United States Department of Debate
Washington, D.C. 20500
September 6, 2005
To: President George W. Bush
From: Stephen Flynn
Subject: U.S. Port Security and the GWOT
We have a serious national security vulnerability within the broad framework of the Global War on Terror. This memorandum outlines that vulnerability succinctly, and proposes seven specific steps you can take immediately to remedy it.
The harbor shared by Los Angeles and its neighbor Long Beach is arguably America's most important seaport. Its marine terminals handle more than 40 percent of all the ocean-borne containers shipped to the United States. Its refineries receive daily crude oil shipments and produce one-quarter of the gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products that are consumed west of the Rocky Mountains. It is a major port of call for the $25 billion ocean cruise industry. Just three bridges handle all the truck and train traffic to and from Terminal Island, where most of the port facilities are concentrated. In short, it is a tempting target for any adversary intent on bringing its battle to the U.S. homeland.
Yet no one in the Pentagon sees it as his job to protect Los Angeles and the nation's other busiest commercial seaports from terrorist attacks. Oakland, Seattle, Newark, Charleston, Miami, Houston and New Orleans are America's economic lifelines to the world, but the U.S. Department of Defense does not view them as national security priorities. These ports do not deploy the navy ships, troops, munitions and supplies needed for overseas combat operations. Lacking such "defense critical infrastructure", DoD has decided that the responsibility for safeguarding them is not its job.
It is the Department of Homeland Security that should be assuring that there is credible security along America's long-neglected waterfront. But the new Department lacks both the resources and the White House mandate to undertake this critical mission. This is because the Office of Management and Budget sees port security as primarily the responsibility of state and local governments and the private companies that operate marine facilities. The 2002 National Homeland Security Strategy sets forth principles to guide federal outlays for homeland security, maintaining that all levels of government must "work cooperatively to shoulder the cost of homeland security." It also hands much of the tab for protecting critical infrastructure to the private sector. "The [federal] government should only address those activities that the market does not adequately provide--for example, national defense or border security. . . . For other aspects of homeland security, sufficient incentives exist in the private market to supply protection."
So when it comes to port security, the buck stops somewhere outside Washington, DC. Since seaports in the...