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Merging Threats Challenge Coast Guard

January 27, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The U.S. Coast Guard is facing the dilemma of its traditional threats combining to pose a synergistic danger to U.S. homeland security. Longtime menaces such as drug smuggling, alien immigration and terrorism may be merging their organizations and their tactics to pose an even greater threat to the nation. Stopping these threats will require data sharing and consolidation. Unfortunately, even organizations willing to share information often find legal and technological roadblocks in their way. Rear Adm. (S) Stephen Metruck, USCG, chief of staff, Eleventh Coast Guard District, told the Thursday breakfast audience at West 2011 in San Diego that the Coast Guard is striving to head off threats before they near the homeland. "Goal defense" is not an effective way of stopping adversaries, he explained. The Coast Guard is working to develop new methods of detecting and identifying threats before the marauders launch their plans into action. Operation Focused Lens, for example, looks at places from where attacks may come. The goal is to detect anomalous activity before a smuggling or terrorist boat is launched. Marina operators would be engaged through an outreach program to report suspicious signs such as boaters practicing illegal activities. Combining data may be harder. Adm. Metruck allowed that many firewalls prevent government agencies from linking their databases, even within the Department of Homeland Security. In some cases, the only solution is to place people from different agencies side-by-side so that they can share views on their computer displays.

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