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Public Policy and Administration


Karen Shafer


Terrorist naval mines/underwater improvised explosive devices (M/UWIEDs) are a threat to U.S. maritime ports, and could cause economic damage, panic, and mass casualties. The purpose of this case study was to examine this threat and propose reforms that improve port security management. The study aligned with the mission area analysis objective of identifying and assessing potential terrorist threats in order to preempt and prevent attacks. Von Bertalanffy's general systems theory was the framework for research questions, which focused on improvements in port security management to mitigate the threat of terrorist M/UWIEDs. Data collection included a document content analysis of open source/nonclassified crime reports, government threat assessments, and legislation; physical artifacts (port infrastructure) information; policy papers; maps, satellite imagery, and navigational charts; peer-reviewed academic literature; and direct observation of 2 California-based maritime ports and an inspection of their physical artifacts. Data were organized by general themes; coded axially and selectively; and analyzed by phrases, topics, and words associated with minelaying, mine countermeasures, and port security. Key findings were that, since 9/11, overall port security has improved, although there has been little progress in countering the threat presented by M/UWIEDs. Further, vulnerabilities exist that terrorists who seek to commit an M/UWIED attack or campaign could misuse. The findings from this study contribute to positive social change by providing data to key stakeholders responsible for counterterrorism, mine warfare, and port security, thereby contributing to overall U.S. homeland security.

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