The Magazine of Future Warfare


     If the United States is serious about homeland security, it must not allow unknown ships near its shores and assign substantial forces to protect its main ports.  The easiest way to attack a nation with a nuclear weapon is to place one on a commercial ship and explode it in a harbor or just offshore of a major city.  It doesn't matter how good security is at Customs because the bomb can explode before the ship is inspected.  The US Coast Guard is assigned to protect US waters, but it doesn't have nearly the manpower and assets required, especially since it is preoccupied with search and rescue.

     US Navy ships are vulnerable because today's crowded port areas offer many chances for merchant ships to ram and sink smaller warships.  In addition, fishing boats and pleasure craft loaded with explosives or torpedoes are a threat, as the 1999 attack on the USS Cole demonstrated.  Navies may find "boat bombs" are just as deadly as car bombs are in the Middle East today.  The US Navy must take this threat seriously and embark at least one patrol boat on each of its ships that stands guard whenever the ship is in port. 

     Within the United States, the National Guard must take a more active role in real national defense.  During the Cold war, their focus shifted to preparing to fight a major war overseas, and many units have been sent for occupation duty in Iraq.  National Guard units should be designated to protect vital infrastructure during wartime.  This must be done in peacetime so units can evaluate vulnerable areas and familiarize soldiers with a specific mission.  Their primary role will be to immediately augment peacetime security forces at military installations, including port security since enemy commandos may attempt to enter the nation.  

      Slipping into the United States is not difficult, as illegal immigrants and drug dealers have shown.  A merchant ship can slow offshore in international waters at night and drop small boats full of commandos.  It requires a lot of manpower to guard against this threat, as was the case during World War II.  In addition, the modern world is much smaller since commandos can take jet flights to a Latin American nation and easily make their way north and across the border.  Of course moving weapons is difficult, but they can improvise or have weaponry shipped to the USA from a neutral nation since less than 1% of cargo is inspected.

      What will keep enemy submarines from entering US harbors?  The US Navy had submarine nets in World War II and can use sonobouys today.  However, no equipment is standing by and no units are assigned to perform this task.  This is an ideal role for the naval reserve, which can also be equipped with patrol boats.  The current plan is to expect the Coast Guard to protect ports as they do in peacetime.  However, the Coast Guard is a relatively small force that is overworked.  They need major wartime augmentation, which is an ideal role for reserve units since reservists live in these areas.

      Despite all the money spent on Homeland security, no organization is really in charge of port security.  For example, who is in charge of defending the port of San Diego?  The Coast Guard?  Officially yes, but they mostly operate off the coast and have little manpower.  The Navy?  The US Navy doesn't waste resources on that.  FEMA?  Maybe on paper, but no.  Customs?  No.  The state of California?  Constitutionally yes, but no in reality.  The military command, NORTHCOM?  Theoretically yes, but they are in Colorado.  Hurricane Katrina exposed this lack of a unified command in New Orleans as chaos ensued.  

     There is no unified commander to protect the port of San Diego, nor the other dozen American ports vital to national security.  This need was understood prior to World War II when the US Marine Corps had port defense battalions and the US Army had soldiers and coastal guns at port entrances.  Using San Diego as an example, there must be a Commander, Port Defense, San Diego.  This should be a Navy Captain who can take charge of US Coast Guard assets during wartime, or an emergency.  This Captain will have a full-time US Marine Corps security company under his command.  Marine Corps companies existed for such missions until a decade ago.  

     This Navy Captain will also have a second security company of Marine Corps reservists, a Navy small boat squadron with half active duty and half reservists, and a Navy inshore undersea warfare unit to protect against submarine intrusions.  Recall that three Japanese mini-subs attempted to enter Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Captain will also be assigned an infantry battalion from the California National Guard based in San Diego.  These units will support peacetime port security during weekend drills, and know their exact wartime mission so they can be on duty within hours.  This allows increased security through partial mobilization when threat levels rise.  This may seem like a lot of manpower, but providing port security 24 hours a day, 7 days a week requires a lot of manpower. 

     Port security does not mean just Navy base security, which these units will augment.  Port defense personnel will serve as coast watchers, guard the harbor entrance in small boats, and monitor sonobouys.  They will have observation posts around the bay and on islands offshore.  They may stop suspicious boats offshore and search them.  They may watch areas where someone can attack aircraft taking off or landing at military and civilian airfields.  Heavily armed marines will be ready for dispatch anywhere within minutes.

     Each Commander, Port Defense, will have authority to immediately take command of any military assets he chooses.  All military assets within the United States will fall under operational control of the four-star General at NORTHCOM, and each Port Defense Commander will be part of that command with direct authority over these assets.  This will allow him to call an airbase and order aircraft dispatched to deal with a threat without waiting hours for a series of commanders to okay such a request.  If a Coast Guard cutter encounters small arms fire, this Captain may order a US Navy destroyer undergoing training to assist.  This will occasionally upset Admirals and Generals, who are free to complain to the four-star General at NORTHCOM.

     While recent years have seen more emphasis on homeland security, attention has focused on redrawing organizations while defense contractors used their influence in Congress to press for expensive high-tech equipment like UAVs.  What is really needed for homeland security is on-call reserve manpower.  The US Navy and Marine Corps must divert resources from unneeded overseas bases to protect major ports in the USA.  Finally, there must be unified port defense commander at all major ports, with substantial active duty manpower and the ability to commandeer any military assets and instantly mobilize trained reservists within hours.

                                                       Carlton Meyer 

G2mil editorials may be freely distributed without permission


Summer 2006 Articles

Letters - comments from G2mil readers

have been returned to the Members Library

Combat Fatigue and Sociopaths - why some soldiers murder

Defending America at the Border - put US troops back on the border

Ending "Up or Out" - the US military's flawed career system

The Futility of Bombing Iran - a bad option

Troop Deployment Helped Catch Illegal Aliens - US soldiers can defend the USA

On Recent Wars - why "warriors" are incompetent in Iraq

March 31, 2006 GAO Report (pdf) - major weapons programs 

Cut and Run? You Bet. - General Odom wants to leave Iraq now

Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq - corrupting the CIA

History of PSYOPS - a neglected issue

Economic Hit Man - bankers rule the world

All the News that's Fit to Slant - reporters or stenographers? 

Sailors Learn Army Basics - to serve in Iraq

Ways to Trim Soaring Energy Costs - the US military takes an interest

Spies Like Us - reading some things are unlawful

If It Comes to a Shooting War - China may devastate the US Navy

The Israel Lobby - news not fit to print in the USA

See Dick Loot - Dick Cheney scores

JAGged Justice - why senior officers are never prosecuted

Don't Forget Those Other 27,000 nukes - Hans Blix's lucid comments

G2mil Library

Previous G2mil - Spring 2006 issue

The Spectrum of Future Warfare - Carlton Meyer's new book

Transforming National Defense

Past Editorials - by Carlton Meyer

Library Tour - visit G2mil's library  

Library Entrance - members only

All material in G2mil Copyright 2006 G2mil, patents pending on some items.  Links to are encouraged.