United States’ maritime security advances with new strategic alliance

USCG Coast Guard RHIB port security new york maritime domain awareness

On December 21st, 2004, former President Bush signed the National Security Presidential Directive NSPD-41 that stated:

It is critical that the United States develop an enhanced capability to identify threats to the Maritime Domain as early and as distant from our shores as possible by integrating intelligence, surveillance, observation, and navigation systems into a common operating picture accessible throughout the United States Government.

This past Wednesday, gCaptain was invited on board the presidential yacht Sequoia to witness the forging of a unique alliance aimed at increasing the maritime security of the United States.

NMLEA National Maritime Law Enforcement AcademyComprised of the National Maritime Law Enforcement Academy (NMLEA), the National Association of Small Boating Law Enforcement Administrators (NASBLA), and the Moran Office of Maritime and Port Security (MOMPS), this this alliance was established to help support a government funded, maritime security training program at Florida State University (FSU) called PortStar.

To that end, both the US Coast Guard and commercial maritime industry were closely consulted to ensure that what is being fielded is designed to meet or exceed Industry and Law Enforcement Port Security Requirements under the 33 CFR’s.

A bit of background…

Maritime port security is a complex beast because it involves a number of different entities, each with their own set of unique capabilities.  For example, during a crisis in a maritime port, local law enforcement and perhaps fire department resources are easily called to action, however the other immediate resources, who have first-hand understanding, a.k.a. domain awareness of the port, such as the local commercial industry, first responders, vendors, ship agents, and port partners, may not get fully integrated or brought to bear until it’s too late.

This program is designed to bridge the gap between industry (MOMPS and NASBLA), law enforcement (NMLEA), and academia (FSU).

Rear Admiral Jim Watson, the US Coast Guard’s Director of Prevention Policy explains,

NMLEA, NASBLA, and MOMPS each provide essential expertise in waterside security and work with US Coast Guard Captains of the Port as force multipliers. So, I’m particularly excited about the new security and training alliance signed this week. Benefits include deployable training and on-line training developed at Florida State University in accordance with USCG standard practices.

MOMPS NLMEA NASBLA Sequoia Presidential yachtIn supporting the program at FSU, MOMPS brings with it almost 75 years of ship agency, maritime consulting, and emergency response expertise while working with many of the worlds most prominent ship owners, operators, facilities, charterers, brokers and government agencies.   Facilitating this program with MOMPS, the NMLEA was originally created to assist State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies with the most leading edge maritime law enforcement training programs available beyond USCG and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

The NMLEA has a history of working with training facilities such as MITAGS in Baltimore, however, MITAGS is a one week in-class course.  Portstar, on the other hand, offers the Facility Security Officer course online as well as instructor-led, but with the additional in-the-field practical element with MOMPS.  This final element is where the true results of the training need to be for some to get the most effective solution and is one of the cornerstones of this program.

But why is MOMPS particularly suited to support the NMLEA?  Mr. Robert Wells, Director of the NMLEA responded to our inquiry stating:

Admiral Paul Pluta, Advisory Board Member, highly recommended Mr. Jeffrey Milstein [MOMPS Operations Manager] as a trusted and learned individual as to Port Security matters.  Per the Admirals recommendation, I first met Jeffrey and his staff when we worked together on a major port facility security assessment.  I found Mr. Milstien to be every bit the professional the Admiral described.  Given this and the relationship that developed over this past year, NMLEA believes that MOMPS has more than proven to be the organization to assist in the Portstar rollout and provider of unique innovative technologies and services to the extended community that NMLEA brings to the table.  In addition to Portstar, the Academy is prepared to review and certify MOMPS training programs that are presently in place and/or being developed.  As to Port Security audits/surveys and other related port security assessments, we believe that MOMPS and NMLEA are in a position, when needed, to field representatives to law enforcement and industry and uphold the highest standards of each of our organizations comfortably. MOMPS is a CRITICAL component to this alliance due to the many points shown above, as well as its large role and connection to many of the world’s shipping companies and the majority of the facilities contained in US Ports. Their depth of experience, and the fact that much of their staff work in the capacity of a port agent for thousands of vessel port calls a year, ensures that all work and training is done from a real-time playing field of operations and law enforcement.

As for NASBLA’s contribution, Cesar Morales, Senior Maritime Domain Awareness Analyst and occasional gCaptain contributor from Delex Systems provides us some insight:

From a maritime domain awareness perspective, this project represents a significant effort in addressing gaps in our maritime security capabilities.  By leveraging the knowledge and understanding of the small vessel community that NASBLA represents, and applying this understanding to training applications that can be easily accessed by maritime stakeholders,  we get a step closer to achieving ‘effective understanding’ of activities in the maritime domain.  It will be these stakeholders, representing both federal and public interests, that will be the most effective tools in combating maritime threats.  Ultimately it is this type of training and public-private partnership that will allow for effective resiliency, response, and recovery from any incident on the water, which is the objective of maritime domain awareness.

In conclusion, Mr. Wells discusses the overall impact this alliance, and the PortStar program, has to the maritime industry:

“Increased Port Security Awareness and affordable certified training.  

Portstar has the ability to be the most affordable and comprehensive certified training program on the market.  Why?  It was born of a $6.2 million Dollar Taxpayer Grant from DHS to Florida State University.  That allows NASBLA/NMLEA, Non Profit Organizations, and MOMPS, a for-profit organization with kindred goals and objectives that is able to roll Portstar out to industry for pennies to the dollars.  Given this unfunded mandate as it were under the CFR’s, and given that Industry is all about the bottom line, Portstar is a cost effective, superior program that is not only certified by MARAD/DHS, but facilitated by those who have made a career in the maritime law enforcement and Port Security industry.  If there is any question as to this, just take a look at who designed Portstar, and those responsible for its roll out and management.  The degree of professionalism simply cannot be beat, and only matched with a considerable cost and effort.

In this, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the NMLEA looks back and reflects on the words of president Bush.  He challenged those who have served, to give back to the Nation.  Those members of NMLEA and NASBLA were doing that pre 9/11, and given the charge of Admiral Siler, former USCG Commandant and First Advisory Board Chairman before his passing in 2007, “to always continue the good work of NMLEA”, and continue to serve those who serve and protect.  We feel Admiral Siler would be proud of this alliance and the potential to make such a profound contribution to the Nation’s Port Security Challenges.  I know all us around the table now, believe this alliance will serve to continue the good work that has been done, and to do so on a much greater scale thanks to NASBLA and MOMPS.”

Follow these organizations on Twitter at:
MOMPS: @Port_Security
NASBLA: @NASBLA