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MRS '24 - Panel 5: Identifying Risk, Measuring Success in the "Gray Zone"

April 17, 2024

Copyright Grispb/AdobeStock

Copyright Grispb/AdobeStock

The Maritime Risk Symposium is an annual three-day conference in which government and maritime industry leaders, port representatives, researchers, and solution providers convene to examine current and emerging threats to maritime security. MRS2024 is scheduled to take place June 11-13 2024 at Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, CA.


A look @ Panel 5: Facilitator: Eric “Coop” Cooper, CAPT, USCG (retired)

This panel will inform participants and generate discussion to improve understanding of the risk of gray zone activities pose to the economy, international relationships, security, and global balance of power. 

A gray zone is “an operational space between peace and war, involving coercive actions to change the status quo below a threshold that, in most cases, would prompt a conventional military response, often blurring the line between military and nonmilitary actions and the attribution of events.” i

As a significant concern of the last three Administrations, the CNO, the USCG, the USMC, and the maritime industry, combatting gray zone activities continues to be challenging for measuring success when striving for strategic outcomes.  This panel should generate dialogue about what industry, government, and maritime services are accomplishing to address concerns and coordinate with international partners. The National Defense Strategy states that the United States has a goal of “limiting, frustrating, and disrupting competitor activities that seriously impinge our interests, especially those carried out in the gray zone.”  ii

This panel will investigate how to identify and categorize gray zone activities and what types of responses are appropriate and necessary using the elements of national power and international bodies. The Department of Defense isn’t the only player in this arena. The United States Coast Guard offers that they will “provide a full spectrum of engagement in the grey zone as nation-states and transnational criminal organizations generate increased uncertainty and complexity in the maritime domain.”  iii

Panelists from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, academia, and think tanks will address the key concerns of the services and industry as well as efforts being made to combat gray zone activities in coordination with international partners, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. Importantly, this panel will be followed by a future casting event hosted by the United States Coast Guard Evergreen team to position the service to better prepare itself for gray zone activities in the next 20 years. All symposium participants are invited to join in this future casting event.


  • To register for the 2024 Maritime Risk Symposium, CLICK HERE

  •  i Morris et al., Gaining Competitive Advantage in the Gray Zone, p. 8. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR2900/RR2942/RAND_RR2942.pdf [PDF]

  •  ii Austin, Lloyd, National Defense Strategy 2022, p. 12. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/trecms/pdf/AD1183514.pdf [PDF]

  •  iii Fagan, Linda. United States Coast Guard Strategy 2022, p. 4. https://www.uscg.mil/Portals/0/seniorleadership/alwaysready/2022-Strategic-Outlook-HR.pdf [PDF]

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