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Whose Pond is it Anyway?

Jose Medina, PortGard Training Consultant

The common phrase used in our mission for protecting our homeland is, “The tragic events of September 11th have made us re-think new ways of defending our homeland.” This short phrase is one of many statements that are being made by the government or private training and consulting firms time and time again with the end result being no forward progress in our mission. Many who know the industry of maritime training, law enforcement/military training, advanced security training and consulting will know our reactive responses to the maritime security problem continues to hit snags in the systems. For example, in our surrounding areas of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Baltimore to name a few, many programs have been implemented to assist in the efforts of protecting our seaports from potential terrorist attacks from the water. The question has and continues to be, “Who is responsible for protecting our maritime borders, is it the Coast Guard, Harbor Patrol Units, State Police or is it the responsibility of local law enforcement within the state?” This is just one part of the big picture in our nation.

While there is still no clear cut answer to this question, the one area that must be addressed is the establishment of better communication between the multiple agencies involved in protecting the waters of our seaports and beyond. Currently, New York Police Departments have their own harbor units to assist in this important mission along with the New Jersey State Police Marine Units on the other side of the water. Recently in the State of New Jersey, there was a specific amount of patrol vessels assigned to a joint operation involving multiple agencies that have special maritime interest areas in their regions. While this was a positive push forward toward the maritime security interest, some of these agencies are still debating over who will be manning the vessels and who will be docking the vessels in their regions? This debate has spun many agencies back into the mentality of, “If you want it, take it and when you need us, we are here.” The bottom line is if money is going to be allotted for agencies with these specific and special borders, enough funds should be allotted to supply a vessel for each agency. Where the larger township or city covers more maritime threat risks, perhaps an additional vessel should be supplied to allow for the specific agency to cover more areas in a shorter time. One other area that should be considered is the fact that the maritime security threats should be treated as if it were on ground operations. You have multiple vehicles and command vehicles available for proper response where you only have one vessel shared by perhaps three or four agencies. The end result is the possibility of another attack in our areas such as the one that took place in New York City. How do you muster up all these maritime security officers to meet with additional agencies such as Jersey City, State Police or New York City with only one vessel? The purpose of having these officers trained to the response is to have them prepared when called upon. If one agency takes claim to the vessel, how do we effectively perform a proper response to the event? The need for maritime advanced security teams is needed now more than ever as this would bring the properly trained personnel to immediately respond to assist local and state law enforcement in the event of another terrorist attack.

The final concern is the private industries, in particular the fuel industry, who for years, have complained that the government should do more to protect their special interests. With this in mind, this same industry refuses to assist the law enforcement and advanced security agencies by perhaps supplying fuel for the homeland security vessels. Funding has been provided for these private agencies and still, one wonders where the awarded funding has gone?

Like anything else in this Homeland Security initiative, the enemy continues to learn from our consistent mistakes and bickering over funding and who owns what property. While this still occurs, the enemy continues to make their way into our system preparing to exploit our common mistake when it comes to money, Greed.

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