Before DuPont developed NASBLA’s BOAT Program, state and local maritime law enforcement did not have the opportunity to learn how to stop a U.S.S. Cole-style attack on a cruise ship. “Before this existed, the only people who had that skill set were the USCG,” he says. But before 9-11, even USCG members lacked those skills unless they were among the units deployed overseas to protect Navy assets, DuPont notes.
Prior to the launch of this program, any training on emergency response that was provided either to USCG units or state and local maritime personnel within the United States was inconsistent. The events of 9-11 drove home the importance of ensuring that all of the various personnel responding to an incident follow the same game plan regardless of agency or jurisdiction.
Through the training of state and local maritime first responders to USCG standards, DuPont believes NASBLA and the USCG can revolutionize maritime security by creating the ultimate force multiplier for the agency. The more training state and local partners receive, the more confidence the USCG will have that state and local first responders can become interchangeable parts during maritime safety and security emergencies.
Currently, NASBLA provides agencies with training only when they request it. As of July, NASBLA has delivered 42 classes in 14 months, training a total of 727 students, 355 of whom were members of the USCG and 372 of whom were state and local first responders.
DuPont wants NASBLA to train all state and local maritime first responders, which he estimates to total about 20,000. That’s an ambitious goal, but Congress’s power of the purse could make it happen. Moving forward, DuPont wants to see Congress tie DHS maritime and port security grants to NASBLA’s BOAT program, thereby creating a de facto national standard.
Through AWW, CAN, Focused Lens, and NASBLA’s BOAT program, the USCG is helping to engender a cooperative community of people committed to defending America’s waters and waterside critical infrastructure from a small vessel terrorist attack. While each group alone is but a small tributary, their capabilities become deep and wide like the mighty Mississippi when they pool their resources. And that, says USCG Lt. Com. Keane, may “provide us the opportunity to break that chain of events that a terrorist would have to do to carry out an event.”