5/21/2015: Maritime Sector Coordinating Councils

Written by Ryan Owens, Coast Guard’s Office of Port and Facility Compliance

In a world in which reliance on critical infrastructure are shared by industry and government and where industry may be on the front lines of national defense, such as in a cyber attack, a sustainable partnership must be developed to address both public and private perspectives.

Traditionally, the Coast Guard has worked closely with their private sector partners through various mechanisms including: Federal Advisory Committees, Harbor Safety Committees, Area Maritime Security Committees, or AMSCs, and direct involvement with industry advocacy organizations.

The National Infrastructure Protection Plan envisions a similar partnership model through the coordination between Government Coordination Councils, a group made up of various Federal Stakeholders, and corresponding Sector Coordinating Councils, or SCCs.

The SCCs are self-organized, self-run, and self-governed, with a spokesperson designated by the membership. Specific membership will vary from critical infrastructure, or CI, sector to sector, reflecting the unique composition of each CI sector; however, membership should be representative of a broad base of owners, operators, associations and other entities—both large and small—within a CI sector.

Primary functions of an SCC:

• Represent a primary point of entry for government into the sector for addressing the entire range of critical infrastructure protection activities and issues for that sector;
• Serve as a strategic communications and coordination mechanism between critical infrastructure owners, operators and suppliers, and, as appropriate, with the government during emerging threats or response and recovery operations, as determined by the sector;
• Identify, implement and support the information-sharing capabilities and mechanisms that are most appropriate for the sector;
• Facilitate inclusive organization and coordination of the sector’s policy development regarding critical infrastructure protection planning and preparedness, exercises and training, public awareness and associated plan implementation activities and requirements; and
• Advise on the integration of federal, state, local and regional planning with private-sector initiatives and provide input to the government on sector research and development efforts and requirements.

The SCCs are encouraged to participate in efforts to develop voluntary consensus standards to ensure that sector perspectives are included in standards that affect critical infrastructure protection. Participation is completely voluntary and not associated with the Area Maritime Security Committee’s roles and responsibilities.

So, what’s in it for members?

As mentioned, the SCCs are self-organized, self-run and self-governed. The membership takes ownership in setting the agenda and identifying issues that they feel are important to the sector. An SCC can help address a wide range of persistent challenges without federal oversight; for example, information sharing and coordinating lessons learned and best practices. It also allows members to be part of the discussion in the development of future maritime security policy. Further, once approved by the Department of Homeland Security, an SCC is considered an organization under the Critical Infrastructure Protection Advisory Council and facilitates interaction between government representatives at the federal, state, local and tribal levels and representatives from the community of CI owners and operators in each critical infrastructure sector to conduct deliberations and form consensus positions to assist the Federal Government.

Currently, the Maritime CI Sector does have an active Government Coordination Council but it does not have an SCC, something the Coast Guard would like to see change. A vibrant SCC would go a long way in helping shape what cyber security in the maritime environment will look like as well as assisting in the development of the Transportation Sector’s Sector Specific Plan, in support of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan, and the current efforts underway to refresh the National Preparedness Goal.

If you or your organization is interested in spearheading the effort to create a maritime SCC, please contact the Coast Guard’s Office of Port and Facility Compliance via email or at 202-372-1108.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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