Gov. Bryant creates new Ocean Task Force - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gov. Bryant creates new Ocean Task Force

Gov. Phil Bryant was at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport Thursday to announce the creation of the Ocean Task Force. (Photo source: WLOX) Gov. Phil Bryant was at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport Thursday to announce the creation of the Ocean Task Force. (Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

In a big step toward a new maritime industry, Gov. Phil Bryant created the Governor's Ocean Task Force in an effort to build better national security and a better economy. 

With his executive order comes a promise for a whole new industry in South Mississippi: Unmanned maritime technology, particularly underwater vessels.

“Nobody in the country has really done something like this,” said Dr. Monty Graham, director of school of Ocean Science and Technology at the University of Southern Mississippi, and director of the new task force. “It’s being done with aerial drones, but it’s not really being done in the maritime environment.”

The new task force would involve about 25 volunteers to develop a master plan to put all the Coast’s assets on the same page.

“We have a technology base that is spread over about 80 miles,” Graham said. “What we don't have are the gaps filled that will pull all of this together in a way that you could really have something solid that will [attract] for economic development.”

Graham says it all stems from the Navy.

“The Navy wants to do this. It’s big, and there’s a lot of buying power,” Graham said. “That will attract industry. Industry needs a workforce and it needs communities and economic development.”

Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet is excited about the prospects.

“That’s what this whole demonstration's been about. This is what the governor's proclamation is about,” Gallaudet said. “This is what the Chief of Naval operations is targeting me to do and that’s advance the Navy's undersea warfare capabilities and we’re doing it right here on the Gulf Coast.”

The new industry would also support commercial ventures, as well as environmental protection with more detailed and less expensive mapping capabilities.

“What we will do is look at not only the military application but also commercial applications to help build the economy and add more jobs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Bryant said.

The new industry will require a well-trained workforce.

Andrew Beets represents the future of that education, being one of only a handful of students to be part of a new technology certification process at Southern Miss to support unmanned maritime vehicles.

“It’s saving lives if you want to be honest,” Beets said. “But for right now, we are just trying to advance the technologies, advance the economy down here. Advance the education. It’s just the very first step in a huge, huge program in the future.”

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