Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Maritime Critical Infrastructure Protection: Multi-Agency Command and Control in an Asymmetric Environment

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Maritime Critical Infrastructure Protection: Multi-Agency Command and Control in an Asymmetric Environment

Article excerpt

Throughout its history, the United States has been a global maritime nation, dependent upon the oceans for economy, welfare, and defense. In the modern era emphasis on globalization and the world economy has increased this dependence considerably. There are some 95,000 miles of United States' coastline and 3.4 million square miles of territorial seas and exclusive economic zones in the U.S. maritime domain. 1 Connecting the continental United States to this zone are over 1,000 harbors and ports, 361 of which are cargo capable. Through these ports enter approximately 21,000 containers daily, representing ninety-five percent of the nation's overseas cargo, including 100 percent of U.S. petroleum imports. 2 In addition to commerce, there are seventy-six million recreational boaters in the United States. Six million cruise ship passengers visit U.S. ports annually. In the strategic/military sense, a substantial portion of U.S. national power relies on the sea, both in the form of traditional Navy Carrier Strike groups that deploy from ports in the continental United States and the subsequent ability to reinforce deployed forces overseas. Without unimpeded access to the sea, the ability of the United States to project national power is extremely limited.

Maritime infrastructure is crucial in maintaining this link to the sea. From naval bases to commercial ports, maritime infrastructure is well developed nationwide and is crucial to both the economic sector and military strategy. Maritime infrastructure is critical to the employment of national maritime power and as such is a logical (if not desirable) target for acts of terrorism by our enemies. A successful attack against a port could incur serious economic and military damage, present an enemy with the opportunity to inflict mass casualties, and have serious long-term detrimental effects on our national economy.

Maritime Critical Infrastructure Protection (MCIP) presents many challenges in an asymmetric environment. Previous models of maritime defense have focused on protecting ships from traditional naval attack; even when ports and supporting infrastructure have been considered targets, emphasis was on defense against a military threat. The Global War On Terror (GWOT) has created a number of heretofore unconsidered vulnerabilities in this traditional outlook. Many targets that would not be considered legitimate (economic, symbolic, etc.) in a conventional war must now be considered in strategic defensive planning. In conducting these attacks the unimpeded use of the sea is a force multiplier for an enemy dedicated to striking a wide range of potential targets. Possible threats from the sea are wide-ranging and diverse, relying on a combination of asymmetric offensive tactics while exploiting the variety of the littoral.

This asymmetric nature of GWOT requires a multi-agency approach to devise effective command and control for modern port defense. The Coast Guard and Navy have made important strides in this area by devising experimental Joint Harbor Operations Centers (JHOCs) as a component of maritime anti-terrorist force protection. The expansion of this concept into multi-agency maritime homeland security is a logical next step in the evolving problem of port security and defense. This is made evident by examining likely terrorist threats to ports and studying the lessons of the past that apply in this environment which can be used to expand the current command and control system to meet the new threat

New Threat Matrix: Ports as Targets

The GWOT threat to ports is a relatively new element in the spectrum of naval warfare. This is largely due to the evolving nature of the shipping industry and the nation's growing reliance on sea power. Historically, a nation's maritime strength has been measured by the size and capability of its merchant fleet and Navy; attacks against a nation's sea power meant the physical destruction of these ships. …

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