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Panelists Explore Change and Challenges

July 2003
By Maryann Lawlor, Henry S. Kenyon, Robert K. Ackerman, Tanya Y. Alexander
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Military and federal government leaders agree that information systems will be key enablers in forming the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and protecting the nation. Speakers and panelists at TechNet International 2003 shared information and insight about the road ahead for the department and how industry will support its work. One chief concern is how to facilitate coordination and collaboration between federal agencies, among various levels of the government and within multiple emergency response organizations.

The event’s presentations began with a plenary speech by Lt. Gen. Harry D. Raduege Jr., USAF, director, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), who described how the numerous improvements in technology help win wars and save lives. He added that the U.S. Defense Department has made significant gains in credibility thanks to the efforts of industry.

Capabilities have improved substantially since the first Gulf War, Gen. Raduege said. For example, wideband satellite communications in 1991 offered 99 megabits of bandwidth, but by 2003 this increased to 3,200 megabits. This is over 30 times more bandwidth for a force that is 45 percent smaller, he pointed out. In addition, enhanced mobile satellite services allowed warfighters to call in air strikes from virtually anywhere, including from horseback in Afghanistan.

The general spoke about other important initiatives as well. The Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE) program will increase bandwidth in 90 key intelligence and command centers. The Net-Centric Enterprise Services effort will facilitate collaboration and includes work on Web-enabling technologies that will reduce the number of legacy systems. The Defense Red Switch Network has expanded into 18 agencies and will facilitate a closer relationship between the Defense Department and civilian agencies.

Although responsibility for the National Communications System and its suborganizations transferred from DISA to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this year, Gen. Raduege emphasized that DISA will work closely with the new department to ensure that the good relationships with industry that have been developed will remain.

Gen. Raduege also served as moderator of the Tuesday afternoon panel titled “Emergency/Consequence Management Systems in a Multi-Agency Environment.” Session participants agreed that the biggest challenge both in organizing the DHS and preparing for catastrophic events is the multifaceted nature of these tasks. Lt. Gen. Carl G. O’Berry, USAF (Ret.), vice president, strategic architecture, The Boeing Company, enumerated the requirements the two have in common that must be met at all levels—from individual workers to large complex organizations. Each level requires situational awareness, safety and protection, decision support, and situational control.

The importance of communication systems was highlighted by the actions of people immediately following the attacks on September 11, 2001, stated Dr. Brian Dailey, senior vice president, Washington operations, Lockheed Martin Corporation. Food, water and housing took a backseat to being able to call emergency personnel or contact family members, he said.

Several issues must be addressed to ensure that communications capabilities are available following an emergency. Standards, requirements and processes must be in place through the state and local levels and, while the federal government should be responsible for designing these, states and localities must carry them out.

Allan Wade, chief information officer, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Intelligence Community, disclosed that many of the agency’s assumptions prior to the terrorist attacks were wrong, including the security of its facility. In hindsight, Wade said, the questions were evident: What if we are denied use of our building? How do we protect people? How do we communicate with people to help us? What is the role of the CIA in the war on terrorism? What are the unique assets in the CIA building? “On 9/11, we found out how hard the answers to these questions are,” Wade stated.

Some fundamental assumptions remain that must be examined, he said, including how best to manage very low probability yet high impact events. “We thought it was just about us [the CIA], but it is not just about us. What is important is the role of the organization in the big picture,” he stated.

Ensuring homeland security at the state and local levels may require looking at challenges from different perspectives. Experts at a Wednesday panel titled “Intelligence and Homeland Security: Transcending Federal, State and Local Boundaries,” did just that. Leading off the session was Mary Ann Elliot, president and chief executive officer of Arrowhead Global Solutions Incorporated, a company that is working on the new Cyber Warning Information Network, or CWIN.

This network, which is under construction at 250 locations, features “a model architecture that can be emulated” by multiagency organizations, Elliot offered. The cornerstone of CWIN is that all of the participating agencies share its objectives. It is being dispersed among the Federal Bureau of Investigation, DISA headquarters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and many DHS organizations.

Everything the U.S. Joint Forces Command does for homeland security is geared toward gaining knowledge before a terrorist event, according to Col. Charles L. Lewis, USA, J-2, Joint Task Force–Civil Support at the command. A major challenge is for the military to obtain timely information from the law enforcement community, he stated.

