More Than Just an Oil Slick…

By USMC (Ret) Vince Martinez

Vince Martinez is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Officer and pilot. He is the President and Founder of Affinity Fidelis Consulting and Technologies, a defense consulting firm in Northern Virginia.  Vince is now a regular contributor to Second Line of Defense and starts with the article below.

Credit : Betsy Mason,Tracked From Space: Gulf Oil Slick Approaches Land , Wired.com, April 30th, 2010
(Click on top of picture to access caption)

As the oil slick from the offshore drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico makes its way to the shores of the U. S. coastland, an emerging picture of the vulnerabilities of any coastland that has offshore rigging in close proximity is now presenting a much clearer snapshot as to the risk of cataclysmic biological disaster at the hands of human error, bio-terrorism or natural disaster.  Although somewhat shocking for many in the public domain, the risks associated with biological catastrophe and its impacts on a population are far from new in martial circles, and should serve as a wake-up call for all concerned.  Biological methods of war have been formulated and successfully utilized throughout history.  Whether it was through the use of infected corpses to pass bubonic plague to the enemies of the Mongol Empire in medieval times, or in the sustained economic aftermath of the oil fires in Iraq during the Gulf War, the endemic and substantive impacts of these types of occurrences tend to exact tolls far longer than the initial salvo.

In the case of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the aftermath will manifest in everything from massive losses in the food chain, to the economic impacts of a far-reaching clean up, the loss of revenue for the tourism and fishing industries of the Gulf States, and the operational readiness impacts associated with the use of U. S. Naval and Coast Guard resources to assist with containing the spill, as well as their likely sustained role in the clean-up, recovery and security of this region as this event unfolds.

Was this an act of bio-terrorism?  As far as all accounts in the public domain go, that does not appear to be the case.  What is clear, however, is that those who do seek ways to exact tolls on nation states are watching this outcome closely– just as we are.

This is not the first time this type of operation will have been contemplated, and will most certainly not be the last.  Like all things, however, this should serve as an opportunity for decision makers to consider what type of martial capabilities to invest in for the security of their coastlines.

In direct opposition to the land war that has everyone’s attention today, naval deterrence, coastal defense, biological and chemical defense, and the fiscally constrained environment that is pervasive worldwide should cause all to pause and contemplate closely.

What are those programs which are critical to maintain a nation’s defense, how do they fair against other high priority programs given limited resources, and how do they fit into a balanced, holistic military posture?  This is, and must be considered by those in places that affect such decisions, far more than just an oil slick.

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***Posted on May 8th, 2010

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

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