When I started my blog Information Dissemination in 2007, I made the conscious decision to use a pseudonym from my days as an iRCop - Galrahn. The intention behind using a nickname was to focus the readers attention on the content of what was being written, rather than who was doing the writing. The maritime services - and indeed topics like maritime strategy and maritime security - are topics where the details are important to insiders but can sometimes be boring to average Americans. The citizens of our country no longer feel the same connection to the ocean as it relates to our livelihood as Americans once did in the early years of our country. I can be a long-winded writer though, and my tactic was to suck people into my message with just enough information to be insightful, educational, and hopefully interesting and entertaining. Like all bloggers - my success rates may vary.
My inspiration behind using a nickname was my favorite founding father and fellow New Yorker Alexander Hamilton, who along with James Madison and John Jay published the Federalist Papers from fall of 1787 until the spring of 1788. On September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia had approved a new constitution and sent it to the Continental Congress, which ten days later sent it to the states for ratification. It was a difficult period for America in those first years after the Revolutionary War - the country was broke and heavily in debt; and Congress under the Articles of Confederation had no power to raise funds. Our founding fathers believed the federal system under the Articles of Confederation was fatally flawed, and the country would not survive without a stronger federal system.
It was Alexander Hamilton's idea to publish a series of essays urging ratification of the new Constitution, and he threw himself into the work producing 51 individual essays in four months. James Madison added 29 and John Jay wrote 5. All were published under the pseudonym "Publius." The Federalist papers, as they are known today, were printed in four New York newspapers between October 1787 and May 1788.
In his book Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy, Ian W. Toll describes how the Federalist papers revealed the importance of maritime security in the minds of our founding fathers.
Hamilton's Federalist essays made a ringing case for "active commerce, an extensive navigation, and a flourishing marine." (No. 11) It was America's destiny to trade by sea, and "the little arts of the little politicians" could never "control or vary the irresistible and unchangeable course of nature." The major Europeans powers were determined to suppress the growth of American trade -- to "clip the wings by which we might soar to a dangerous greatness." If America was serious about asserting her maritime rights and protecting her hard-won independence, "we must endeavor, as soon as possible, to have a navy." (No. 24) Madison pointed to the vulnerability of the nation's long, unfortified coastline. Those living near the sea, north and south, should be "deeply interested in this provision for naval protection." (No. 41) Without a navy to defend them, they were vulnerable to the "predatory spirit of licentious adventurers," and would sooner or later be "compelled to ransom themselves from the terrors of a conflagration, by yielding to the exactions of daring and sudden invaders."Today these words are even more applicable, indeed with 90% of the worlds trade taking place by sea today - there remains an inherent bond between freedom and access to the sea and the United States of America. Today is the first day of Homeland Security 2020: The Future of Defending the Homeland conference at the Heritage Foundation. The panels for the day will include:
1000-1100: Defending Domestic Waters: U.S. Maritime Security PoliciesAmerica's Maritime Challenge
Mr. Michael Barrett, President of Diligent Innovations and former Director of Strategy, Homeland Security Council, White House
Mr. Adam Salerno, Senior Manager, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1100-1200: Programs, platforms, and People: Public Sector Capabilities for 2020
VADM Terry Cross, USCG (Ret), Vice President for Homeland Security Programs, EADS-NA, and former USCG Vice Commandant
Dr. Steve Bucci, Associate Partner and Cyber Security Lead, Global Leadership Initiative at IBM Global; former DASD for Homeland Defense and Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense
The CIA World Factbook lists the land boundaries of the United States as 12,034 kilometers (7,477 miles), and the coastline as 19,924 km (12,380 miles). The CIA World Factbook breaks down the land boundaries further to include 8,893km (5,526 miles) for Canada (including 2,477 km or 1,539 miles with Alaska), and 3,141km (1,951 miles) for Mexico.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists the US coastline as 12,383 miles. Most organizations who use geography figures of the US coast line cite the numbers provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration instead of the CIA Factbook, but maybe the CIA knows something about those 3 miles that the rest of us don't know?
The Learning Network has a breakdown of coastline length by state using the 12,383 mile coastline figures of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The 12,383 miles of United States coast line includes 2,069 miles of Atlantic coastline, 1,631 miles of Gulf coastline, 7,623 miles of Pacific coastline, and 1,060 miles of Arctic coastline along Alaska's northern border.
Following 9/11 the US government gave priority to port security as the maritime defense layer in most need of security. While Congress has passed legislation to protect America’s ports, it’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of the legislation passed, as well as that of intelligence measures taken since 9/11. 90% of the worlds trade is transported by sea, and an attack on a major port would have serious economic impacts to America. In every maritime security conference I have been to, port security is usually the first and foremost topic.
But in the conference at the Heritage Foundation today I hope to learn more about three other topics that I believe requires the constant attention of our national political leaders if they are to truly address the dynamic change of the maritime security environment around our nations maritime borders.
The Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a national treasure, but it is also taking on water at a phenomenal rate. The material condition of the Coast Guard has long passed the tipping point, and the funding necessary to provide the manpower and training for the US Coast Guard to address the emerging roles and missions of the 21st century has not been provided. It is a real credit to the men and women of the US Coast Guard that they are able to do what they do, because every single day they are - in my opinion - carrying more responsibility with less money provided than any agency in the Federal government today.
The budget and size of the Coast Guard is out-of-sync with the responsibilities being tasked. According to a recent tally by Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., in the past 35 years Congress has handed the agency at least 27 new responsibilities. Prior to the BP oil spill in the Gulf, the Obama administration planned to cut Coast Guard personnel by 773, decommission five large cutters, retire four HU-25 Falcon medium-range surveillance aircraft, retire five HH-65 Dolphin search-and-rescue helicopters, and dissolve five 90-person marine safety and security teams next year. Following the BP oil spill, Congress has added minor increases to personnel end-strength for offshore oil monitoring, canceled the elimination of around 1,100 billets, and decreased the number of ships and aircraft scheduled for decommissioning. These adjustments are token changes and fall well short of what is necessary to strengthen the Coast Guard.
The FY 2011 budget for the Coast Guard is $10.1 billion (PDF) - 4% less than the FY 2010 budget. The Acquisition & Construction budget in FY 2011 for the entire Coast Guard is $1.536 billion - about 70% the shipbuilding cost of a single US Navy destroyer. The material condition of the US Coast Guard is not good by any standard. The US Coast Guard operates 250 cutters 65' or more, and the average age of those cutters is 41 years old.
“No amount of maintenance can outpace the ravages of age,” retired Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen said in a recent speech. “The condition of our fleet continues to deteriorate, putting our crews at risk and jeopardizing our ability to do the job.” Of the 12 major cutters assigned to Haiti relief operations, 10 of the cutters (87%) suffered mission-altering breakdowns. In the immediate hours following the explosion on DEEPWATER HORIZON, no less than 3 Coast Guard aircraft were unable to respond due to maintenance problems. In February of 2010, Mackenzie Eaglen of the Heritage Foundation made an applicable analogy:
The mismatched demands of the nation and the President’s budget cuts for the Coast Guard are unacceptable. One can only imagine the outcome—and outrage—if 83 percent of the fleet assigned to the Battle of Midway had to return to Pearl Harbor for emergency repairs. The Coast Guard should not be held to lower standards.The DEEPWATER HORIZON explosion is only one symptom of a larger problem related to the Coast Guard being able to meet the responsibilities they have been tasked by our national leaders, and the Gulf oil spill is only a taste of the real economic disaster that awaits any nation with insufficient capabilities in maritime security and protection.
In November of 2006, a Coast Guard cutter operating 100 miles off Costa Rica observed a strange blur in the water. Upon investigation, spotters on the cutter observed what appeared to be several snorkels poking up out of the water. It turned out to be a self-propelled, semisubmersible built in the jungles of Colombia carrying 3 tons of cocaine. Nicknamed "Bigfoot" the simisubmersible is now on display at Truman Annex, Naval Air Station Key West in Florida.
In 2009 officials estimated that 70 such simisubmersibles are now being constructed every year, and it is estimated only 14% are interdicted as they transfer narcotics from source to destination. In 2009 simisubmersibles were believed to carry 30% of Columbia's total cocaine exports. The cost to build a drug smuggling simisubmersible is around $500,000, and simisubmersibles are only used for a single trip. However, it is a remarkably affordable way to smuggle drugs into the United States.
The street value for 1 kilogram of cocaine in the United States can be averaged at $20,000. These simisubmersibles can transport between 3 and 7 tons of cocaine, and one short ton contains about 907 kilograms. That puts the street value of one simisubmersible full of 3 tons of cocaine at just over $54 million. At $54 million the transport costs using simisubmersibles with a 3 ton payload from South America to the United States is below 1% of the total street value.
In the 21st century, the rate of technological change drug cartels and other non-state actors have demonstrated is remarkable. In just the last 10 years, the drug trade has gone from go-fast speed boats to simisubmersibles to - as recently discovered in July 2010 in Ecuador - full midget submarine technology. Leveraging tides that ebb and flow through the rivers and tributaries in South America, simisubmersibles and submarines are being constructed well away from the coast in swamp areas sometimes as much as a hundred miles inland.
At roughly 30m long, the drug smuggling midget submarine found in Ecuador is roughly the same size as the midget submarine suspected of sinking the South Korean warship Cheonan, albeit far less sophisticated than its North Korean counterpart. Leveraging off the shelf technologies like the Hummingbird depth finder and GPS technologies, Jay Bergman, Andean regional director for the DEA, told CNN the submarine costs about $4 million to build. As a fully submersible submarine capable of carrying 10 tons of cocaine and reusable unlike its simisubmersible counterparts, one can see how the full submarine approach would be more cost effective - thus more likely to be used - by drug cartels in the future.
