Small-Vessel Security Strategy Nit-Picking

by Tim on April 29, 2008

Whew! OK, I’ve read it. I’ve read the Department of Homeland Security’s 57-page Small Vessel Security Strategy that was announced on Monday. We’ve got a lively discussion in the comments associated with Navagear’s first post about this.

To be honest, I didn’t read every single word. It’s one of these documents written by a committee, so it’s a real slog to get through. As a professional editor I can confirm that readability suffers when you’ve got to satisfy this many editors!

As you might expect, there plenty of nits to pick. Here’s one that really bugged me:


In the Executive Summary it says of the strategy that “Its guiding principles are that: solutions shall be risk-based; education and training are the key tools for enhancing security and safety; and economic and national security needs will not be compromised.”

To which I say “Hold on, there!” To accomplish anything here, you’ve got to compromise either economic needs or national security needs. Unrestricted commerce means lots of vulnerability, and complete security means lots of oversight, verification, and restrictions on maritime commerce. If I had been one of the editors on this project, I would have suggested this passage be reworded to emphasize that economic and national security needs will be balanced against one-another in some sensible, coherent way.

But then later, in the Strategic Vision section, under Guiding Principles, it says “Risk mitigation efforts must be designed so as to strike the delicate balance and tradeoffs between personal freedom, national security, and commerce. ”

See? That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

But if they were really serious about “no compromise” on national security and economic needs, there’s only one other area to compromise: personal freedom.

Maybe it’s like the old mantra of the design and production industries: “Good, fast, and cheap: pick any two.” So in this case it would be “Security, commerce, freedom: pick any two.”

Gosh, I hope not! Up until now, we’ve had commerce and freedom, and we’re about to shift toward commerce and security.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that would suck.

Anyway, there are lots of these “nit-picky” areas one could zero in on, writing nasty editorials for the rest of the summer. But in many ways, these can be a distraction.

It isn’t that they are unimportant, or that they shouldn’t be pointed out, it’s just that they’re inevitable with a policy document like this. Too many authors, too many editors, too few continuity passes, and at some point you just need to call it “done” and publish it.

Fear-mongering analyses like the one I’ve just presented represent low-hanging fruit for critics and pundits looking for targets.

I’m more interested in a substantive discussion of the core message of the strategy, which I’ll begin to address tomorrow. First up will be the four specific risk scenarios, then the four major goals.

For now, the comments section on this post can be a spot for nit-picking. Read the document, nit-pick to your heart’s content, and tell us about it.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mike April 30, 2008 at 6:15 am

I was living aboard my 30 foot sailboat in New York Harbor on September 11th 2001. I was an hour away from shoving off for a two week cruise to Nantucket when the planes hit the World Trade Center. My boat shook from the impacts. They shut down the harbor and it was a very strange to be on the waterfront in a major Port like New York when there is absolutely no marine traffic.
One restriction still in effect today is that one can not anchor in front of the Statue of Liberty. I use to be able to ride the current down the East River and head over and anchor off of the statue to wait for the tide change and then ride the current up the Hudson River. Now if I were to try that I would be chased off pretty fast. I hope there are no further restrictions in store for us cruising sailors as a result of these Coast Guard security musings.

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