Col. Lewis listed a high-yield explosive attack as the most likely terror scenario facing the nation today. Next on the list is an attack involving industrial chemicals, for example, sabotage of a hazardous materials tank farm that releases deadly gases into a populated area. Experts at the command “lose a lot of sleep” worrying about this type of attack, he allowed. The least likely threat is that of nuclear weapons, followed by chemicals such as nerve gas. However, the worst threat in terms of potential damage is that of biological pathogens or contagions unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

Susan Kalweit, chief of FEMA’s interagency geospatial preparedness team, told the audience how her group is developing a national strategy for geospatial preparedness that would provide vital geospatial data for emergency response. Nationwide interoperability among geospatial data sources would permit establishing a shared foundation for analyzing and assessing vulnerabilities, she declared.

The evolution of Defense Department telecommunication services was outlined at Wednesday morning’s DISA Theater presentation by Anthony Montemarano, program director for GIG-BE services. This work will focus on command and control and the intelligence community. Noting that the defense information systems network (DISN) derives its connectivity from the commercial Internet to provide connectivity and economies of scale, he added that DISA is working to protect its assets.

Although the Internet is an open entity that is inconsistently protected, the DISN is an intranet that is defined and protected. The purpose of the DISN and the GIG-BE is to support combatant commanders. But while its systems are defended, Montemarano warned that these safeguards still need improvement to protect Defense Department assets.

The GIG-BE is an expansion of the existing DISN, which reaches several hundred sites. GIG-BE, however, currently reaches only 90 to 100 sites worldwide. As part of the expansion, optical switches and multiple connectivity paths were installed to keep bases online. Improvements through GIG-BE will include enhanced bandwidth and Internet-protocol-based systems to handle data, voice and video communications. Encryption will move away from central servers and be placed on cards housed in external systems that connect to the Internet.

Issues relating to the launch of the new DHS were the chief topic for the Wednesday afternoon panel about information technology support to interagency coordination. According to Robert Buchanan, chief information officer and chief information resource manager for the U.S. Secret Service, from the beginning, the department must be sensitive to intra-agency communication because of its size and composition. The department must establish standardized simple systems, review and acquire compiled equipment lists, and develop a priority standard for acquisition among its 22 constituent entities.

Cabell Cropper, executive director of the National Criminal Justice Association, shared examples of coordination among state and federal law enforcement agencies. Although interoperability and coordination were major issues prior to September 11, their significance dramatically increased after the attacks.

The challenge of getting the department on its feet was described by Thomas Reinhardt, chief of staff, Office of the Undersecretary for Management, DHS. Saying that the department is not an industry-government partnership, but a national effort, he explained that strong support from the administration will be a key to success. The most important task is for interagency communications to smooth their integration and transition into the DHS. Reinhardt added that much of what is being attempted has never been done before and that many of the department’s duties have international ramifications as long-standing agencies such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service are folded into the new department and have their services and responsibilities re-crafted.

The near-real-time targeting and battle assessment achieved in operation Iraqi Freedom was a first for U.S. and coalition forces, according to Dawn Meyerriecks, chief technology officer, DISA. At Wednesday afternoon’s DISA session, Meyerriecks said the networked systems so critical to winning the war were made available through DISA’s Net-Centric Enterprise Service. The program is being proposed in 2004 as a new start to provide the Defense Department with Web-based networked applications that will allow both real-time and near-real-time users to be linked, enabling access to the decision-quality information necessary to support operations anywhere, any time. A main goal of the program is the overall draw down of forces with commensurate network services and more lethality.

The systems employed in Iraq operations allow information to be integrated in a way never done before, Meyerriecks said. Real-time engagement of platforms in the air with real targets—something the U.S. Central Command could never do—was made possible using near-real-time imaging of targets with photographs and coordinates transmitted via e-mail to aircraft already in flight.

Operation Iraqi Freedom employed approximately two-thirds of the air assets and less than half of the ground forces used in operation Desert Storm. Meyerriecks attributed the successes realized in Iraq to sharing real-time information across combatant commands and making “a lot of use of people at home,” putting fewer sons and daughters in harm’s way.

The Thursday panel focused on government and industry organization structure for homeland security. Panelists discussed issues such as the network architecture for the DHS and how interagency communications will operate between its different components.

Lt. Gen. Peter Kind, USA (Ret.), a research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analysis, noted similarities between the government’s efforts to avert year-2000-related computer failures and work to establish the department. To counter the former, the government created a real-time information reporting network that described the state of the nation’s critical infrastructure down to the village level. Data pulled during this effort was reported to civil authorities every two hours. Gen. Kind described this as a win-win effort that linked 37 government departments with 13 national information centers.

James Flyzik, a partner with the consulting firm of Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates, explained that a major challenge in establishing the DHS is creating its architecture. Important issues include defining business processes independent of the agencies that comprise the department. Unlike a private-sector merger, the DHS merger is one without a buyer. Flyzik noted that in reality, it is more like a holding company with 22 entities.