Kevin McCarthy

Jul 22, 2010

The piracy question and how to deal with it is huge and is about to become a much larger question in the global supply-chain management continuum. I, like other folks, would like nothing more then to send in the Marines and clean out the nest of pirates. But alas, the days of gunboat diplomacy are of a bygone era.

We now engage our adversaries with not only guns and bullets, but also batteries to run our high-tech systems. Increasingly more important is the new adage, “bring lawyers, guns and money.” Nation building will take a great deal of finesse and understanding, as well as forceful measures.

One of these first opening salvos has been fired by the White House, though it seems to have been ignored by the business community with an interest in these matters. The Presidential Executive Order (EO), issued in April 2010, prevents U.S. citizens/entities from making payments to certain named individuals. It also has the potential to prevent any payments to individuals or groups involved in or supporting piracy in Somalia.

The regulatory guidelines for implementing this EO are yet to be promulgated, but given the recent Shabaab attack in Kampala, Uganda, in which at least one U.S. citizen was killed (a crime being investigated by the FBI), one can reasonably expect the enforcement issue of the EO to be forthcoming.

Shabaab is known to have sworn allegiance to bin Laden and Qaeda, and this Shabaab attack will clearly articulate the connections between piracy ransoms, Shabaab and the broader global war on terror. The probable outcome, in my opinion, will be the Lloyds, Joint Hull & Joint War Committees declaring that they will no longer underwrite insurance for kidnap and ransom in this arena. And now the lawyers and money come to the forefront.

In order to operate the critical sea lanes in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali environs, government resources from concerned nations will need to be deployed. The United States may not be the principal user of these lanes, but we are likely one of the principal end-users of the output from the associated supply chain. For this reason, it is important that we gain understanding and proactively look for how we engage the piracy issue. At least 85 percent of our critical infrastructure is privately held, and therein lays the bulk of the responsibility for defending those nodes. Building coalitions across industry and national borders, sharing information and supporting combined military action when needed will be a key effort to meeting the threat.

In one of his first acts of president, Thomas Jefferson met the challenge of pirates. Now, 200 years later, we face a similar situation, which will indeed need lawyers, guns and money. It will also take intelligence, technology and collaboration.

This piece was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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