Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Hearing on “Maritime Domain Awareness”
[summarizes DHS reports on small vessel security strategy]
A recent report by the GAO entitled “DHS’s Progress and Challenges in Key Areas of Maritime, Aviation, and Cybersecurity” notes that “[e]ven with systems in place to track small vessels, there is widespread agreement among maritime stakeholders that it is very difficult to detect threatening activity by small vessels without prior knowledge of a planned attack.”61
The GAO noted that “… even if multiple systems are in place for tracking vessels in U.S. coastal areas, inland waterways and ports, tracking small vessels such as potential suicide attack boats is difficult.”62 The GAO further highlighted the limits of the strategy’s emphasis on tracking small vessels by stating that, “given the number of potential threats in many areas and a short time in which to respond to a threat, thwarting an attack by a smaller vessel without advance knowledge of the threat may prove challenging even with available systems and other equipment that track smaller and noncommercial vessels in coastal areasinland waterways, and po63
Others have criticized efforts to combat maritime domain threats by identifying anomalies among those on the water noting that those involved in past terrorist activity in the maritime domain involving vessels did not necessarily engage in activities that would have been identifiable as anomalous prior to conducting their attacks.64 For example:
The boat used to attack the USS Cole in 2000 was not hijacked or stolen. It was legally purchased in a port in Saudi Arabia.65
The bombing of Superferry 14 in the Philippines in 2004 was not conducted by terrorists using a water-borne improvised explosive device but by a passenger who brought the explosives aboard in a television.66
Challenges of MDA
Information and intelligence collection and sharing amongst a number of stakeholder agencies are vital to MDA. Trust is key to the successful sharing of information. Information providers, users of the information, policy makers, and the public should be confident that the information collected and shared is consistent with the law and will protect the civil liberties and the privacy of individuals.69 Obstacles that preclude effective sharing of information to achieve MDA include the lack of data sharing between stakeholder agencies; various databases that are not connected to identify information gaps and redundancies; and the inability to consistently monitor critical areas and associate applicable data to the detected targets.70
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION
The Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation has not previously held a hearing on MDA.
Laws Governing MDA
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress enacted three statutes to strengthen maritime security and maritime domain awareness.
The Maritime Transportation Safety Act of 2002 (MTSA) (P.L. 107-295) was the first Federal statute to require the tracking of vessels to improve safety in the U.S. maritime domain. The requirements of MTSA applied as specified below:
On and after January 1, 2003 for the following vessels built after that date:
Self-propelled commercial vessels at least 65 feet in length;
Vessels carrying a certain number of passengers for hire as determined by the Secretary of Transportation;
Towing vessels more than 26 feet in length and 600 horsepower; and
Interagency Operations Centers
The SAFE Port Act directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish interagency operational centers (IOCs) for port security at all high-priority ports. These IOCs are directed to utilize characteristics of existing centers, organize to fit the security needs of individual port areas, and to provide for participation by: CBP; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Transportation Security Administration; Department of Justice; Department of Defense; other Federal agencies; State and local law enforcement; and Port security personnel, members of Area Maritime Security Committees, and other private and public sector stakeholders who might be adversely affected by a transportation security incident or disruption.
The IOCs are also to be incorporated into the: implementation and administration of maritime transportation security plans; maritime intelligence activities; short- and long-range vessel tracking; supply chain security; and transportation security incident response plans.
The “existing centers” to which the SAFE Port Act referred were those operating in Miami, Norfolk, Charleston, and San Diego and the virtual Operations Centers in New York and New Jersey. The deadline for the establishment of the IOCs was three years following the enactment of the SAFE Port Act or October 13, 2009. To fund the creation of the IOCs, Congress authorized $60 million for each FY from 2007 to 2012. The deadline for implementing the IOCs has not been met.
In October 2007, Captain Francis Sturm of the U