Assessing Merchant Marine Traffic
Merchant marine traffic assessment and maritime security are pressing naval concerns. The work we have been doing on new techniques for identification of covert activities given Port and MMV traffic data are in support of this critical naval mission. For the past several decades US Maritime Strategy has been very focused on winning the cold war and handling relations with the USSR (Hattendorf, 2004). Today, however, there is a need for a new strategy that is sensitive to the rapid changes at the social, political and technological level. Today's navy is facing a world where rapidly changing technology is obviating old ways of doing business and enabling new types of adversaries to rapidly form and to have global reach. Reduced decision time, rapidly changing mission, increased emphasis on non-kinetic effects and activities, rise in asymmetric approaches by a diverse adversary, increased activity by non-state actors such as transnational terrorists and criminals who may act with state sponsorship, more widely distributed force, security cooperation with an expanding set of international partners, and increased need to coordinate with allies and coalition partners are all factors that need to be considered in evolving a new maritime strategy for the United States.
To meet this need, new concepts of operation are needed. And in fact, the CONOP for the Maritime Headquarters with Maritime Operations Center (July 2006) states that "This Maritime Headquarters with Maritime Operations Center (MHQ with MOC) Concept of Operation (CONOP) is focused on providing methods by which different Maritime Headquarters (MHQ) staffs may evolve toward a standardization of assessment, planning, and execution at the operational level of war." The goal of this CONOP is that these methods will enable more organizational flexibility to transition between command roles and enhance global networking between Navy-maritime organizations. A second goal is that these methods will enable preemption of non-traditional threats, and global response to crises in various regions around the world. The work we have been doing on merchant marine vessel assessment has resulted in a series of procedures for identifying and visualizing covert networks across vessels, and hot spots of activity using boarding and MMV traffic data. These techniques support measuring and identifying vulnerabilities and engaging in limited course of action analysis. These processes and tools can be used to support the mission of the Maritime Headquarters with Maritime Operations Center by providing them with support technologies in keeping with the proposed CONOP. In order for these tools to be the most useful they need to be able to handle vast quantities of data. The current analysis techniques we have developed have all been optimized to work with large scale data sets and have been tested in multiple venues - e.g., at SOCOM and HIDTA's. This testing revealed that while the analysis capability is sufficiently fast for single time step data; the visualizer is not. The users get lost in the morass of lines and dots in a large scale network. The situation is made worse, not better, when the networks are over-layed on maps showing connections across the world among ship owners or covert actors. There are many factors that will make the visualization of massive data sets better meet the needs of the end user.