Now that midget submarines have transitioned from a theoretical capability used off the US coast to an actual capability to be used off the US coast, how does this influence the resource and training plans of the US Coast Guard? If the drug cartels are already using submarine technologies, what happens when organizations with more nefarious plans than smuggling narcotics develop these capabilities to use off the shores of the United States? The United States is not only unprepared for these types of challenges, there is little evidence that Congress is taking the rapid technological evolution of maritime threats seriously. Asking tough questions about US Coast Guard sonar technologies and training highlights the significance of the challenge the US faces today - much less the near future.
America's Arctic Problem
In September of 2008 the MV Camilla Desgagnés, owned by Desgagnés Transarctik Inc., transported cargo from Montreal to the hamlets of Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk, Gjoa Haven and Taloyoak through the Northwest Passage. The transit marked the first time supplies were delivered to communities in western Nunavut from an Eastern port.
In 2009 two German ships, the Beluga Fraternity and the Beluga Foresight left the Russian port of Vladivostok with cargo picked up in South Korea bound for Holland. The traditional route for the ships would have been through the western Pacific towards the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean over to the Suez Canal, and out through the Strait of Gibraltar up to Holland for a total of roughly 11,000 nautical miles (12,658 miles). Using the Northeast Passage over Russia, the ships cut ~4,000 nautical miles from that trip and saved roughly $300,000 - of which $100,000 was in fuel savings alone. With permission from Russia to make the trip, the nuclear powered icebreaker 50 Years Since Victory escorted the two freighters through the Northeast Passage.
Last week the Barents Observer reported that the 100,000 ton tanker “Baltica” left Murmansk loaded with gas condensate for China escorted by 3 nuclear powered icebreakers. This is the first time a high-tonnage tanker will take the Northern Sea Route from Europe to Asia. The Northeast Passage will cut ~5,000 miles from usual route taken around Africa, as a 100,000 ton tankers are too large for the Suez canal.
As the Northwest and Northeast Passages open up new sea trade opportunities, it is important to note that regardless of which route is taken, both routes will increase the number of ships transiting in US waters - as both routes require ships to pass through the Bering Strait. Alaska has 1,060 miles of Arctic Ocean coastline of which any vessel utilizing the Northwest Passage will transit through. What the United States does not have today is any operational heavy icebreakers to escort and insure safety of navigation in those icy waters.
The Coast Guard has two heavy polar icebreakers — Polar Star (WAGB-10) and Polar Sea (WAGB-11). The Polar Star is not operational and has been in what is called "caretaker status" since July 1, 2006. Congress has provided funding to repair Polar Star and return it to service for 7 to 10 years, and the Coast Guard expects Polar Star reactivation to be completed by 2013.
On June 25, 2010, the Coast Guard announced that Polar Sea had suffered an unexpected engine problem and consequently will likely be unavailable for operation until at least January 2011. That leaves the United States currently without any operational heavy polar icebreakers.
The Coast Guard also operates a third polar icebreaker — Healy — which entered service in 2000. Compared to Polar Star and Polar Sea, the medium polar icebreaker Healy has less icebreaking capability but more capability for supporting scientific research - and is primarily used supporting scientific research in the Arctic.
With 1,060 miles of Alaskan Arctic coastline, and by international law the United States claims out to 200 miles of that coastline to be part of the American economic exclusion zone; how can our nation afford to have ZERO operational heavy icebreakers today? If I had a penny for every time I have heard a news anchor or politician say "Global Warming" on Television, our nation could buy 10 heavy icebreakers - and yet in 2010 we have none.
The Arctic policy of the United States has no political leadership at all, because there isn't a single US politician who would take responsibility for a policy we have no capabilities today to enforce policy with. There is significant global economic potential should either the Northwest or Northeast Passages become a viable sea trade route between Europe and Asia, which means the shipping industry will be exploring these trade routes over the next few years. While politicians in America will openly discuss scientific theory related to global warming, there is a tangible economic and maritime boundary issue for the United States taking place in plain sight today related to climate changes impact to global maritime commerce trade patterns that could result in US territory - the Bering Strait - becoming a crowded sea trade choke point in the very near future. The US economic exclusion zone off the Alaskan coastline is a marine resource, a potential energy resource, and a possible economic trade resource that the United States must be prepared to protect.
The condition of the United States Coast Guard, the technology evolutions by non-state actors and criminals in the 21st century, and the missing-in-action US Arctic Policy represent three homeland security concerns along our nations maritime borders that are evolving at a pace greater than our nations political leaders in Washington are adapting. I look forward to the Heritage Foundation Homeland Security 2020 event today in hopes that these issues are discussed thoughtfully and inform our national leaders on how the United States can best address these and other emerging challenges off our nations shorelines.