We were in the final stages of preparing this issue, with its homeland security spotlight, when we first heard the stunning news: There had been a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, not terribly far from our headquarters here in Annapolis. While waiting for more details to emerge, we had some of the same initial thoughts that no doubt occurred to many others. Was this an isolated incident or could it be an act of terrorism? The first sketchy reports indicated there might be multiple shooters. It turned out that the tragic 16 September attack, which killed 12 people, was the alleged work of one man, Aaron Alexis, who had suffered from a series of mental health disorders, according to several news sources. There have been no terrorist attacks on our soil since 9/11, but the incident was a sobering reminder that domestic security is an ongoing concern.
Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffenger, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Deputy Commandant for Operations, warns that there are numerous dangers close to our shores in the form of transnational organized crime. With some startling statistics, he paints a rather grim picture of how these adaptive networks, often operating in the shadows, will proliferate in the coming decade. Vice Admiral Neffenger calls for the Coast Guard and other agencies within the Department of Homeland Security to develop their own network to outsmart the criminals, who by some estimates are responsible for more than $750 billion in economic loss annually due to the smuggling of illegal drugs, human trafficking, and illegal fishing. Such a strategy will go a long way, he writes, toward confronting future threats and challenges right here in the Western Hemisphere.
But securing our vast and complex maritime domain is a Herculean task. With over 360 ports of entry and more than 3.4 million square nautical miles of exclusive economic zone, it’s beyond the capability of any one agency, and as a result a number of federal, state, and local entities, as well as the private sector, share the responsibility. According to Coast Guard Vice Admiral Rob Parker, Atlantic Area Commander, his deputy Rear Admiral Chuck Michel, Commander Brian Falk, Dr. Joe DiRenzo, and Chris Doane, mission success depends on unity of effort but usually without unity of command. To overcome this, they call for maritime security in the 21st century to be based on collaboration and communication, shared synchronized situational awareness, and common governance and operating frameworks.
While climate change often stirs passionate scientific and sometimes political arguments, most people probably don’t view it as a security concern. But Captain Jonathan Spaner and Hillary LeBail from the Coast Guard’s Office of Emerging Policy believe we should. Although the cause is open to debate, the authors point to evidence that demonstrates the climate is warming, and explain that “regardless of our best efforts, climate change will forever change the operating environment of our nation’s military and homeland security components.” As a threat multiplier, its impacts are wide-ranging, exacerbating existing issues like poverty, food and water availability, disease, and natural disasters. To counter it we must encourage education and awareness—just as we do for other security challenges.
In the wake of 9/11, as the nation understandably became focused on better preparation to thwart future terrorist incidents, a massive government and military infrastructure arose to face a possible chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) attack on American soil. But in fixating so much on the potential impact of, say, a rogue nuclear device, we lost sight of just who would be trying to wield such a device, and how likely it is that they could execute such a strike, observes Al Mauroni, director of the U.S. Air Force Counterproliferation Center. Such nightmare-scenario terror-generators as dirty nukes or biological-warfare agents, while clearly worrisome, are difficult to develop, acquire, handle, transport, and deploy. And while our preparatory efforts regarding such threats are laudable, the scale of the undertaking needs to be tempered—particularly in light of budgetary cutbacks—by a healthy dose of reality check.
We’re proud and pleased this month to announce the 2013 winners of the General Prize Award for Author of the Year. When making our selections, we consider a number of factors, including whether the article gained the attention of senior leadership and moved the needle to advance the professional discussion on a topic, challenged conventional thinking and offered alternatives that may not have been considered, or perhaps took on a tough issue that others shied away from, accepting the dare to read, think, speak, and write (and publish). This year’s winners have exceeded that standard. Retired Coast Guard Captain Jim Howe and Reserve Lieutenant Jim Dolbow took first prize for their August article “Reinvent the Fifth Armed Service, Quickly.” Second prize goes to Navy Commander (now Captain) Dale Rielage for “Parsing the Chinese Challenge,” which appeared in September, and Rear Admiral Robert Wray is our third-prize winner for “The Utility of a Three-tiered Navy,” published in June. Bravo Zulu to all the winners!
Paul Merzlak, Editor-in-Chief