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Hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure - Maritime...

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service October 6, 2004 Wednesday








REP. FRANK A. LoBIONDO (R-NJ): Morning. Thank you for coming today.

The subcommittee is meeting this morning to examine the efforts by the Coast Guard and other federal agencies to expand awareness on activities occurring within the maritime domain. Following the events of September 11th, the Coast Guard has spearheaded an interagency approach to enhance maritime domain awareness. This effort includes the collection and use of information and intelligence regarding activities of the maritime transportation industry, coupled with a comprehensive knowledge of the conditions occurring within the marine environment.

Though the security concerns have led to increased concern about maritime domain awareness, in fact, a more complete understanding of who is moving where in the waters under United States' control is also important for improved search and rescue capabilities, economic management at ports, law enforcement, and environmental response planning. Maritime domain awareness encompasses a wide-range of efforts that are being carried out by federal agencies on a daily basis. This committee has been especially involved with the Coast Guard's efforts to expand its capabilities to monitor and track vessels on the high seas as they approach shore.

The Maritime Transportation Security Agency requires the Coast Guard to develop and implementation of an automatic identification system, AIS, that would report the location and identify vessels to the Coast Guard and other officials in real time. This system will enhance the Coast Guard's capabilities to target and track vessels, and to promote the safe navigation of those vessels as they approach port. I hope that the witnesses' testimony will include an update on the implementation of this system.

I believe that AIS is an example of the vessel-tracking systems that we must continue to develop to ensure safe navigation and to protect the security of our ports. However, we must be able to extend our tracking capabilities beyond the range of the system. I understand that the Coast Guard has begun a process of developing a long-range vessel-tracking system in conjunction with the International Maritime Organization. A long-range vessel tracking system will further extend our maritime borders and enhance the Coast Guard's ability to monitor navigation and protect our homeland security.

In addition to the Coast Guard's efforts, other Department of Homeland Security agencies are carrying out programs designed to enhance maritime domain awareness, particularly in the area of cargo security. The committee believes that we must continue our efforts to improve the screening and tracking of maritime cargo containers. The Maritime Transportation Security Act and the Coast Guard both direct the Coast Guard to develop and implement systems to meet these objectives. I am encouraged by the department's current efforts to improve cargo security and look forward to working with the department in the future to continue to address emerging needs in the area of maritime homeland security.

In addition to collecting information on the vessels and maritime cargo containers, maritime domain awareness requires a comprehensive understanding of the conditions occurring within the maritime environment. The safety of the maritime transportation industry depends on the accuracy of navigational charts, as well as real-time information on weather, tides and currents in coastal offshore waters. I understand that NOAA has begun to make the information widely available in electronic form using GPS technologies. I am hopeful that these technologies developed by NOAA can be combined with Coast Guard systems, including AIS, to produce a common platform that can be used to improve navigation and vessel security.

Enhancing our awareness of activities in the maritime domain is necessary to protect the safety and security of our maritime transportation system. America, as a maritime nation that depends on the steady flow of commerce in and out of its 361 ports. This committee will continue its efforts to ensure that the Coast Guard has necessary resources, technology and authority to both secure America's ports and maintain the save movement of the maritime transportation industry.

I want to thank the witnesses for coming today before the committee, and certainly we look forward to their testimony.

Mr. DeFazio, would you like to make an opening statement?


REP. LoBIONDO: Without objection, so ordered.

Mr. Coble.

REP. HOWARD COBLE (R-NC): Very briefly, Mr. Chairman. The purpose of this hearing is significantly important, as you and the gentleman from Oregon have pointed out, and I thank you for having scheduled it. Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, I have two meetings going on simultaneously, so I'm going to be a floater probably today. But I appreciate you having scheduled the hearing.

REP. LoBIONDO: We understand that you're a very important and busy member of Congress, Mr. Coble.

Thank you.

REP. COBLE: I don't think that equates to being importantish, but thank you for the comment.

