MARITIME SECURITY – DHS Could Benefit from Tracking Progress in Implementing the Small Vessel Security Strategy, GAO, October 2013 (CORE1016)

Summary: This GAO report reviews current activities the Department of Homeland Security, its component agencies and its stakeholders are doing to protect the US-centric seaborne trade and logistics from threats arising from small vessels. The report argues that the small vessels pose two “great threats” to the US maritime system: (1) explosive-laden small vessels can be used to ram into maritime structures or (2) the small vessels can be used as vehicles for transporting tools, weapons and tools for terrorism into the US. The GAO report highlights that DHS has its Small Vessel Security Strategy (SVSS), but the organization is not monitoring the progress its component agencies are doing in meeting its objectives. This report focuses mainly on security initiatives that affect navigation of small vessels at the US territorial waters and ports and operations of the US coastal guards and customs. Although US-based maritime logistics operations benefit from the increased security the small vessel security initiatives likely bring, they can continue their business as usual. Therefore, the CORE’s early work packages can use this report’s information to define the context of the global supply chain security, the CORE demonstrations do not need much attention to the small vessel security initiatives or this GAO report. The report is available at:

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Full review: This report provides interesting background information about the US government’s efforts to secure their domestic maritime logistics and transportation from the threat of small vessels that navigate largely anonymously and unregulated. The document might be useful for the CORE early work packages that describe the context of the global supply chain security. It is however unlikely that the demonstrators would need to pay much attention to the US small vessel security initiatives because the legal requirements of the initiatives do not affect the operations of large commercial vessels, which carry most of the world’s seaborne cargo. Of course the small vessel security initiatives also affect the way the component agencies of DHS operate, but because CORE does not involve these agencies directly, in CORE, there is no need to put much effort on understanding technicalities of the small vessel security initiatives. Finally, the CORE’s clusters on education and training as well as risk management might anyhow consider the information of this GAO report relevant.


  • Critical Infrastructure Protection: An Implementation Strategy Could Advance DHS’s Coordination of Resilience Efforts across Ports and Other Infrastructure. GAO-13-11. Washington, D.C.: October 25, 2012.
  • Supply Chain Security: CBP Needs to Conduct Regular Assessments of Its Cargo Targeting System. GAO-13-9. Washington, D.C.: October 25, 2012.
  • Maritime Security: Progress Made but Further Actions Needed to Secure the Maritime Energy Supply. GAO-11-883T. Washington, D.C.: August 24, 2011.
  • Supply Chain Security: Feasibility and Cost-Benefit Analysis Would Assist DHS and Congress in Assessing and Implementing the Requirement to Scan 100 Percent of U.S.-Bound Containers. GAO-10-12. Washington, D.C.: October 30, 2009.


Additional keywords: Maritime security, small vessel security, terrorism, smuggling


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