NORTHCOM developing homeland security technologies, sharing sensitive data with foreign NATO nations
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NORTHCOM developing homeland security technologies, sharing sensitive data with foreign NATO nations

Homeland Assurance

Military Information Technology/ August 2004
By Mickey McCarter

Information warriors are focusing on enhancing their ability to share information with homeland security agencies while also protecting their networks.

As they become more involved in homeland security, information warriors are focusing on developing data architectures and technologies that will aid the sharing of information between federal, state, local and international agencies while protecting network security.

U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) recently sent out a call for new ideas and projects to develop interoperable homeland security technologies. Along with the Defense Information Services Agency (DISA), the command responsible for defending North America announced that it will coordinate next year's Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID) with a focus on interoperability, homeland defense and homeland security in innovative technologies.

CWID 2005, scheduled for May 31-June 24, 2005, marks the second time NORTHCOM and DISA have teamed up to run the exercise, a program of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to test new and emerging homeland security technologies in a simulated battle environment. As the host combatant command for CWID, NORTHCOM intends to utilize the international reach of military operations to examine technologies for information sharing in a homeland defense environment.

“The interagency requirements for information sharing are, in many cases, more complex than those of traditional military to military coalition partners because of a lack of common standards for both hardware and software,” the request for proposals (RFP) for CWID 2005 states.

DISA coordinated the latest demonstration of information-sharing capabilities this summer under the program's previous name, the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (JWID). It was also the first year that NORTHCOM was the host combatant command of the exercise.

JWID focused on the ability of combatant commanders, civil authorities and international allied commanders to exchange relevant and timely information via command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) solutions.

DISA outlined the objectives of technologies in the 2004 demonstration to include multi-level security/security across information domains, situational awareness, database fusion, ISR dissemination, wireless security, coalition network defense, logistics systems and language translation. Twenty-five participants, ranging from U.S. government agencies to allied nations, worked together as a coalition over a global network during the exercise.

Participants required invitations by either NORTHCOM or the Combined Federated Battle Laboratory, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain, the United States and the other NATO nations. The United States invited South Korea to JWID 2004, while NATO invited the Partnership for Peace nations and NORTHCOM brought along Department of Homeland Security agencies.

Global Demonstration

The new exercise represented a truly global demonstration, according to Major General Dale Meyerrose, NORTHCOM director of architectures and integration.

“We have, in fact, made significant changes in JWID policies to facilitate not only Defense Department interoperability improvements, but also improvements in information sharing between national homeland security organizations,” Meyerrose said. “The response to these changes and new focus was so positive that we had nations knocking down the door to participate in this new JWID environment.”

DISA, as the lead defense agency in the exercise, must ensure that NORTHCOM could field technologies demonstrated within a year. The solicitation for CWID 2005 identifies the Joint Forces Command J86I Joint Interoperability and Integration Transformation Change Proposal process as the primary method for accomplishing implementation of new technologies.

The NORTHCOM development team plans to use a block-and-spiral process that introduces additional capabilities to an information exchange environment. These additions are made in 16-week cycles that overlap, maintaining a disciplined process for establishing baseline performance but steadily adding continuous improvements.

The announcement for CWID 2005 indicates that participants must submit interoperability trial proposals by September 15, 2004. The combatant commands, military services and defense agencies are each invited to participate, as well as government agencies outside DoD and NATO allies.

NORTHCOM has already invited the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Coast Guard and FBI to participate. The command anticipates that international participants will include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and NATO. These nations are the only ones automatically qualified to receive classified results from all trials involving international forces. Other information may be released depending on its level of sensitivity regarding U.S. homeland security issues.

All combatant commanders can invite other nations from their specific theaters of operations to participate in the exercise with the approval of Joint Forces Command. The CWID Joint Management Office is responsible for coordinating the network backbones that enable the participation of all parties.

The CWID 2005 solicitation emphasizes that NORTHCOM and DISA are interested in more than simply the technological achievements of hardware and software systems.

“The tactics, techniques and procedures associated with using technology are just as important as the solutions themselves and further investigations into these areas using CWID as a vehicle are encouraged,” the solicitation reads.

CWID examiners in the assessment working group will categorize the capabilities demonstrated by each trial as assessments for one of the following groups: warfighter/operator; technical/interoperability; and/or security capabilities. The Systems Engineering Integration Working Group will examine those trials not formally assessed by the assessment working group.

Information Assurance

The objectives of CWID 2005 are to:

• Improve mission assurance planning and execution capabilities and procedures for homeland defense. A successful trial would support this goal by providing applications and innovative planning while ensuring information assurance, continuity of operations, force protection and critical infrastructure protection. DISA noted that it is critical for tools under related trials to include the ability to monitor, assess and report threats against critical infrastructure and then to defend against and mitigate such threats within an area of responsibility. Users across a variety of government agencies must have the ability to access this information in a number of formats and the ability to tailor information to suit their needs. Solutions must also address problems stemming from system integration and data conversion.

• Provide an enhanced interoperable situation awareness capability. The solution must be “scalable in time, scope and bandwidth within and between information domains,” according to DISA. Successful trial solutions must consider the need to fuse and distribute information, including information such as friendly and hostile order of battle, targeting information, safe areas for marshalling, weather data, imagery, geographic information systems (GIS) map data and other intelligence information. NORTHCOM has a strong interest, particularly with GIS and Global Command and Control System information, in being able to share with agencies outside of DoD via a protected network.

• Facilitate information sharing across many different information domains, including the ability for civil agencies to interact between nations and military-to-military information sharing. CWID 2005 requires secure transmission of such data between information exchange environments. DISA would like to see data encryption occur at the lowest level possible in a network.

• Provide collaborative planning across operational environments with limited bandwidth through specific techniques and procedures. Warfighters require the ability to share information and collaborative planning tools in environments that are not necessarily ideal for doing so. “Network-centric warfare implies that coalition, DoD and civil authorities can harness the power of their information environment to collaboratively plan and execute operations even when bandwidth is constrained,” the CWID solicitation reads. Successful trials must enable existing tools like Lotus Sametime and the Defense Collaboration Tool Suite to interoperate with each other smoothly.

• Permit enhanced sharing and dissemination of ISR information through new solutions. Those who need ISR data use multiple information exchange environments at multiple levels of security, the document points out, so trial solutions must respect the restrictions of these domains while providing useful information for operations.

• Provide security of information being exchanged while it is in transit from one domain to another or one user to another. Trial solutions must address the reality that users “must operate away from fixed information domains that span multiple locations,” according to the CWID announcement. Such users require interoperable devices that provide secure wireless communications to transmit and receive important data within a network-centric warfare framework. All solutions must have accreditation from U.S. authorities or be near such accreditation.

• Translate languages quickly and correctly. The CWID documentation notes that international coalitions involve nations and organizations that speak more than one language. Thus, NORTHCOM would like tools that can translate documents and written and spoken exchanges between participants. Tools that are currently available are very limited in their uses, CWID organizers say. They provide “have limited vocabularies for limited languages” and often do not provide translations that are grammatically correct. In addition, no available tools are capable of simultaneously translating one language into several others.

Field solutions for responsive logistics among different information domains. The goal of integrated logistics is to provide access to multiple logistic information systems to provide a common view of military and civilian logistics operations across the coalition. This big picture view of the supply chain gives friendly forces “total asset visibility,” improving strategic planning across disparate logistics systems.

Again, locating and fusing the correct information and routing it to the proper personnel as part of a commanding officer's situation awareness are keys to a successful trial.


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