and a Coast Guardsman.
During the long-running conﬂict in Sri Lanka, terrorists have frequently employed small boats to smuggle terrorists and weapons to the island and for attacks on commercial and military vessels.
In each of these incidents, the watercraft involved looked just like many other small pleasure craft or commercial vessels common to their area of the world. The overwhelming majority of pleasure craft and small commercial vessel operators are responsible and law-abiding. But an innocuous, small vessel has tremendous potential to deliver dangerous people, be built into a bomb, or deliver a weapon of mass destruction (WMD).
"If you consider what a small boat did to the USS Cole, then you can understand why I say there is nothing that worries me more than a waterborne improvised explosive device in one of our ports," said Adm. Thad W. Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard.
Large vessels certainly have the potential to be involved in a serious security breach, but these ships are registered, regulated, inspected, and tracked. Their voyages are planned and their movements monitored by the Coast Guard. However, the sheer number of smaller pleasure craft or commercial vessels - less than 300 tons - represent a different and more pressing challenge. While there are about 80,000 ships of more than 300 tons operating in some capacity today around the world, there are nearly 13 million registered recreational vessels and another 8 million non-registered recreational vessels in the United States alone, along with another 80,000 ﬁshing vessels and thousands of other commercial vessels. These small vessels may operate near or next to large container ships, cruise liners, chemical tankers, or warships, as well as critical infrastructure facilities ranging from power plants and refineries to bridges and building. With 95,000 miles of coastline to monitor, it's a daunting challenge if one of those vessels among the many means to cause harm.
For terrorists seeking to kill innocent people, cripple U.S. infrastructure, or just get their story told, this maritime environment provides tempting opportunities. While authorities are not warning of such an impending attack, the prudent thing to do is to reduce the nation's vulnerability in the maritime domain. "We don't want to wait for another attack to take action," Allen said.
The gravest maritime threat facing the nation is the potential for a terrorist group to obtain a nuclear weapon or other WMD and use it within the conﬁnes of a major U.S. port. The "Coast Guard Strategy for Maritime Safety, Security, and Stewardship" states, "While much focus has been placed on WMD detection in maritime containers, it is equally probable, if not even more likely, that such a device would be loaded onboard a low-value bulk freighter, a ﬁshing boat, or a recreational yacht or power boat that allows constant possession of a WMD device by a terrorist group. Many of these vessels also operate under minimal regimes and protocols for control, making their movements mostly anonymous to authorities. The catastrophic impacts of such a terrorist attack, launched within dense urban port areas, make this a particularly lethal threat."
While most large vessels are registered and tracked, small untracked vessels pose a huge threat because of the possibility of operating near or even close aboard container ships to ofﬂoad improvised explosive devices within U.S. ports and waterways. There are some 13 million registered recreational vessels and another 8 million non-registered recreational boats in the United States alone. U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Barbara L. Patton
Vigilance is an all-hands effort. The Coast Guard must closely coordinate its efforts with other federal, state, and local agencies, as well as local boaters and marinas.
"We rely on the people who live and work here, the way a community relies on a neighborhood watch," said Capt. Leon Nixon, chief of the Port of Los Angeles Police Department. "We call it the ‘Harbor Watch.' We visit the bait piers and talk to the ﬁshermen. We hear from the residents who live aboard their boats who live in marinas. They'll tell us if something doesn't look right."
If a vessel looks suspicious, or is in the wrong place, authorities do not need permission to board or search. Where the Coast Guard can board any vessel to conduct safety inspections, the Port of Los Angeles Police Department has the authority to ensure local ordinances are being enforced. Where appropriate, the Port of Los Angeles Police and the Coast Guard work together to conduct inspections.
The port is home to the CGC George Cobb, from which personnel can also report on unusual activity when servicing aids to navigation in and around the port.
In addition to working very closely with the Coast Guard, Nixon said his agency works with the Port of Long Beach, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments, Los Angeles City and County Life Guards, the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection, and the Port of Los Angeles Pilots. "It's a one-team approach. It's all very cohesive here."
It's a huge challenge to keep track of all the big ships on our oceans and rivers. But it's an even bigger challenge to maintain an appropriate awareness of the numerous small vessels in American waters. For example, Florida has more registered motor vessels than any other state, with approximately 988,000 registered recreational boats. Since the majority of small vessel operators are professional mariners or legitimate recreational boaters, the Coast Guard strives to develop strong partnerships with the people most familiar with their local environment.
