Coast Guard beefing up port security

The Coast Guard is looking to increase its focus on port security and develop a plan to support the agency's growing homeland security mission, Coast Guard chief of staff Vice Adm. Thad Allen said today.

Allen referred to this focus as maritime domain awareness: reaching beyond a common operating picture to increase surveillance and to track cargo at ports. With such awareness comes the need to create a supporting architecture.

"We want to be solving problems," Allen said, speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Northern Virginia Chapter of AFCEA International. "We are looking now how to harden the ports as we raise security conditions, and we need an architecture that deals with overall port security."

He said the agency was trying to bring together the pieces of knowledge across the agency and building a technology framework that allows it to focus on security — starting with the ports and moving up into the rest of the Homeland Security Department.

"We're going to start building it from the port up, from the Coast Guard up," Allen said, adding that the small size of the agency allows it to be a leader in making the changes.

A major challenge for the Coast Guard since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has been juggling the agency's mission of preventing drug trafficking and illegal migrations with the added homeland security missions, Allen said.

"We need to keep our eyes on those balls too," he said. "Our challenges are technical, political, mission-based."

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