The Department of Homeland Security recently announced a strategy to combat threats posed by terrorists trying to use small boats for attacks in US waters. A story by the Associated Press goes into detail on the issue, describing the new strategy. DHS will require that states develop and enforce safety standards for all small boats, which would involve safety inspections and perhaps require operators to have a safety certificate on board. This places the responsibility directly in the hands of the states, which will be far more efficient and effective than an all-encompassing federal standard and enforcement system. The plan also looks to boaters themselves to help combat terrorism. It asks boaters to watch for and report suspicious behavior to officials, relying on the people who know the water best to notice boats that might not belong. Lastly, the government will work to develop new technology to detect dangerous materials in the water and to watch for warning signs amongst the boats on the water.
Earlier this year, a Heritage-sponsored paper “Small Boats, Big Worries: Thwarting Terrorist Attacks from the Sea” recommended respecting the principles of federalism by putting state and local governments in charge wherever possible, ensuring that regulations are most appropriate for a locality’s needs. We also called for a sort of “neighborhood watch” for the boating community, like the above described strategy of encouraging boaters themselves to watch for and report possible threats. Finally, the paper reiterates the need for greater use of technology to aid the Coast Guard in combating threats.