Thursday, March 10, 2011

Interagency Solutions Analysis—The state of interagency MDA requirements

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Mr. Hank Blaney, Policy Analyst, U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Domain Awareness and Information Sharing.

In the years following 9/11, a collection of federal agencies with major responsibilities for maritime domain awareness drafted the National Plan to Achieve MDA.

These partners recognized that a national investment strategy would be required to ensure that the government achieved effective MDA in a coordinated, efficient fashion. A first step, the 2007 Interagency Investment Strategy, compared tasks required for effective national MDA with current capability, determined where gaps existed, and made recommendations as to which departments should mitigate or eliminate these gaps.

As the interagency maritime domain awareness governance process matured and a new administration emphasized “whole-of-government” problem solving, the MDA Stakeholder Board directed the next steps in resolving national maritime domain awareness shortcomings—the Interagency Solutions Analysis (IASA). A team of MDA professionals drawn from throughout the federal government, the IASA Working Group:

Verifies and prioritizes maritime domain awareness gaps. MDA stakeholders have been active in the years since the interagency investment strategy was written, eliminating some of the gaps. Other entities have conducted somewhat similar studies and made their own conclusions concerning maritime domain awareness tasks or gaps. An interagency solutions analysis working group will join forces with two of the major efforts—the Department of Defense MDA Joint Integration Concept and the Navy’s MDA Capabilities-Based Assessment—avoiding duplication of effort while adding more resources and brainpower to the interagency team.

Recommends interagency solutions to mitigate or close the gaps. The Interagency Solutions Analysis working group will consider non-material solutions (changes in policy or procedures) as well as material solutions (new capability that must be bought or developed). The difficult part will come next—determining which agencies or organizations should be responsible to bring about the necessary changes, and estimating the cost of these improvements.

Provides strategic planning, budget, and acquisition documentation necessary to facilitate the improvements. The Department of Defense has probably the most robust requirements-to-budget system—the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS). In the absence of a formal interagency process to determine and share solutions to MDA gaps, the working group will utilize a JCIDS-like process for its planning documentation baseline.

The process will be modified as necessary to capture agency-specific requirements. At the same time the analysis is being conducted, there will be an ongoing process of updating the MDA Stakeholder Board and all major partners to ensure that all involved understand the process and there are no surprises when recommendations for funding are made.

Study Process
The process will begin by defining the scope of the analysis. The team must determine how much MDA is “enough” in each of the primary focus areas. Without imposing some reasonable limits, recommended solutions might easily prove to be “pie in the sky” and therefore not achievable in today’s budgetary climate.

Critical gaps identified by the interagency solutions analysis and other studies will be compared against existing doctrine and policy. The processes or capabilities required will not always require new technologies. Modifying regulations, breaking down illogical barriers between organizations, or re-orienting methods of doing business can result in dramatic improvements in information flow.

Looking Ahead
The Interagency Solutions Analysis team’s first round of recommendations will include the validated list of critical maritime domain awareness gaps, the best potential solutions, cost estimates, and the recommended lead department or agency to tackle the issue. Time will be allowed for feedback from all stakeholders. Then the report will be presented to the involved departments and, ultimately, the Maritime Security Interagency Policy Council.

The primary measure of success of the interagency solutions analysis should be development of implementable cross-agency solutions that will mitigate or solve the identified critical MDA tasks and related capability gaps. The current cooperation among these partners portends well for a successful venture.

For more information:
The Maritime Domain Awareness Information Exchange:

The National Maritime Domain Awareness Coordination Office:

Full article is available at

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