Elements of the U.S. Homeland Security and Defense departments recently completed a series of maritime and table top exercises in the Middle East, practicing ways to intercept weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It's all part of the Proliferation Security Initiative, a global effort by more than 90 countries to prevent trafficking in WMD, their delivery systems and related materials.
Called Leading Edge 2010, the exercise was held in Abu Dhabi and the waters off the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Jan. 25-28. U.S. participants included Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Coast Guard – all Department of Homeland Security (DHS) units. The FBI and Energy Department also participated.
At a recent Defense Department Bloggers Roundtable, Mike Perron of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Navy Commander Tony Crego from the Defense Department's Joint Staff, explained the exercise and its outcome.
Coast Guard Cutter Adak (Coast Guard photo)
The Coast Guard Cutter Adak (WPB 1333), a 110-foot patrol boat was used for a “visit, board, search and seize (VBSS)” team exercise in which Coast Guard and Navy personnel approach a commercial ship, get permission to come aboard and conduct an inspection. The Adak, homeported in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, was among four Coast Guard cutters assigned to Middle East waters as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
An Australian Navy frigate also participated in the maritime interdiction as did a boat boarding team from Qatar. UAE customs, police and chemical detection officials participated in the port security part of the exercise. But Crego said the focus of the exercise “was more on the broad international cooperation” rather than a maritime interdiction. The largest participation – by 30 countries – was in the table top exercise. There were eight playing teams representing the full range of a country's military, police and intelligence units. Other countries that didn't send a full complement participated in a seminar-like overview of the table top exercise. Crego and Perron were especially pleased that three countries that are not PSI signatories – India, Pakistan and Lebanon – joined the table top seminar.
Perron said the PSI would like to include air and ground aspects in future exercises. Crego said there are plans to include a PSI scenario in Phoenix Express, a U.S. Africa Command exercise slated for May or June. There may also be a WMD interdiction segment of Southern Command's Panamax exercise in late summer. “We just look for opportunities with geographic combatant commanders to inject exercises with PSI as part of their regularly scheduled exercise,” said Crego.
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