Date of Award

Fall 12-2006

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International studies

Committee Director

Reginia Karp

Committee Member

Francis Adams

Committee Member

Jonathan Phillips

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.I45 S735 2006


This thesis proposes US maritime forces adopt a new strategy of pre-tipping point operations that involve proactive measures to enhance maritime security. At its core is the premise that since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the propensity of efforts in GWOT have focused on defeating terrorist organizations and denying sanctuaries on land, leaving the maritime operating environment open to the next wave of terror attacks.1 With the preponderance of commercial goods shipped through the maritime commons, this critical nexus remains valuable and vulnerable. Fragile states and ungoverned regions have become safe havens for a host of criminal elements including pirates who have become increasingly bold and sophisticated in their attacks. These regions must not become sanctuaries for terrorists.

The problem consists of how to develop awareness of all ongoing maritime activities and identify legitimate ones from potential threats - termed Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)- and how to respond in a time-critical manner.

The hypothesis is: If pre-tipping point operations are conducted; and, if applied through a persistent presence model; then, naval capacity of partner nations will increase, enduring relationships will develop - thus increasing MDA and threat response.

The research is organized into five chapters that include an introduction; a description of how the world has changed relating to the maritime environment and threat; a description of US maritime forces - their mission, strategy, and capabilities; an argument for adopting pre-tipping point operations as an overall strategy; and conclusions.

Findings include that US maritime forces are transforming to address future maritime security challenges, and already conduct pre-tipping point operations, albeit not as part of a comprehensive strategy but more attributed to individual initiatives. Several specific examples are detailed. Case studies of successful pre-tipping point operations within the maritime domain together with examples from the law enforcement and medical fields are presented as illustrations to support the argument to adopt this strategic approach for maritime security as well.


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