REP. LoBIONDO: Now I'll introduce our panel. We have Mr. Jeffrey P. High, director of Maritime Domain Awareness for the United States Coast Guard. Rear Admiral Sam DeBow is director of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations. And Mr. Robert Jacksta is the executive director of Border Security and Facilitation for U.S. Customers and Border Protection.

We'll start with Mr. High. Thank you for joining us and please proceed.


REP. LoBIONDO: Thank you, Mr. DeFazio.

Mr. Jacksta, I'm interested in hearing more about the current efforts underway to develop systems to improve tracking and screening of containers. And if you could talk a little bit more about that, and particularly of what is, maybe, in a test program. This is one of our big concerns of how do we identify? I know a lot of people have expressed the percentage of containers that we're inspecting, and we know that that's changed dramatically in the sense that we are inspecting containers, not on a random basis, but based on some specific information. But the committee is very interested in hearing where the next step may be.

MR. JACKSTA: Yes, sir. What I'd like to do is begin and discuss a little bit about what our approach is to security. And basically it begins when we have a partnership with the importers or the exporters who are shipping containers, and it's very important for us to work closely with them and develop security measures in place so that the supply chain of that container, when it is transported, is secure.

Once we can establish that it is secure, we want to make sure that there's a mechanism for us to seal that container so that there is no further breach of security or concerns with the container having goods put into it, and that is extremely important to us. So we are working on the technology to try to improve container security and we are working with various other agencies, as well as the technology side of the house, to develop what we're calling the "smart container."

With that, what is also very important to us, is getting the information regarding the shipment as far back in the process as possible, when the container is getting stuffed with the goods that will be shipped. We want to make sure that we have an idea of what is in that container and whether it's of concern. Partnering with the importers or the shippers allows us to get that information.

When we get that information, we can utilize it, and working with the carriers, we can make a decision on whether an examination is needed. With that, the Container Security Initiative, where we have our teams over in 26 locations, allows us to work with the foreign government to make a decision before that container is put on a vessel, shipped to the United States, on whether it needs to be examined. And the cooperation that we've had with these foreign governments has allowed us to do those examinations overseas and make a decision if there is a threat. That brings our borders out as far as possible before they arrive in the United States.

The 24-Hour Rule, where we are requiring the shipper and the individuals that are going to ship goods to provide us with information, allows us to make a decision on whether there is a concern with the cargo.

And I think that what we're trying to do now as we move outward, we're looking at trying to develop a system to begin the process using commercial databases, to begin the process of tracking the container from the time that the container may be stuffed by a foreign shipper to the point when it gets on a vessel and then to the United States.

What is happening with that container? Is there anything that's going to be added to that container by other shippers? Is there anything that might be a concern? We want to know about that, and we're in the preliminary stages of trying to develop a system to do that. It needs partnership with the industry and we're currently having those discussions. And I think that will help enhance the security and understanding of where that container is in the process.

REP. LoBIONDO: We've heard of some discussions about devices that would be either put on a container or part of a container that, in essence, would be able to determine any biological/chemical/radiological components that aren't supposed to be there; if, in fact, the container is opened, when it is opened; GPS system hooked up to it. Is anything like that being tested at this point?

MR. JACKSTA: Yes, sir. We are currently testing, with specific importers and shipping lines, technology which we are calling a "smart seal," a seal that allows us to determine electronically whether the container has been opened or doors have been opened, there has been a breach of security. And that technology is new, sir. There's a lot of efforts to develop a system that we can count on, so that when there is a breach of security and we need to look at it, that we know that there's actually been a breach of security.

Currently we're testing technology, not only to tell us whether the doors have been opened, but also we're looking at different types of technology that might be able to tell us whether there's any kind of radiological material in the container. But I must indicate that the technology is developing right now and it will be a while before we're able to have technology that will probably determine whether any biological or chemical devices are in that container. But the CBP is working with DHS, the S&T, and other outside organizations to take a look at this. So we are testing today.

