Global Maritime Information Sharing Symposium

On September 14–16, 2010, the National Maritime Domain Awareness Coordination Office (NMCO), formerly the Office of Global Maritime Situational Awareness, hosted the third Global Maritime Information Sharing Symposium (GMISS) in Baltimore, Maryland. The purpose of this year’s symposium was to align U.S. Government outreach to private sector, non-governmental organizations as well as government agencies, including state and local law enforcement, to improve and increase industry-government maritime information sharing. This year’s focus was on “Charting the Course for Maritime Domain Awareness.” Maritime Conference to Boost Security Cooperation 2010

The symposium itself was the result of a partnership between NMCO and the National Maritime Intelligence Center, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Northern Command, the U.S. Maritime Administration, and the COPS Office. Recognizing that state and local law enforcement’s voice is important to this dialogue, the COPS Office started a scholarship program last year. Due to its success, the COPS Office repeated the program. This year’s recipients ranged from an officer in the Metropolitan Police Department’s (DC) Harbor Patrol Unit to the Sheriff of Charleston County, South Carolina. Other scholarship recipients included a representative from the host city, Baltimore; as well as the Boston Police Department, Seattle Police Department, Duluth Police Department, Memphis Police Department, Louisiana State Police, and the Delaware Information and Analysis Center.

Captain Michael Goldsmith, the Commanding Officer of the Norfolk Police Department’s Homeland Security Division, which includes the Harbor Patrol Unit, was a scholarship recipient last year and returned this year as a presenter and facilitator. “During the symposium, I and the other local law enforcement attendees were able to network with private industry representatives as well as with military and government officials who are not normally accessible to our level of policing. For a local cop, this was a golden opportunity to share ideas with the personnel responsible for moving and securing the world’s commerce on the high seas.”

This year Goldsmith was on a panel entitled, “A Process for Change: Improving Information Sharing from the Port Up.” He discussed the informal and formal relationships the Norfolk Police Department has fostered with NMCO, the U.S. Coast Guard, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Virginia Fusion Center, and a local Urban Area Working Group, as well as other police departments in the Hampton Roads area. Goldsmith emphasized that the success of the Norfolk experience is based on “personal relationships, role definition, and systems that serve to institutionalize information sharing beyond individuals.”

A few of the reoccurring themes throughout the symposium were; What Can Industry Do? What information does the government want? What information should be shared and how? And, what incentives should be put in place to enhance information-sharing?

Providing the keynote address was Michael T. Jones, the Chief Technology Advocate of Google. His responsibilities include advancing technology to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Prior to his current position he was the Chief Technologist of Google Maps, Earth, and Local Search—the teams responsible for providing location intelligence and information in a global context to users worldwide. Jones talked about building a global international maritime grid and asked two questions; Is it possible? Is it already happening? Jones, a boat enthusiast, then demonstrated open source information available through Google Earth. “Information is our greatest shield against bad things,” said Jones. “It is also our greatest asset for good things.”

The conference concluded with recommendations from breakout groups in four key maritime security areas: 1) Ocean Law and Policy; 2) Science and Technology; 3) Regional and Global Collaborative Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA); and 4) Port Level Information Exchange. The latter group discussed the real and perceived needs for classification of MDA information exchange, such as tear line requirements, law enforcement sensitive information, and commercially sensitive information. They also discussed current information sharing vehicles such as joint terrorism task forces, fusion centers, area maritime security committees, joint harbor operation centers, and how to best use the multitude of existing structures to better share information among the maritime community.

With nearly 300 participants from around the world, as well as speakers including the Vice Commandant Sally Brice-O’Hara from the U.S. Coast Guard; Kurt Salchert, Chief of the NORAD Maritime Division and Captain in the Canadian Forces; and former Admiral, Harry Ulrich, Executive Vice-President of Enterra Solutions, their remarks demonstrated the willingness of the government and private industry to strengthen partnerships in order to better gather and share information that will enhance maritime safety and security.

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-Amy Schapiro
Senior Social Science Analyst
The COPS Office

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