Homeland security requires defense in depth and at a distance, the Defense Department's top official for homeland defense said during a speech today at the Heritage Foundation here.
"The core element of homeland defense and civil support is the recognition that we must have an active, layered defense in depth," said Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense. "A passive defense is inevitably going to fail. A close-in defense will inevitably be inadequate."
McHale said it's not enough to be able to identify, interdict and defeat weapons of mass destruction in U.S. ports. "We must be able to do it at a distance," he said. "We must be able to do it, hopefully, before that weapon of mass destruction ever leaves a foreign port en route to the United States."
While the threat to America's security has changed dramatically in the 21st century, McHale said, the nation's defense strategies are changing as well.
Identifying the battle space is a key component of DoD's homeland defense strategy, McHale said. Once that's been accomplished, he added, every weapons system available should be employed, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to identify the enemy and defeat him before he brings the fight to American shores.
"That's precisely the theory that we have now incorporated into our homeland defense strategy," McHale said. "Identify that battle space in depth, call up on every capability, including those within the inner agency and those possessed by our coalition partners, to identify and defeat the threat at a distance."
Since Sept. 11, 2001, air patrols have guarded major U.S. cities to deter another attack using airplanes. Ground defenses also have been enhanced. And government, McHale said, is prepared to make "very difficult, sobering decisions" should a terrorist ever again threaten the nation from the sky if it means saving an even greater number of American lives.
Maritime defense, McHale said, presents the greatest single opportunity to enhance domestic security. These opportunities include the creation of a maritime equivalent of North American Aerospace Defense Command and an in-depth naval defense designed to defeat hostile nation states as well as terrorists potentially armed with weapons of mass destruction, he said.
"When we speak of a maritime NORAD," he explained, "we're not talking about just a bilateral relationship with Canada modeled on the NORAD agreement we have in the air domain. We're talking about a defense in depth -- the ability to detect at a distance on the high seas a weapon of mass destruction, the ability to track (in) real time such threat platforms, (and) the ability to interdict, board and conduct render-safe operations with regard to weapons of mass destruction on the high seas."
This amplifies a Navy League Seapower article from May:
Because the Sept. 11 attacks involved hijacked civilian airlines, safety in the skies has been the major focus for the federal government. But the maritime approaches to the nation present a huge challenge. More than 95 percent of overseas trade arrives through U.S. seaports; a staggering 9 million shipping containers enter the nation each year across 26,000 miles of commercially navigable waterways and through 361 seaports.
“The maritime domain facilitates a unique freedom of movement and flow of goods while allowing people, cargo and conveyances to transit with anonymity not generally available by movement over land or by air. Individuals and organizations hostile to the United States have demonstrated a continuing desire to exploit such vulnerabilities,” the presidential directive states.
A comprehensive picture of what’s happening on the water around the nation as envisioned by an objective maritime domain awareness capability requires sifting through mountains of information. Data from open sources — such as cargo manifests, crew lists, sailing times and destinations, hulls, crew composition and so forth — must be fused with government intelligence reporting and delivered in a timely fashion to operators who can intercept the potential threat.
“We seek to increase our awareness and knowledge of what is happening in the maritime battle space, not just here in American waters, but globally,” said Adm. Thomas H. Collins, Coast Guard commandant, in a recent speech to the National Defense University. “We need to know which vessels are in operation, the names of the crews and passengers, and the ships’ cargo, especially those inbound for U.S. ports. Global maritime domain awareness is critical to separate the law-abiding sailor from the anomalous threat.”
See the article also:
Though the Navy, Coast Guard and other agencies now are carving out an overarching strategy for maritime security, they have worked for years to merge their efforts to increase surveillance and security of the nation’s coastal approaches, waterways and ports. The Navy and Coast Guard have increased their intelligence coordination, for example, and are cooperating on the acquisition of new technologies to interdict terrorist threats to the United States.
Layered is good, as is defense in depth.