REP. LoBIONDO: Do you have any guesstimate of when we might expect to hear something back concerning how this is going? I mean, are we looking at six months? Are we looking at a year? What's your guess of --

MR. JACKSTA: Well, I think that there's a couple of things going on that would help us make a decision on some type of technology. I think that we're working with Operation Safe Commerce, and the effort there, that we've put grants out to various companies to take a look at seals and at different types of smart containers that might be out there. Also, the issue of us currently testing, and we're going to be continuing our testing and expanding it during the next couple of months.

So I would be willing to say that I think within another six months we'll have a preliminary review of the security devices that we've put out there and whether they are something that we could pursue on a large scale, and at the same time ensuring security, but at the same time not making it so expensive that each seal would be too expensive to put on a container.

REP. LoBIONDO: At the subcommittee hearing that we had in August, August 25th, on the 9/11 Commission report, there was testimony regarding a new program being put into place at the Port of Hong Kong to screen and photograph each cargo container that entered the port by road or by rail. Are you involved, at all, your agency, with assessing this program in Hong Kong?

MR. JACKSTA: Sir, I'm not familiar with it, but I will get back to you if we are involved with it. This is the first time I'm hearing of it.

REP. LoBIONDO: And are you aware of any technologies that are being utilized in ports outside of the U.S. that are holding some promise in this security area that you're paying attention to?

MR. JACKSTA: Yes. I think that we're continuing to work with the industry, and there is a number of different tests. Companies are trying to test different technologies regarding a smart box container and making sure that the container is secure. And we are constantly trying to evaluate every type of system out there. And, yes, we are in consultation, through our international affairs, with various governments and various partnerships with the industry to find out what exactly can be utilized. We're working very closely with the World Shipping Council also to get feedback on anything that may be going on out there.

REP. LoBIONDO: Mr. DeFazio.


REP. LoBIONDO: Okay, thank you , Mr. DeFazio.

Sort of across the board question. Admiral, you mentioned that your offshore abilities are going to be utilized for collection of AIS data. Are you all feeling good about the level of cooperation and coordination with the Maritime Domain Awareness Program and could you suggest any areas that we need to be paying attention to through the committee to strengthen this between the different agencies involved?

And, Mr. High, you want to start off?

MR. HIGH: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Actually I think the interagency cooperation is a really good news story here. We have been looking at maritime domain awareness in a very broad light. If you look at our definition, it talks about the effective understanding of anything associated with the maritime environment, for safety security environment. So it's bigger than security and includes all the missions that my colleagues have been talking about. And, in fact, my colleagues were at the first meeting of our Senior Steering Group, when we got all of the agencies together.

So you mentioned our AIS on the buoys. This is a great partnership we have with NOAA. There are benefits to NOAA to find out what traffic is out and about their buoys. There's opportunities to share the information that they have on weather, perhaps across an AIS signal. We're looking at those kinds of things. But at the same time, they have a natural picket fence-that you seen from your drawing there-about where those buoys are, and they give us a place to put our receivers so we can see ships coming in. So I think the cooperation is excellent amongst the various agencies.

And I guess I could go on and let you know that our Senior Steering Group, which has now stood up, has established seven working groups that are all chaired by different agencies that have members from various agencies. They're looking at things like a common operational picture. They're looking at things like technology and how we share technology, which will include an enterprise architecture. They're looking at intelligence systems. So that all of these are aimed at trying to share across our federal agencies.

REP. LoBIONDO: In your opinion, are we being successful and avoiding duplication of effort, as we proceed with all this?

MR. HIGH: We're beginning to get there. I think that what we're finding-and our first step will be to do the beginnings of a gap- analysis to look at what is the current state, to find out where, in fact, there might be some duplication. We also understand that, if we pool our talents and pool our technologies, we'll find out who's doing something they can share with others.

I think a good example of this is our drug process in the Caribbean, the JIATF South, which is a DOD and Coast Guard interagency effort. Lots of agencies involved in that, we share information. This is the kind of thing we're trying to get to for all of the other missions that we've got going.

REP. LoBIONDO: Admiral.

