Maritime domain awareness plan is gibberish

On Dec. 30, the White House released an ambitious plan to protect the nation from seaborne threats, called the National Plan to Achieve Maritime Domain Awareness (NPAMDA). The only problem is that it’s pure gibberish, completely devoid of any concrete suggestion of how actually to secure our 12,383 miles of coastline.

Here are some excerpts from the NPAMDA:

“Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is achieved by … collecting, analyzing and disseminating data, information and intelligence. This plan advocates enhanced and innovative collection of intelligence, the integration of correlated open source information, and the incorporation of automated algorithms to assist human analytic efforts. … The primary method for information sharing, situational awareness, and collaborative planning will be the national maritime common operating picture (COP). The COP is a near-real time, dynamically tailor able, network-centric virtual information grid. … Data must be collected, fused, and analyzed, preferably with the assistance of computer data integration and analysis algorithms to assist in handling vast, disparate data streams … (with a) near-time, dynamically tailor able, network-centric virtual information grid.”

And so on for 38 pages of repetitive, mind numbing government speak. It’s a pity the taxpayers had fund the drafting of a document that contains not one line of real-world, common-sense answers to seaborne threats and does very little, if anything, to advance our readiness to meet these threats. The frustrating thing is that there are practical answers. Some, like the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and SSAS (Shipboard Security Alert System), are in use today. And there are others, like integrated satellite monitoring of coastlines that could be implemented with existing technology. However, the same mind set that created the TWIC program is at work here, seeking to meet real threats with a knee-jerk process.

I fully understand that with our present government, endless dithering has to precede any meaningful action. But the White House could well have labeled this effort a “Planned Uniform Reaction and Emergency Coordination Response Analysis Program (PURE CRAP).”

About the author

Capt. Max Hardberger

Max Hardberger is a maritime attorney, flight instructor, writer, and maritime repo man. He has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1995. His memoir, Seized: A Sea Captain’s Adventures Battling Scoundrels and Pirates While Recovering Stolen Ships in the World’s Most Troubled Waters, was published by Broadway Books in 2010. He’s appeared on FOX, The Learning Channel, National Public Radio and the BBC, and has been the subject of articles in Fairplay Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Men’s Journal, Esquire (UK), and the London Sunday Guardian.

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