Beyond our ports, advances in technology and changing environmental conditions continually revolutionize the world's use of the high seas.
The United States faces very different threats from those that shaped our modern history, even as recently as the Cold War. The expansive growth and convergence of maritime activities is accompanied by ever-increasing vulnerabilities. Though many factors influence U.S. maritime interests, five broad challenges are shaping the strategic direction of the Coast Guard and the nation:
* The U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is increasingly complex. The U.S. EEZ covers more than 3.4 million square nautical miles of ocean territory, with overall coastal economic activity exceeding $1 trillion, one-tenth of the nation's gross domestic product. Scientific evidence indicates the Arctic ice cap has shrunk by nearly half since the early 1950s, creating the potential for new oceanic trade routes. At least one-quarter of the world's oil and natural gas resources lie in the Arctic. The potential for major expansion increases risks to both people and ecosystems. It also challenges traditional governance of the maritime domain.