ADM. DeBOW: Yes, sir. As Mr. High said, we have participated in the Senior Steering Group and we have members from NOAA on the various working groups, as he said, technology, common operating picture. In addition to the weather buoys, we also have the NOAA satellite search and rescue capability, has integrated the new Ship Security Alerting System mandated by the International Maritime Organization. This involves discreet transmitters placed aboard ships and can alert authorities of a hijacking or other terror incidents at sea.

REP. LoBIONDO: That's operational now?

ADM. DeBOW : It's mandated and it's being worked on right now, yes, sir.

REP. LoBIONDO: When would we expect an operational date that we would say is across the board?

ADM. DeBOW: I would have to get back to you on that, sir. I don't have that information.


ADM. DeBOW: As Mr. High said, we are working in all the working groups and working toward a common working theme. Our technologies support the common operational picture. Our ENCs can be used as a base-layer, geographic information systems which will be coordinated and everyone can use that information for seeing how the operation works.

REP. LoBIONDO: Mr. Jacksta.

MR. JACKSTA: Yes. We have been involved with the Maritime Domain Awareness group. We are part of the committee there. We have various people assigned to each one of the subcommittees and making sure that CBP's issues are addressed, as well as providing support where it is needed, to ensure that we have a comprehensive plan. And I think it's important for us, from CBP's perspective, to be involved with that, whether it's the intelligence side of the house, whether it's the technology, whether it's the targeting systems. We feel that, working together, we can have the best plan possible to provide security, and I think this is a really positive step in the right direction to make that happen.

REP. LoBIONDO: Well, it sounds as if we're certainly in the right direction, but we've got sort of a lot of blank spaces that are going to be filled in within the next couple of months. This, I think, is a good update.

We will certainly look, from a committee standpoint, to do some follow-up with you. Very anxious in a couple of these areas, especially with how the coordination is going, how else we can pull together resources to be more effective. The container situation continues to be one that we all want to pay a great deal of attention to. We want to wait for good technology, but there'll always be something that will be around the corner that will be better. So at some point we're going to look to see implementation that will give us a much better handle than we have now.

The coordination-one last area that I want to ask about. The coordination of intelligence and helping to identify how we are picking what we're going to be checking out, are you satisfied with how that's going and the changes since September 11th?

MR. JACKSTA: Yes, sir. I think that what should be noted is that we-at our National Targeting Center, where we have the best people that we have in targeting containers and targeting shipments for examination, we have representations from various agencies, as well as from the department. We have Coast Guard, we have TSA, we have representatives from FBI, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch, Department of Energy. We work together, sitting down on a daily basis, determining what types of shipments should be looked at. And that is extremely important to us.

We also have very close relationships with the intel community so that any type of intelligence can be quickly inputted into our system, so that once we are aware of something, we can make sure that we stop that shipment from getting onboard the vessel through our 24-Hour Rule.

So I think that there has been a lot of good work done. There still needs to be more. We constantly have to be able to evaluate our targeting systems to make sure that they are responsive to any type of new threats or any type of new concerns. So we do have a lot of work to do, but I think we're making progress, and I think we will continue and I think Maritime Domain Awareness is going to only help that.

REP. LoBIONDO: Mr. High.

MR. HIGH: Sir, I would like to add to that, the intelligence is really a centerpiece of this maritime domain awareness. Certainly the Coast Guard has invested in maritime intelligence fusion centers and we have, at our local level, what we call FISS teams, field information security-sensitive teams that look at intelligence. We worked very closely with the Navy out at Suitland, the Office of Naval Intelligence. This is an unclassified hearing so I won't cite an example, but we have-I can tell you an example of some almost groundbreaking intelligence relationships that we're building and breakthroughs in the way we're looking at intelligence and sharing intelligence across the agencies.

One of the committees that we have in our Senior Steering Group, working groups, is intelligence, and they began their work even before they were established. So there's a lot of good news on the intelligence front. I think the sharing is very, very significant.

REP. LoBIONDO: Okay. I want to thank the panel for joining us today. We'll certainly be looking to do follow-up, and thank you for the good work that you're doing. We'll see, since there's a lot going on this morning, if there are any committee members who want to submit questions in writing, we'll give them that opportunity and be back to you.

The committee stands adjourned.

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