Ports Beef Up But Coast Guard Moves On
A new $3 million ship to detect chemical and biological weapons was recently launched to protect the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. It’s staffed by explosives experts and equipped with tools to screen cargo ships for threats before they enter the port complex. A helicopter screens for radioactive material, while the ship’s sonar looks for underwater threats.
But for some ports, losing a Coast Guard patrol is a psychological slap in the face.
Earlier this year, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called on the Obama Administration to abandon its plan to transfer an elite Coast Guard unit that currently patrols New York City Harbor. Schumer said that the Administration’s budget includes a provision to downsize the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security teams (MSST), including transferring the New York City-based team to Boston. The New York City-based team is staffed by 90 Coast Guard personnel and was assigned to patrol the harbor and surrounding waterways after 9/11.
“This plan is simply penny wise and pound foolish,” Schumer says. “Since the mission of these teams is to provide security during major events and when there is a specific threat, taking the teams away from New York City would leave us more vulnerable during the most sensitive times. While the Obama Administration is right to seek to consolidate resources where it is warranted, taking the budget ax to New York City when it comes to terror just doesn’t make sense.”
The New York City MSST performs both port security and harbor security missions, providing additional security for major events but also responding to specific activity. For example, when there is a reported threat against the Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue of Liberty, the MSST is charged with providing surveillance and guarding those areas. The team also provides security for other Coast Guard forces in ports and inland waters.
Congress created the MSST program 2002. Each MSST has at least 75 personnel with approximately 90 stationed in the Port of New York/New Jersey, making it the nation’s second largest.