CIRI forges new partnership with U.S. Coast Guard

by Samantha Koon

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Tasked with six major operational missions, the U.S. Coast Guard plays an essential role in American homeland security. The Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI) at the University of Illinois is honored to announce a newly formed working relationship with the Coast Guard to explore innovative methods and technologies related to one of those missions—increasing port security.

David M. Nicol, professor and CIRI director, recently visited a Coast Guard research facility to kick start conversation around this new relationship. According to Nicol, CIRI exists to provide research-based solutions to homeland security challenges related to security and infrastructure, which makes a partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard mutually beneficial.

“American ports are living, breathing organisms,” says Nicol. “They are essential to the American economic engine, so you can imagine that the Coast Guard is interested in ensuring that best practices in infrastructure resiliency have been appropriately vetted and adapted to suit the unique needs of such a critical system.”

There are a variety of CIRI projects that could provide useful insight for the Coast Guard, but one project in particular will explore how to manage port security risk before, during, and after a port disruption. The goal of the project is to identify and measure the security and technology impacts of a port disruption, as the ripple effects from this type of incident are now believed to be more far-reaching than previously understood.

While visiting with senior leaders and staff in December, Nicol was presented with a U.S. Coast Guard challenge coin. In the military, a challenge coin is a small medallion bearing an organization’s insignia and signifies both pride and fellowship. The coins are usually carried by the organization’s members and are often given to military personnel and civilians alike in recognition of service above and beyond the call of duty.

“I was incredibly honored to be presented with the coin,” says Nicol. “The U.S. Coast Guard is known for forging strong, productive relationships and I am pleased that CIRI will be joining their network of partners. One of the things I appreciate most about working with the Coast Guard is that they are grounded in tradition but they are open to and actively pursue new ways of thinking. It’s a very progressive approach to solving problems.”

Several CIRI-sponsored infrastructure security projects are already underway or kicking off this spring. Representatives from the Coast Guard will be visiting CIRI in May to further define the relationship and articulate next steps related to the port security research project.

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