Protecting America from threats delivered by sea

MSRT Tactical Delivery Team

Maritime Security Response Team boat crews maneuver into formation during training on Chesapeake Bay, Va. The mission of the MSRT is to provide a short-notice, threat-tailored, maritime response force to deter, protect against, and respond to threats of maritime terrorism and to higher-risk criminal law enforcement threats on the water or in a port. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson.

For more than 200 years the United States Coast Guard has served as America’s maritime first responder, protecting Americans on the sea, protecting America from threats delivered by sea and protecting the sea itself. Over the centuries and particularly in the past decade, threats to maritime security have evolved.

In the past, threats delivered by sea often came in the form of foreign navies. Today’s threats come by way of self-propelled semi-submersible drug smuggling vessels, pirates hoping to disrupt the global supply chain and individuals who illegally cross our borders with the intent of committing acts of violence against America. The Coast Guard has adapted to face these new challenges with new mission areas and new partnerships across the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and the global intelligence community.

Coast Guard petty officer and Customs and Border Patrol officer at Port of Baltimore

A Coast Guard petty officer and Customs and Border Protection officer consult during a joint security operation at the Port of Baltimore, Md. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Brazzell.

Last week, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Bob Papp was joined by the heads of Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to announce a maritime operations coordination plan aimed at strengthening planning, information sharing and intelligence integration to build upon current partnerships and cooperative efforts at our ports and secure our nation’s maritime borders as part of America’s National Strategy for Maritime Security.

“Coast Guard, CBP and ICE all play key roles in addressing current and emerging maritime security challenges,” said Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft, assistant commandant for marine safety, security and stewardship. “The plan signed by Admiral Papp, Commissioner [Alan] Bersin and Director [John] Morton will only strengthen the partnerships that continue to protect America and her people from threats delivered by sea.”

MSST and FBI joint training

Maritime Safety and Security Team Boston members conduct training with an F.B.I. Special Weapons and Tactics Team. MSSTs provide enhanced port safety and security and law enforcement capabilities to economic or militarily significant ports. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Tomorrow, Zukunft will testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security to discuss the importance of coordinated law enforcement along America’s coasts. In addition to addressing global partnerships the service takes part in, he is expected to laud the Port of San Diego’s Joint Harbor Operations Center as a major success story for joint security operations right here at home. Located at Coast Guard Sector San Diego, the JHOC is manned by personnel from 20 local, state and federal government agencies including Coast Guard, CBP, DoD and local marine police. In the past year alone, the JHOC has been responsible for the interdiction of 27,000 pounds of marijuana and stopped 800 undocumented migrants from illegally entering America by sea.

“The San Diego JHOC is just one example of interagency operations centers the Coast Guard is implementing in all major U.S. ports on behalf of DHS,” said Zukunft. “The unique nature of the maritime domain necessitates a layered approach to security built out of cooperation and coordination with our law enforcement partners at the federal, state, local, tribal and international levels.”

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