National Maritime Security Advisory Committee Meeting – Part 1

The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee (NMSAC) held the first session of its January meeting in Arlington, Virginia, this morning. The Committee heard all the briefings that were scheduled for both morning and afternoon sessions and still managed to break for lunch before noon. Sadly, once again, technical difficulties hindered those of us who attempted to participate by teleconference and internet meeting. Especially during the more interesting (to me) subjects, the audio faded in and out over the course of individual sentences. Apparently, only one briefer used slides, so the video glitch didn’t have much of an effect. What follows is my best effort to interpret what I did hear. I cannot guarantee that I understood everything correctly and there is much that I would like to have reported, but couldn’t hear. Port Security Grants 
Port Security Grants
Alexander Mrazik, a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers Port Security Grants, addressed various concerns that the Committee had expressed in a resolution at their previous meeting, last July. In particular, he spoke about policy reasons that FEMA does not want to automatically extend grants past their initial three year term (the need to ensure appropriate oversight and accomplishment of milestones, since many grantees wait until the last minute to actually spend the money, and the need to allow a 90-day period to close out the grant and reconcile accounts before the money expires—five years after the end of the fiscal year in which appropriated.) He claimed, however, that FEMA was very liberal about granting extensions, as long as a justification was presented. He also indicated that, as of this year, FEMA was releasing grant money in the year awarded—much faster than in the past—and that his policy would continue next year. In response to a question about using grant money to harden US-flag vessels against piracy, he suggested the Committee pass a resolution to lend impetus to the cause. With regard to grantees having to put up matching funds, he did not know whether Congress would waive the requirement again in 2011 as it had in 2010. While the DHS Secretary has the authority to waive the matching fund requirement, it is not delegable, which means that the process of obtaining such a waiver is long and involved, although some had been granted. The final issue covered dealt with the possibly evolving technology of TWIC readers. Mr. Mrazik indicated there were two approaches: the Government would work with vendors to ensure that readers purchased now would be upgradeable to any new standards issued in the Final Rule (two vendors have certified this) and grantees could use grant money install the necessary infrastructure (cabling, etc.) now and wait for the Final Rule before buying the actual readers.
Global Supply Chain Security Efforts
Sean Moon, a Department of Homeland Security representative, briefed the Committee on DH’s efforts to produce and national strategy on Global Supply Chain Security, to be supported by implementing plans and other supporting documents. He expected the release of the strategy and “a few” of the implementing documents in February. Federal agencies would then 270 days to produce their implementation plans, which DHS will analyze. Eventually this will all lead to budgeting and other efforts to deal with the security gaps. At the same time, DHS continues its outreach outside the Federal Government. The secretary recent achieved a secure supply chain agreement with the World Customs Organization and the Department is actively working with the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization. DHS is looking for upgrade standards by September and is working with the WCO and ISO in this regard. DHS is also looking at new inspection requirements for US exports, in response to frequent complaints from the rest of the world about unidirectional US requirements. (This revelation prompted an expression of concern from a Committee member who represents a US megaport to the effect that ports don’t have a lot of real estate on which to conduct new inspections, leading, inter alia, to back ups on adjacent roadways. This issue needs to be planned carefully well in advance, rather simply being mandated.) Norio Sasaki of the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, gave a presentation on Japan’s efforts to improve port security. These included legislation implementing the ISPS Code; testing of radiation detection, X-ray inspections, and open container inspections; and outreach efforts to other ASEAN countries, including four joint exercises in the last five years. Most interesting to me was his statement that achieving 100% scanning of containers was “very important,” as this view is contrary to the positions of the European Union and a large number of other countries.
Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Issues
Commander David Murk of Coast Guard Headquarters talked about TWIC issues. Unfortunately, the audio performed at its worst during briefing. The TWIC Reader pilot is ongoing, with a report due out in the March timeframe. The expectation is that the Final TWIC Reader Rule would be out in 2012, although there were “a lot of caveats” to that. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was still on track for November of this year, although there are “a lot of caveats” with that too. A policy document providing interim guidance for the voluntary use of TWIC readers in advance of the Final Rule is currently undergoing OMB review, after which public comment will be taken.
