Colorado Springs, Colo. The U.S. Northern Command will consider any and all technologies that will help it develop a flexible and survivable communications network to respond to future domestic disasters, Northern Command Commander Adm. Timothy Keating told the Homeland Defense Symposium here last week.
Keating said it would probably be quicker for the Defense Department to offer overlay interconnects for existing police and fire emergency radio networks than to give state or local officials access to federal defense networks.
"We will consider any wireless or wireline technology," Keating said. "The most important goals are that it be simple and flexible and, preferably, cheap. Security on several layers is the next priority, as well as the ability to operate across agencies at different levels of authority."
The conference recognized the role of private companies in aiding ad hoc communications networks. Rear Adm. Timothy Sullivan, senior military adviser to the DHS secretary, lauded Federal Express for providing the 82nd Airborne Division with a private radio network in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.
Also after the hurricane, Air Force Space Command quickly established a mobile satellite downlink in the New Orleans area for the broadband space network known as the Global Broadcast System, noted space command head Gen. Lance Lord. The mobile command post, transported in two Humvees, was pulled together by linking Tyndall Air Force Base to the Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.
"The rapid way we brought up the Global Broadcast System node in Katrina was an exercise in being flexible and adaptable," Lord said.
Keating offered an early look at the National Homeland Security Plan, a pre-emptive adjunct to the National Response Plan that will define what Defense Department agencies can do to prevent man-made disasters. Northern Command is considering "the creation of Defense Department responders in tailorable packages, involving defined groups of specialists in communications, engineering and medical response," he said.
The symposium also explored the growing role of maritime surveillance. A year ago, Northern Command expanded its alliances with the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy to implement monitoring and possible interdiction on the open seas. The North American Aerospace Defense command (Norad) may now expand its maritime support as well. That could generate the need for more naval intelligence.
Brig. Gen. Rosanne Bailey, commander of the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center operated on Norad's behalf, said the underground base at Cheyenne expanded in 2002 as the Air Force brought in FAA help for domestic commercial and private flights. "If Norad takes on maritime duties, the CMOC mission will change almost as much as [it did] post-Sept. 11," she said.