The Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, chaired by U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), held a hearing this morning to review the implementation of programs by the Coast Guard to collect, analyze, and disseminate information used to assess and respond to safety and security threats in the maritime domain.
The following is the statement of Chairman LoBiondo:
"The Coast Guard operates a broad array of systems and sensors to gather data to enhance the Service's awareness of activities in the maritime domain. At a time when Coast Guard assets and personnel are stretched thin, maritime domain awareness (MDA) programs can act as a critical force multiplier. But that can only happen if the programs are properly implemented and information is integrated and distributed for action at all levels of the Coast Guard.
Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.
"I remain skeptical as to whether the Coast Guard has ever looked at these systems in totality to determine whether they are providing the data in an efficient manner. Each system was designed for a specific mission goal and developed independently of each other. As a result, many systems provide the Coast Guard duplicative information. For instance, most large vessels are required to carry Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders in addition to a Long Range Identification and Tracking system to track their movements. The Coast Guard proposes that fishing vessels carry AIS transponders in addition to Vessel Monitoring System units they are already required to carry and operate. Finally, the Department of Homeland Security's plan for small vessel security proposes to require boat owners to buy new technologies to track their vessels. Meanwhile, the Department proposes to develop radar systems to do the same thing.
"Each of these requirements and proposed mandates are, and will be, very expensive for vessel owners. Yet it is unclear how they will benefit safety and security in our ports and waterways if the Coast Guard lacks the ability to properly integrate and analyze the data.
"I am concerned that after 10 years and billions of dollars, the Coast Guard still lacks the infrastructure to sufficiently tie these disparate MDA systems into one "common operating picture." Given the scant resources the Coast Guard plans to devote to these programs over the next five years, I question whether the Service remains committed to fully integrating these programs. For instance the Coast Guard appears to be backing away from its stated goal of providing interoperability between all Coast Guard assets and shore based facilities. The GAO recently found that the Service only intends to install an advance communications system on less than half of all of its recapitalized assets.
"Maritime domain awareness is a critical tool to maximize the Coast Guard's capabilities to safeguard American interests in U.S. waters and on the high seas. However, duplicative mandates, and a lack of progress in delivering a common operational picture, have been a major source of frustration. Rather than continuing to devote time and money on programs that do not function as intended, it may be time to reevaluate the MDA strategy. I am anxious to hear from the Admiral on what he thinks the future holds for the MDA programs and how we can best move forward to ensure the taxpayer is getting a good return on the significant investment they have made on the Coast Guard's MDA programs."