Asked about the feasibility of a March report with complete data analysis, he responded that the report is still on track for March, although how much data will be available was still in question. He regards any data from the pilot as “a plus,” as the Coast Guard does not usually do pilots before rulemaking (this one was mandated by the SAFE Port Act) and it is collecting data in the normal ways in addition to the pilot. One of the things the TWIC group is looking at is the risk level of regulating without all the data from the test. Responses to these effects also provided the answer to a question of how a rule cold be made without testing labor participation (labor on the West Coast apparently has not participated in any significant way in the pilot program). In any event, the TWIC Reader Rule “will not get out the door” unless the economic analysis makes sense and the Final Rule will depend on public input. He was asked how long it took to clear a worker through a reader. He did not have the numbers, but said the pilot showed that facilities that trained their workers how to use the readers had shorter “transaction times” than those that didn’t. The pilot also showed that transaction times dropped between the Early Operational Assessment and later full-blown testing. In further comments, CDR Murk indicated that data from 80% of the participants was available and that the Coast Guard was still looking at the reasons for the transaction time—was it caused by the card or the reader. A Committee member commented that over the course of the pilot, times in the New York/New Jersey area were down, but still well above what the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee deemed acceptable (2-3 seconds) a year ago or so. She also reported that the transaction time varies significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer. (A comment from the public indicated that at large ports 3,000 people a day might pass through one gate; three seconds is the maximum time.) She also urged that the interim guidance on voluntary use of TWIC readers address whether the three-tiered risk approach suggested in the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (issued in March 2009) will be the way ahead, as this will impact purchase decisions. In response to a question from the public, CDR Murk gave a best case estimate that the interim guidance policy would be issued in four months (based on OMB review being completed in only 30 days, public comment for 30 days, and time to analyze and respond to the public comment).
CDR Murk also address several provisions of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act that deal with TWIC—the Coast Guard has the lead on some, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on others. TSA will do a pilot study on using DHS facilities in remote areas for TWIC activation. The Coast Guard is working on an implementation plan of the “very difficult” “challenge” posed by Section 808 of the Act, under which credentialed mariners who don’t work on vessels that require a Vessel Security Plan are no longer required to have a TWIC. Under a third provision of the Act, the Coast Guard is charged to coordinate with regulated facilities to facilitate escorts for persons whose TWICs have been lost, stolen, or damaged. While statutory language ruling out any requirement that facility owners pay for these escorts significantly ties the Coast Guard’s hands, CDR Murk projected a policy update would issue eventually.
Seafarer Access Shore Leave Policy Commander
Murk also provided an update on this issue. A lot of progress has been made over the last year as a result of ALCOAST 575/09, which tasked Captain’s of the Port with reviewing facility security plans to ensure they had provisions for seafarer access through secure areas. CDR Murk said had heard from the Seamen’s Church Institute and other concerned groups that access was much better now, but there were still problems. With regard to the provision in the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act that prohibits charging individual mariners for this access, he indicating that the Coast Guard was looking to the relevant Congressional committees for further definition of what they meant by key terms, such as a “system” ensuring access and how responsive did that “system” need to be (24 hour gate guards vs. someone who would show up sometime after being called). In response to a question, CDR Murk revealed that the Coast Guard had not time frame for issuing a regulatory or policy change. In a segue from another question, he indicated the Coast Guard had been working with TSA and that, at some point in the future, persons holding B-1 and B-2 visas would be eligible for TWICs.
The Maritime Infrastructure Recovery Plan and the Maritime Transportation System Security Recommendations
Michael Callahan of Coast Guard Headquarters provided an update on the status of the Maritime Infrastructure Recovery Plan (MIRP) and the Maritime Transportation System Security Recommendations (MTSSR). Since November, the focus had been exclusively on the Global Supply Chain Security Strategy (GSCSS). Now the MIRP is getting some attention. Upon reviewing an earlier proposal, the National Security Council (NSC) staff had mandated consideration of a number of issues, which would now have to e dealt with. The time line is in a state of flux. Originally, June had been proposed (and rejected by the NSC staff). Then the deadline was to be 120 days after signature of the GSCSS. In view of the delays in getting the GSCSS signed, the 120-day period may well be shortened.
Other Issues
In the afternoon, the Committee heard from Eleanor Thompson on Cyber Risks, an increasing concern of the Administration. An updated Transportation Sector Sector-Specific Plan has been submitted to OMB for review. Subsequent discussion is probably best summed up by the comment that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” There seemed agreement to modify the Committee’s business plan to allude to the cyber threat and possible logistical and operational issues, without being able to specify what they all are. The Committee then turned to consideration of its Business Plan. Part of the purpose of this document is to create and inventory of maritime security issues great and small. Some may never be made a priority, but all should be listed. The only actual decision taken was to abolish the Committee’s standing subcommittees, which deal with: Waterway Security; Facility Security; Vessel Security; Training, Personnel, TWIC; International and Inter-Agency; and CDC Cargo Security. Instead, the Business Plan’s introductory section will be amended to reflect that NMSAC will consider all there areas in any matter it takes up. Additionally, ad hoc working groups may be formed to deal with any particular items, such as forthcoming documents on Supply Chain Security and CDCs.
What’s Next
Tomorrow morning the Committee will hear briefs from the Subcommittees it just abolished and vote on any resolutions. There will be a “MTSA II Tasking Discussion,” followed by an opportunity for public comment and then closing remarks from Committee members. To participate, log on to (although there may not be anything to look at). The audio (much improved after lunch today) is available by teleconference at 866-717-0091, using passcode 3038389. NOTE: This post may be copied, distributed, and displayed and derivative works may be based on it, provided it is attributed to Maritime Transportation Security News and Views by John C. W. Bennett,
By Professional Mariner Staff