Those who threaten us today care little about boundary lines. Many of these threats originate in or take advantage of the anonymity afforded by the maritime domain. Understanding the nature of these and many other challenges is critical to global security.
Since the challenges we face are global, our responses to them must be global as well. At its most fundamental, maritime domain awareness supports a broad spectrum of operations. From our perspective, MDA is a global process to understand what is going on in the maritime domain, how that might affect our vital interests, and how best we should respond across a broad spectrum of traditional and transnational threats to the good order and security of the maritime commons, and, by extension, to national homelands, as well.
However, MDA is not a specific mission area or “thing.” Instead, maritime domain awareness is an enabler of capabilities for actionable intelligence, informed decision making, and effective responses to a complex set of problems shared by all nations.
Executive Agent for MDA
That is the primary reason why the Office of the DOD Executive Agent for Maritime Domain Awareness was established in August 2008 and placed within the Department of the Navy: to help enable MDA throughout the Department of Defense, the U.S. interagency community, and with our friends and partners worldwide.
The office works with other U.S. government departments and agencies, foreign government partners, other organizations, and commercial entities worldwide to enhance our ability to know what we need to know and share critical security information.
In short, the office is responsible for:
- Increasing communication and building trust in the United States and overseas,
- Performing international and domestic outreach,
- Making maritime information available and easily shared.
From an international perspective, this already has a significant impact on the way we are focusing on a global MDA capability. Our tasks are to align, guide, and advocate efforts focused on but not limited to the maritime domain. We serve as the U.S. “bridge” that links domestic and international efforts to provide the right information to the right organization at the right time to safeguard the security of the global maritime commons.
MDA cannot be a segmented sphere that is alongside but separate from the land, air, space, and cyber domains. We need broad and deep collaboration and cooperation among interagency, other government, international, and industry partners at home and abroad crossing physical, geographical, cultural, and governmental boundaries. In this way we will achieve a “whole-of-government” solution to maritime domain awareness and a crucial way by which maritime security and safety can be assured.
The Way Ahead
There is thus increasing emphasis among naval and maritime forces worldwide to improve partnerships and increase data sharing as important ways to enhance maritime domain awareness. The responsibility for MDA primarily belongs to world navies and coast guards, but none of them, including the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy, have the resources and manpower to do everything needed. Only by sharing maritime information and data as widely as possible will navies and coast guards have the collective means to perform their vital missions.
For more information:
The Maritime Domain Awareness Information Exchange: http://www.mda.gov/.
The National Maritime Domain Awareness Coordination Office: http://www.gmsa.gov/index.html.
Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/summer2010.
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