The Coast Guard's America's Waterway Watch (AWW) is a partnership involving the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and commercial, municipal, and recreational organizations across the nation. AWW seeks to raise the collective consciousness of those engaging in a multitude of waterborne activities to stay alert for the potential of encountering suspicious or unusual activities on the U.S. waterways. The AWW Web site (http:// americaswaterwaywatch.uscg.mil) contains information and material that can help people understand how they can contribute by knowing what constitutes suspicious behavior and how to promptly report it. AWW has proven critical to assisting the Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies in their efforts to sustain the nation's maritime security.
Through AWW, everyone can feel ownership for the security of America's waterways. Those who routinely work or recreate on any particular waterway are the ones most likely to be the best sources for identifying suspicious or unusual activity. Such "local knowledge" helps the Coast Guard and other law enforcement organizations to best leverage limited manpower and resources. "The backbone of America's Waterway Watch is its partners and participants, without which AWW couldn't fulﬁll its commitment to maritime safety and security," said Lt. Cmdr. Jim Rocco. "They're exceedingly vital to sustaining the nation's safety and security vigilance."
"A call to 1-877-24WATCH provides direct communication to the national call center for the Department of Homeland Security [DHS], which will start the ball rolling to have suspicious concerns monitored and investigated," he said.
A U.S. Coast Guard boat and a Georgia Department of Natural Resource boat patrol the east side of Elba Island on the Savannah River in front of the liqueﬁed natural gas facility. Critical structures around the nation are potential sites for would-be terrorists. As a deterrent, the Coast Guard's America's Waterway Watch has proven to be a successful program, receiving assistance by other law enforcement agencies, as well as the public - all of whom look for and report unusual activities. U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA2 Dana Warr
One such call came in March 2003: A suspected terrorist with connections to al Qaeda was arrested after telling an undercover FBI agent of his interest in buying enough plastic explosives "to blow up a mountain." Another came under scrutiny when he asked a local tour boat captain how close a boat could approach local bridges and cruise ships. The captain promptly notiﬁed the Coast Guard via AWW.
Operation Focused Lens (OFL) is a Coast Guard-led anti-terrorism operation in California ports and waterways. As a best practice, it incorporates aspects of both security operations and maritime domain awareness (MDA) and has tie-ins with AWW. While building trust with the public, this operation directs ﬁeld units to perform focused and coordinated air, land, and sea surveillance patrols, small vessel security boardings, and intelligence collection activities in areas where small boat attacks or boat bombs may originate, be staged, or executed. OFL employs risk and predictive analytics for resource allocation and is tasked with targeting those areas most likely to be used as a staging area for such an attack. Its activities deter and prevent terrorists from exploiting marinas, boat ramps, and similar areas from which to stage attacks. Operations are conducted in partnership with other DHS and local law enforcement agencies, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the boating public, and leverages AWW. During ﬁscal year 2009, Coast Guard units in California held 630 AWW events where 4,565 boaters learned about suspicious incident reporting. Additionally, 2,401 security boardings occurred in and around marinas and 7,343 surveillance patrols were conducted, of which more than 700 were performed by local law enforcement. These activities greatly assisted the Coast Guard's efforts to build MDA, presence, and trust in areas not previously visited by law enforcement.
In 2008, DHS released its comprehensive Small Vessel Security Strategy (SVSS) after obtaining citizen input. The SVSS addresses the four scenarios of gravest concern involving terrorist attacks using small vessels: (1) use as a waterborne improvised explosive device; (2) smuggling weapons (including WMDs) into the U.S.; (3) smuggling terrorists into the U.S.; and (4) as a platform for conducting a stand-off attack (e.g., Man-Portable Air Defense System or a ballistic missile). The Coast Guard-led interagency team has developed the Small Vessel Security Implementation Plan, which lays out the federal, state, tribal, and local actions required to achieve the goals and objectives of the SVSS. The implementation plan has been drafted and is being concurrently reviewed at department and national levels for approval and release in early 2010.
A coherent strategy, deliberate execution, and broad stakeholder involvement are critical to deterring or interdicting terrorist small boat attacks in the United States.
Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, USN (Ret.), is a senior science advisor with Alion Science and Technology in Washington, D.C.
Note: This article was originally published in the 2010 edition of Coast Guard Outlook.
Last Reviewed: May 18, 2012