Committee plots new course to improve maritime transport system
By DAISY R. KHALIFA, Special Correspondent
Framework for Action
The Committee on the Marine Transportation
System (CMTS) — a unique interagency panel
in Washington — has unveiled a maritime
strategy that paints a vivid picture of every facet of the
marine transportation system.
The CMTS announced July 10, after only a five-week departmental review among some 20 agencies,
sub-agencies and departments, that it approved its
“National Strategy for the Marine Transportation
System: A Framework for Action.”
The strategy declares itself a “short-term action plan
with a long-term view.” It aims to serve as a policy
framework for the next five years with “a view to
addressing issues 20 years and more into the future.”
The strategy’s five core priority areas are: capacity,
safety and security, environmental stewardship,
resilience and reliability, and finance and economics —
all issues considered by CMTS members to be the most
pressing challenges to maritime transportation.
While the core MTS priorities echo other maritime
strategies — for example, the October 2007 national
maritime strategy, “A Cooperative Strategy of 21st
Century Seapower,” unveiled by the Navy, Coast
Guard and Marine Corps — what
sets “A Framework for Action”
apart is the very nature of its language, in that it reads more like a
working document, according to
The “Cooperative Strategy” is a
high-level global security strategy
that promotes an integrated, three-pronged maritime force structure of
Navy, Marine Corps and Coast
Guard. “A Framework for Action,”
by contrast, deals with MTS policy
in great detail, largely on a domestic
stage. The emphasis of the framework strategy is on the economic
value of the MTS and defining the
federal role to support it, according to CMTS staff.
“The strategy has something in it for everyone,” said
Helen Brohl, director of the executive secretariat of the
CMTS. “Even though you don’t want to get too prescriptive in a strategy, we have 34 actions,” from infrastructure improvements to more integrated mapping of
U.S. coastlines, that were recommended to address the
five MTS priority areas.
Having identified these actions, Brohl said, the CMTS’
next steps will be to decide which to address first, and to
develop implementation plans to execute them.
Chartered in August 2005, and housed within the
Department of Transportation, the CMTS serves as a
forum for federal agencies with maritime jurisdiction
to develop and support improvements within the MTS,
which includes waterways, ports and their intermodal
This involves a large swath of federal agencies —
including the departments of Transportation, Defense,
State, Commerce, Homeland Security, Agriculture and
Labor — as well as ex-officio committee members such
as the Office of Management and Budget and the
Council on Environmental Quality.
The Committee on the Marine Transportation System serves as a
forum for federal agencies with maritime jurisdiction to develop and
support improvements within the marine transport system.
■ Cabinet-level committee was formed by presidential directive
and is chaired by the secretary of transportation.
■ The panel’s “National Strategy for the Marine Transportation
System” includes 34 recommended actions in five priority areas.
■ The committee’s nine Integrated Action Teams focus on specific
marine transportation system initiatives that complement the overarching mission to enhance the efficiency of the system.