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    US, Latin American countries demonstrate, assess new information-sharing technology

    US, Latin American countries demonstrate, assess new information-sharing technology

    Photo By Michael Wimbish | Ricardo Arias, U.S. Southern Command Science, Technology and Experimentation program...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    U.S. Southern Command

    By U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs

    GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – The United States and four Western Hemisphere nations today completed a week-long operational demonstration of an internet-based collaboration technology that aims to significantly improve unclassified information sharing among nations cooperating to detect and disrupt illicit trafficking across regions.

    SOUTHCOM’s Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-SOUTH) led the demonstration from its operations center in Key West in cooperation with partner-nation military and law enforcement personnel participating from sites in Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia and Mexico. Representatives from U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Africa Command, the Naval Research Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, and U.S. Department of Transportation also participated.

    The development of the technology, called Regional Domain Awareness (RDA), was spearheaded by U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Science, Technology and Experimentation Division (ST&E). The concept behind RDA’s development envisioned a secure, virtual platform, accessible by authorized users around the world, allowing them to selectively share data from radar and sensor tracking systems with global partners to detect and disrupt transnational organized crime.

    “The goal of this demonstration was to assess RDA's military utility,” said Juan Hurtado, SOUTHCOM’s science and technology adviser. An independent test agency, called the Joint Test Assessment Group, will evaluate the functionality, mission impact and suitability of RDA.

    During the demonstration, simulations allowed participants in each country to track suspect sea and air traffic and to share related information with each other using a new mechanism for counter illicit trafficking information sharing called the Cooperative Situational Information Integration (CSII) system.

    CSII is slated to be implemented for use in SOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility in the summer and was developed with the same architecture used for RDA. “Both technologies are extensions of previous work accomplished by SOUTHCOM’s ST&E division,” said Ricardo Arias, a SOUTHCOM ST&E program manager. “While the focus of CSII is regional support to the counter illicit trafficking mission, RDA has a much broader scope – DOD wide and multi-mission.

    According to Arias, both RDA and CSII are big improvements to the information sharing tools that preceded them.

    “Before RDA and CSII, information sharing was bilateral, using non-integrated networks, which limited sharing among partner nations,” he said, adding that older tools did not allow countries to share their radar feeds with each other or to integrate data from different domains -- mainly air, sea and land -- into a single system.

    Requests for improvements by U.S. and regional users led to a series of experiments that began in 2008 and culminated in a partnership between SOUTHCOM’s Communications Systems directorate; Strategy, Policy and Plans directorate; and JIATF-South to develop the current version of CSII. With CSII, users in the Western Hemisphere will have a single system where they can share the air, sea and land traffic data they own while retaining the right to choose who sees the information.

    “Let’s say you have a really good couple of air search radars and maritime radars,” Arias explained. “You have some good information, and you want to share it. You can select which radars and which sensors you want to share, and with whom.”

    In Guatemala, where U.S. counterdrug experts estimate 80 percent of the cocaine trafficked through the Central America-Mexico corridor transits, officials are hopeful the new capability will help them disrupt more illicit drug shipments inbound from other parts of the region.

    “The challenge we face is that information about illicit trafficking often reaches us too late,” said Eunice Mendizabal, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Government, 5th Vice Ministry, a department established by Guatemala’s president in 2012 to focus exclusively on the country’s counterdrug policies and programs. In response to this challenge, Mendizabal said Guatemalan officials sought a mechanism that would give them direct access to information about regional illicit trafficking activities starting at their points of origin, thus giving their defense and security forces more time to prepare and respond.

    “We reached out to the (U.S.) Military Group, and we explained the reasons why we were seeking access to these (new) programs that would provide us with information about illicit trafficking in real time,” said added.

    Guatemalan counterdrug officials participating in the demonstration used CSII to detect and monitor simulated and actual suspected flights in coordination with other nations.

    Though CSII expands the scope of information sharing among nations, like Guatemala and the other countries participating in the demonstration, Arias is quick to point out that unlike RDA, it is not a global information sharing tool.

    “We wanted to go beyond a regional approach,” Arias said, referring to CSII’s geographic focus, “so we pursued a separate path to develop the capability across geographic combatant commands.”

    According to Arias, the command secured more than $6 million from DOD to develop RDA as a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD), a program that leverages existing and emerging technologies and introduces new operational concepts to solve important military problems.

    With RDA’s operational demonstration now completed and its assessment pending, Hurtado said a decision will soon be made about the technology’s future.

    “If successfully demonstrated, and the assessment determines the system offers military utility, then SOUTHCOM will provide a recommendation for RDA to transition to a program of record within DOD,” he said.

    The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) would oversee the transition to make RDA available to other combatant commands, their partner nations and other missions, including disaster relief operations, humanitarian assistance missions and mass migration events.

    “If the assessment determines that RDA is not quite ready to transition into a program of record, SOUTHCOM will identify those areas requiring further development to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Rapid Fielding -- the agency that funded the JCTD -- as well as the Navy Research Laboratory and DISA,” Hurtado said. “These shortfalls would have to be resolved prior to the system's transition to operational status.”

    Whatever the outcome, he said the capability is needed and, once implemented, its impact will be noticeable to the interagency and international partners using it.

    “This would mean a major increase in regional collaboration, not just between the U.S. and its partner nations, but also among partner nations themselves,” he added. “In turn, we expect an enhancement to security across the various regions serviced by RDA.”



    Date Taken: 03.21.2014
    Date Posted: 03.21.2014 10:15
    Story ID: 122355
    Location: GUATEMALA CITY, GT 

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