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30/04/2006 | Trade Security at Sea: Setting National Priorities for Safeguarding America’s Economic Lifeline

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. & Martin Edwin Andersen

In 2003, The Heritage Foundation established the Maritime Security Working Group to examine the maritime security challenges facing the United States. The working group—composed of mem­bers of academe, the private sector, research insti­tutions, and government—released a special report detailing threats and gaps in U.S. maritime security and expressing the need for an overarching strate­gic approach to addressing these shortfalls. In December 2005, the Administration released its National Strategy for Maritime Security. The strat­egy and its supporting interagency plans reflected many of the Maritime Security Working Group’s findings.


This report addresses the next steps that should be taken. The most important task in maritime security is to safeguard the flow of global maritime commerce. In this follow-up report, the working group addresses the three most significant enablers to establishing the maritime security regime that the nation needs to protect trade at sea:
  • Expanding the capabilities of the U.S. Coast Guard,
  • Improvingthe sharing and usage of commer­cial information, and
  • Enhancinginternational cooperation.
This paper summarizes the conclusions of the Maritime Security Working Group’s first report and offers findings and recommendations for ensuring that the maritime component of the global supply chain is safe, resilient, and prosperous. Fully Funding the Coast Guard. Given the mul­titude of threats and vulnerabilities in the maritime domain, strengthening the assets that address the greatest number of threats and vulnerabilities makes the most sense. The missions of the U.S. Coast Guard touch on virtually every aspect of maritime operations. Ensuring that the Coast Guard has the resources to perform all of its mis­sions should be the highest priority. Congress and the Administration should:
  • Aggressively fund and accelerate the Coast Guard’s Integrated Deepwater System;
  • Establish a national budget for maritime domain awareness under the Coast Guard;
  • Create special operations capabilities and a law enforcement/port security corps in the Coast Guard;
  • Expand the International Port Security Pro­gram; and
  • Put teeth in the National Fleet Policy.
Getting the Information. Trying to attend to everything in the world of maritime commerce makes no sense. The goal should be to focus most of the security assets on the most dangerous and suspicious people, activities, and things. This will require more information, better information, bet­ter analysis, better interagency coordination of related information, and better tactical and strate­gic use of information. This is the most important job, but it will not be an easy task. Collection of data on the supply chain presents a Gordian knot involving myriad problems in focus, scope, and efficacy. Both government and the trade-driven commercial world need the right information to better assess the risks posed by glo­bal threats. International cooperation is required to ensure that the right kinds of partnerships are fos­tered across the vast distances of the supply chain to meet such diverse challenges as focusing resources on suspect cargo, containing the need to close seaports after incident or attack, and “reboot­ing” the infrastructure afterward. Congress and the Administration should:
  • Focus on shipments rather than containers, mandate some form of identifier across the sup­ply chain, and get more and better information;
  • Separate the intelligence and compliance func­tions of Customs and Border Protection and combine intelligence and data collection in a sin­gle, focused authority at a high level elsewhere in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS);
  • Build on the contingency plans and capabilities developed by the private sector;
  • Require the Department of Defense and the DHS to sponsor joint operations and intelli­gence fusion centers; and
  • Require that freight forwarders and other mid­dlemen who move goods be trained in supply-chain security measures and require each such company to have at least one individual with a commercial security clearance who could inter­act with the U.S. government during an incident.
Enhancing International Cooperation. Almost nothing can be accomplished to make the seas safer without international support, standardization, and joint effort. Congress and the Administration should:
  • Restructure U.S. assistance programs,
  • Establish U.S. regional interagency commands,
  • Engage the North Atlantic Council and NATO consultative mechanisms,
  • Facilitate NATO–European Union coopera­tion, and
  • Continue to encourage foreign investment in U.S. maritime infrastructure while safeguarding U.S. security interests.

Conclusion. Implementing these 15 recommen­dations will require concerted and integrated effort from Congress and the Administration, particularly the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Defense, and Transportation.

James Jay Carafano Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Pol­icy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. Martin Edwin Andersen has served as a senior adviser for policy planning in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, communications director for the Port Security Council, and managing editor of Port Security News.

The Heritage Foundation (Estados Unidos)


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