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Western Hemisphere Leaders Address MDA Cooperation

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS071210-09
Release Date: 12/10/2007 4:31:00 PM


By Colin Babb, Office of Naval Research Public Affairs

SANTIAGO, Chile (NNS) -- Key military and naval leaders from both North and South America gathered in Santiago, on Dec. 5-7, to discuss common hemispheric interests in the realm of maritime domain surveillance, information sharing, and cooperative decision making in the first Western Hemisphere Maritime Domain Awareness Workshop.

Rear Adm. Lee Metcalf, director, National Office, Global Maritime Situational Awareness Center, opened the two-day meeting by expressing his hope that the discussions will create meaningful, realistic, and critical ideas and paths ahead for implementing maritime partnerships and information exchange agreements.

"The question going forward is," said Metcalf. "'How do we sustain [this collaboration], how do we keep the energy up, how do we find mechanisms to communicate efficiently, cost effectively and consistently?'"

The workshop -- hosted by the Office of Naval Research Global, U.S. Southern Command, and U.S. Northern Command, as well as the Chilean Navy -- brought together military and naval leaders from nine Western Hemisphere nations to include: United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, Uruquay, Argentina and Chile.

The goal was to facilitate regional dialogue on maritime domain (MDA) awareness, the effective understanding of anything associated with the maritime domain that could impact the security, safety, economy, or environment of a nation—with an emphasis on the science and technology that will make "awareness" possible.

"As we look forward from a science and technology perspective," said Rear Adm. William Landay III, Chief of Naval Research and co-host of the workshop. "We see real opportunities and we're making our investments today to try to start getting further down that path. While admittedly we're taking the first steps, simply understanding the systems that are out there and figuring out how to share data across the systems, once we've done that then we've really created a challenge for ourselves, how do we take advantage of it?"

MDA is a key component of the new Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, which envisions the kind of information availability and seamless decision-making capabilities enjoyed by military and civilian air traffic controllers being applied to the tracking of ships at sea. And like the control of the skies, keeping tabs of what's on and under the world's oceans demands global cooperation on an unprecedented scale.

Maritime surveillance and information technologies are already in use, such as Chile's Graficacion Maritima system, which allows constant monitoring of vessels, or NATO's Maritime Security Safety Information System—as well as a whole host of other systems in use around the world.

Technology is available today for all countries to begin efforts toward building MDA, but the rub is bringing the right technologies together and coordinating disparate regional information sharing efforts to make a cohesive whole that planners envision will be greater than the sum of its parts.

"We regularly exchange information with Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia," said Chilean Navy Vice Adm. Francisco Martinez Villarroel, head of the Chilean Directorate General of the Maritime Territory and Merchant Marine. "It's only possible by using manual systems. What's missing is the ability to share large amounts of information in real time."

From the conference came a greater understanding of what capabilities the participant's navies, coast guards, and other agencies already have, especially in coastal waters, and a better realization of the challenges ahead to integrate better national maritime information systems.

It was a unanimous conviction on the part of the participants that the workshop be only the first of many such opportunities for collaboration and dialogue on the road toward implementing global maritime domain awareness.

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