Project SeaHawk

Project SeaHawk is a pilot port security project created by Congress in 2003 in the port of Charleston, South Carolina. Under the guidance of the Department of Justice (DOJ), SeaHawk is an innovative program to enhance port security operations, capabilities and coordination and is a model for future Interagency Operations Centers (IOCs). Members from DOJ, U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division participate in the project.

Wait, don’t stop reading… bear with me. I know I just did a joint operations post last week on Sector Command Center-Joint (SCC-J). I promise this isn’t a trend I will continue. It just happens that Secretary Napolitano visited the Seahawk Project today and I felt it was a good opportunity to provide some background on the project since it is located on the grounds of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and is co-located with the Sector Charleston command center. Interested now?

Upon first glance, the SCC-J and SeaHawk may sound very similar – both focus on interagency cooperation and communication across the various federal, state and local entities to improve overall situational awareness, achieve a more seamless interaction and continue the ongoing collaboration efforts to secure our ports. However, while SCC-J exists in multiple ports, SeaHawk exists only in Charleston as it is a pilot project.

Furthermore, SeaHawk focuses on intelligence gathering in addition to information sharing between member agencies. It is the test bed for WatchKeeper, a web-based application being developed by the Coast Guard to layer and synthesize operational and intelligence data from a variety of agency databases to enhance collaboration, information dissemination and case execution.

While SeaHawk will be the first to utilize WatchKeeper, the end goal is to deploy WatchKeeper to all 35 Coast Guard sector command centers and to provide law enforcement agencies across the nation access to this resource. The program has been described as a “system of systems” for information synthesis allowing for “one stop shopping” as agencies expand their databases and gather information during operations. According to Lieutenant Commander Eric King, Sector Charleston Command Center Chief, WatchKeeper will “enhance interagency cooperation and promote mission execution.”

While SeaHawk is currently maintained by DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will take charge of the project on October 1, 2009 (hence Secretary Napolitano’s visit there today). In accordance with the SAFE Port Act of 2006, DHS is charged with establishing and maintaining IOCs for port security at all high-priority ports. DHS and DOJ are working together to ensure a smooth transition of control between the two departments.

Stay tuned for future posts here and on The Blog @ Homeland Security.


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