The base is home to submarines, ships and laboratories and is potentially vulnerable to attack by terrorist swimmers and scuba divers, the notice states.
Several options are under consideration, but the preferred plan would be to send as many as 30 California sea lions and Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins from the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego.
“These animals have the capabilities for what needs to be done for this particular mission,” said Tom LaPuzza, a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Program.
LaPuzza said that because of their astonishing sonar abilities, dolphins are excellent at patrolling for swimmers and divers. When a Navy dolphin detects a person in the water, it drops a beacon. This tells a human interception team where to find the suspicious swimmer.
Dolphins also are trained to detect underwater mines; they were sent to do this in the Iraqi harbor of Umm Qasr in 2003. The last time the animals were used operationally in San Diego was in 1996, when they patrolled the bay during the Republican National Convention.
Sea lions can carry in their mouths special cuffs attached to long ropes. If the animal finds a rogue swimmer, it can clamp the cuff around the person’s leg. The individual can then be reeled in for questioning.