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Securing the Ports and Securing the Nation – One Man’s Mission

In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, much of the focus in the transportation world was on securing the nation’s airports. But what about the other access points across the country? How secure were America’s many ports?

It was that question Anthony Regalbuto, Chief, Office of International and Domestic Port Security, set about answering. He helped to develop the Maritime Security Risk Analysis Model (MSRAM), a system the Coast Guard uses to analyze more than 30,000 potential targets and 100,000 attack scenarios across the country. Since 2002, the data the Coast Guard collected from MSRAM was used to hand out $2.7 billion in port security grants, helping to secure our nation.

For his work, Regalubto was named a finalist for the Service to America Medals (Sammies), the Oscars for federal employees.

He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program how daunting – but important – a task securing the ports was..

The 9/11 terrorist attacks revealed vulnerabilities not just in aviation security, but in all modes of transportation, including the shipping ports that handle more than 90 percent of the nation’s imported goods.

“Our motto in the Coast Guard is Semper Paratus, which is Latin for Always Prepared. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, we realized that we didn’t feel that prepared for addressing maritime terrorism. We realized there were no national or international standards,” said Regalbuto. “I was empowered by the Coast Guard to develop a plan of action.”

The Coast Guard and Regaulbuto took a two-pronged approach to security, one international and one domestic.

“In 2002, I was part of a U.S. delegation that went to the International Maritime Organization in London,” Regalbuto said.. “At the IMO, the U.S. Government initially proposed and led efforts in the development of maritime security standards. We were the major drafters of this new code. What we developed was the international ship and port facility security code, which required commercial ships and port facilities to conduct security assessments and develop security plans.”

Regalbuto then turned his efforts towards domestic port security. “When I came back from London, I went up several times to brief congressional staff to let them know what we were doing internationally and also what we were looking at domestically. Congress was working on the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. There were many elements of that new act to try to improve security that the Coast Guard and other DHS components were tasked with to try to address. Part of the new law required the Coast Guard to conduct security assessments of our economic and strategic ports in the United States. It also required the Coast Guard to assess the antiterrorism measures in the ports of our trading partners.”

The new policies were a big success. “Over a three year period, we assessed one hundred of the economic and strategic ports in the United States,” Regalbuto said. “On the international front I had to create a new program to go out and then to assess the antiterrorism measures in 160 countries that trade with the United States. The ISPS code that we developed at IMO became the baseline standard of what we would look at in the foreign ports.”

The security precautions at the ports are just part of a layered approach taken by the Coast Guard, one that includes vessel and cargo screening protocols’ enforcing notice of arrival requirements’ and leveraging intelligence and information resources from across the government.

The Maritime Security Risk Analysis Model, which Regalbuto helped develop for evaluations, has been used by the Coast Guard to analyze more than 30,000 potential targets and 100,000 attack scenarios nationwide. It gauges three components: the threat of attack, the vulnerability of the target and the consequences of a successful attack. For instance, it looks at whether a particular port facility is handling dangerous cargos; what damage a fire or explosion might do; and how many people’s lives might be at risk.

The job is incredibly stressful, but for Regalbuto serving his country was the only career option. “I joined the Coast Guard 43 years ago. I served for 31 years in active duty and 12 years as a civilian with the Coast Guard,” he explained. “I love the Coast Guard and love the mission. As you go up in ranks in the Coast Guard, on the civilian or military side, you realize that you have to change, and that you have to have more vision. So you started to work on how to be a better leader. I think what the Coast Guard does is that it gives you that framework.”

>>>> You can find all of our Sammies interview, here.

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