Engaging Commercial Industry to Improve Maritime Domain Awareness

What are the major hurdles to information sharing between the commercial industry and governmental agencies?

The industry one a whole knows very little about naval affairs and, unfortunately, has little interest apart from transiting the Gulf Of Aden. One of the problems is that mariners are not unified in any meaningful way apart from their regulatory responsibilities. The coast guard could push mandatory training with navy liaison officers but I’m not sure how effective that would be. What I think would be most beneficial is if MARLO increased their visibility and actively engaged the industry… they should be attending conferences, paying visits to union halls and participating in the conversation on websites like gCaptain.

Mostly mariners just need to know they can pick up the phone and discuss maritime security issues with MARLO without fear of them launching a federal investigation.

Regarding knowledge of the who, what, why, and hows of the shipping industry, government maritime stakeholders share the same lack of knowledge. What is alarming is the absence of effort and recognition of the importance of leveraging industry knowledge to help advance the governments goals in MDA. Case in point, the MDA training being developed today for senior Naval Officers does not include any subjects regarding the commercial shipping industry.
From discussions with my colleagues familiar with industry (almost always Naval Officers with merchant marine backgrounds), the major issue is one of trust. Any interaction with government agencies that industry encounters usually deals with regulations and enforcement. So it is an advaserial relationship, and not one condusive to voluntary information sharing. So how does the government build relationships with industry that will help to meet shared goals? And what are those shared goals? Is MARLO a proper medium to start from?
It is widely understood that information sharing serves as the foundation for effective MDA, so it serves as a primary objective. As it happens, information sharing between federal maritime stakeholders continues to be painfully elusive. As one MDA colleague put it, “We can’t expect industry to engage and share information when we can’t even do it ourselves.” It’s not easy, but it’s necessary to maintain the situational awareness required to maintain the security and safety necessary to properly function in the maritime domain.

I think the issue is really simple. The Government (which ever branch; legislative, judicial or executive; division, office, or bureau) doesn’t work like a commercial entity.

If the two dissimilar entities (commercial and government) don’t run the same way, then how can it be expected for them to learn from each other?

By this I mean, the government is bloated with huge amounts of personnel, Has (relatively) unlimited budgets to pull from. What private industry has these types of luxuries?

If the manning issue isn’t enough, then how about appropriations for capital expenditures? How is THAT realistic to the commercial world? How many 500 dollar hammers could a tug company afford to buy?

This is really an Us versus Them mentality. The Merchant Marine has always been a quasi military arm, used in time of war, to move infrastructure in massive ways to far off locales. However, the Merchant Marine is the first thing to be subrogated back to the dark ages when it is not needed in force. I certainly don’t expect or want the government to buy into, or have a say in how to operate my business. However this is exactly what the DHS is doing, with designs on becoming ever more controlling, and involved in what I do at work, home, and on vacation.
Sorry, there should be LESS interaction between the military and the Merchant Marine. The oversight should be by a separate division of professional mariners who administer and oversee the merchant fleet operation and safety.

Until and unless the merchant marine is either absorbed into the military, or the realization that it is a separate entity, this friction, distrust and will prevent the ‘sharing’ of information.

sorry. that was a really long winded response. Here’s a brief reply.

Sharing wont happen because the Government will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to find out how to make a better widget, then spend a couple million more having them made. Then they will be constantly upgraded each fiscal year, to keep the budget ‘on line.’

The private industry will spend a couple hundred bucks to makes it own ‘widget’, it will keep the knowledge secret, to keep competitors from gaining the benefits of having same said widget.

Two diametrically opposed thought process’, philosophies, and functions. They are NOT mutually beneficial, or symbiotic. They wont co exist.

Also, the DHS ‘security’ mantra is a HUGE vacuum of our money, a huge waste of time, effort and energy. If I see one more fleet of hugely overpriced orange RIBs going by, I think I am going to puke!