IT systems paint detailed picture of U.S. waterways

Who's in charge

Rear Adm. Ronald Hewitt

Assistant Commandant for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and IT

Nathaniel Heiner

Chief Knowledge Officer for C4IT

Capt. Dave McLeish

Deputy Director for C4IT

Pat Hannifin

Chief of Resource Management Staff for C4IT

Ann Rider

Chief of Enterprise Architecture and IT Planning for C4IT

Top contractors

(in millions, oct. 2002 to sept. 2003)
General Dynamics Corp.


QSS Group Inc.


Allied Technology Group Inc.


Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.


Lockheed Martin Corp.


Computer Sciences Corp.


FYI Inc.


Northrop Grumman Corp.


Logistics Management Institute


Perot Systems Corp.




IT spending fluctuates

Sources: Coast Guard, Input inc.

'Maritime security is all about sorting,' and the Guard wants to sort data from more than 6 million boats.

'the Guard's Dana Goward

Rick Steele

The Coast Guard is deploying a sophisticated array of information systems to achieve what it calls 'maritime domain awareness''a comprehensive portrait of the nation's coasts and waterways.

The guard's Maritime Domain Awareness program, launched in mid-2003 with the cooperation of the Navy, other federal agencies and the Homeland Security Department's top leaders, resonates with similar Pentagon projects to mobilize technology for monitoring the world's seas and oceans, said program executive Dana Goward.

Goward, chief of the guard's Office of Architecture and Programs for the MDA Directorate, said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks increased the focus on the coast-and-river monitoring program.

'MDA is much more than the Coast Guard,' Goward said. 'The national effort is led by Paul McHale, the undersecretary for homeland defense at the Defense Department and [outgoing] Homeland Security Department deputy secretary [James] Loy.' Loy is a retired Coast Guard admiral.

Other participants in the interagency program include the State and Justice departments, Goward said.

So far, the MDA Directorate has sponsored several projects aimed at improving the guard's oversight of coast and river conditions.

For example, the directorate is overseeing the guard's National Automatic Identification System project. NAIS collects data from transmitters carried by major vessels that broadcast information such as the ships' direction, speed, last port of call and destination.

The NAIS program funnels information from the ships' transmitters into the Coast Guard's Common Operational Picture, a database of information about coast and river conditions that the directorate plans to upgrade with additional information, Goward said.

'Our COP is made of a number of COP servers around the Coast Guard which are synchronized with the Defense Department COPs at several commands using the COP synchronization tools,' said Capt. Marshall Lytle, chief of the MDA's Command and Control Office.

The synchronization tools help the Coast Guard's COP exchange information via the Pentagon's Global Command and Control system using standard Defense Department protocols, officials said.

The guard's COP already furnishes an unclassified version of activities in and around the coasts to all Coast Guard workstations. Goward said the MDA plans to develop an online version of the common picture that the guard's private-sector stakeholders can consult to help manage their port and coastal activities.

Tugboat operators and shipping companies, for example, would consult the online picture to plan vessel movements based on the ship tracking information the system shows.

The guard also maintains a classified version of the database that integrates information from a range of Pentagon and intelligence community sensors on the Earth's surface and in orbit. The classified version of the database is very useful in the guard's antiterrorist mission, Goward said.

'Maritime security is all about sorting,' Goward said. 'There are 30,000 to 40,000 ships around the world that carry [automatic identification systems], and there are six million [private boats] in the United States. The more information we have about them the better.'

Goward described a scenario in which a rogue ship would try to spoof the NAIS by modifying its transceiver to broadcast a misleading signal. In that case, the guard would implement methods for tracking 'noncooperative targets' to correlate the differences between the bogus information and the facts that various sensors relay to COP. Those sensors include a satellite in low orbit, as well as space-based radar, acoustic sensors and high-frequency surface-wave radar stations that feed information on maritime conditions to the database.

The guard divides its MDA projects between near-shore projects, which operate using line-of-sight transmitting equipment within 24 miles of the coastline, and technologies that it uses beyond the 24-mile zone.

The service is testing the Hawkeye command and control platform to integrate information from points close to the shore and those at sea at sites in Charleston, S.C., Miami; Newport News, Va.; and San Diego, Goward said. Hawkeye is based on open-source governmental code, Goward said.

The client-server Hawkeye system uses software first made for the guard's Vessel Traffic System that was developed at the Coast Guard's Command and Control Engineering Center in Norfolk, Va., Lytle said.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.