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A Maritime Traffic-Tracking System: Cornerstone of Maritime Homeland Defense

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Journal article

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Among the many lessons 911 has taught is the one that the United States is a vulnerable nation. This is especially true on its sea frontiers. President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood this he made a point of it during his first fireside chat after Germany invaded Poland, plunging Europe into war in September 1939, twenty-seven months before the U.S. Navy was attacked at Pearl Harbor. American security was, he said, bound up with the security of the Western Hemisphere and the seas adjacent thereto. It still is. We seek to keep war from our firesides by keeping war from coming to the Americas. Today, we are engaged in a different war, one that has already come to our firesides. To help prevent its return Americans must again attend to the security of the seas and their ports. This is doubly true for, despite the emergence of the information age and the decline of the U.S. merchant marine, the United States is still a maritime nation the security of its harbors and seaports is still of first importance to the well-being of this country. Americans are very dependent on maritime trade, as was recently demonstrated by the significant economic damage done by the short dock strike on the West Coast. It is easy to envision that the economic cost and social impact of simultaneous terrorist attacks on two or more American ports would be huge. The nation is attempting to grapple with this problem, which is ultimately one of global scope. One part of that problem--but a step that is both critical and manageable in the short term--is to maintain the security of its ports. The United States needs to track and identify every ship, along with its cargo, crew, and passengers, well before any of those vessels and what they carry enter any of the countrys ports or pass near anything of value to the United States. This article proposes a system that would provide that tracking capability, as well as a means to meet any related emergency with an appropriate response.

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  • Civil Defense

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