Blue Technology: Innovation For The Ocean

2019-08-23T10:22:22+00:00 May 14, 2018|

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Consortium for Ocean Leadership Staff

What It Was

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation held a hearing titled “Blue Technologies: Use of New Maritime Technologies to Improve Efficiency and Mission Performance.”

 Why It Matters

The United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) responsibilities (e.g., search and rescue, illegal fishing and drug trafficking prevention, oil spill and natural disaster response, and maritime cyber security) have profound impacts on commerce and safety. Technological advances, such as phone applications, GPS, and surface and underwater autonomous systems can drastically increase what we know about the ocean and enhance the agency’s performance and mission success.

Key Points

Rear Adm. Jon White (President and CEO, Consortium for Ocean Leadership) testified before the subcommittee alongside three COL member institutions. His testimony highlighted how the USCG’s missions are supported by robust ocean knowledge; how blue technology is vital to understanding the ocean; and how ocean science, technology, engineering, and math (O-STEM) education are critical for innovation, operation, and maintenance of blue technology. White further emphasized that strong federal support of blue tech, STEM education, and collaborative government and public-private partnerships will enable the USCG to achieve their mission with greater efficiency and efficacy.

During the first panel of the hearing, there was bipartisan agreement that the USCG is slow to acquire new technologies and is falling behind on the use of innovative tools. Rear Adm. Michael J. Haycock (Assistant Commandant for Acquisition and Chief Acquisition Officer, United States Coast Guard) explained that the USCG is making progress on modernization and procurements. He outlined efforts to crowd-source creative ideas from civilian and military staff, described framework for obtaining technology (e.g., Cooperative Research and Development Agreements), and highlighted a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Science and Technology (S&T) to form CG/DHS S&T Innovation Center (CG-STIC). Members of the subcommittee remained concerned and proposed creating a partnership similar to the icebreaker partnership between Navy and USCG.

In an effort to understand the scope of blue technology, the subcommittee also invited a second panel of expert witnesses from industry, academia, and non-profits (including White). They described current technology, highlighted applications (e.g., oil spill cleanup and combatting illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing), emphasized the need for partnerships, and singled out the National Oceanographic Partnership Program as a tool Congress and agencies should utilize more.

Witnesses agreed that robust funding would be needed to move blue technology forward, and they cautioned against the assumption that technology could completely replace humans or vessels, noting that technicians and operators are still needed.


“It is clear, without a substantial STEM education base, the USCG (not to mention the Navy, the rest of the government, industry, or anyone else) will be unable to depend on advancing technology developments to help meet their missions.” – Rear Adm. Jon White, Ret. (President and CEO, Consortium for Ocean Leadership)

“There is no replacement for trained and capable service members, but if the Coast Guard makes better use of technology, this can make service members’ jobs more effective and safer.” – Chairman Duncan Hunter (CA-50)

“Continued encouragement of inter-governmental collaboration in research and development among federal agencies invested in ocean sciences and operations is imperative to further advance knowledge for innovation in blue technologies.” – Dr. Tuba Ozkan-Haller (Oregon State University, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences)

“Future ship build programs should certainly consider fully unmanned, partially unmanned, and optionally unmanned ships.” – Mr. Thomas Chance (Chief Executive Officer, Autonomous Surface Vehicles, LLC)

“As the Coast Guard and Congress work together on identifying resources to allow greater access to unmanned system technologies to help the Coast Guard meet its mission goals, multi-agency partnerships are recommended to allow for rapid communication of lessons learned and experience.” – Dr. Eric J. Terrill (Director, Coastal Observing Research and Development Center, Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Next Steps

The subcommittee and committee recognize the need for innovation and may hold additional hearings to better understand how to facilitate the USCG in embracing and acquiring new technology.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

 Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership