Pass the word
- By Caron Golden
- Oct 04, 2005
Les Anderson and Marc Sorensen, SPAWAR-San Diego
JPEN team finds a short route to sharing threat information
JPEN program team, SPAWAR-San Diego
If there is one point on which most people in the United States can agree after the attacks of 9/11, it's that information needs to be shared directly among organizations that collect it and those that need it.
In the military, each service had its own unique process for in-house sharing of threat information, but sharing between services required taking the long way up through the Pentagon and back down to another service.
Closing that gap was the beginning of the Joint Protection Enterprise Network.
JPEN actually began under the auspices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 2002, its chairman, Gen. Richard B. Myers, asked how more could be done to fight the global war on terror and specifically addressed the sharing of information. Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellogg, who was at that time director of the Command, Control, Communications and Computer (C4) Systems Directorate (J6), instructed then Lt. Col. Keith Miller to develop such a vehicle.
The pilot program, called Project Protect America, was launched in 2002 for the Washington, D.C., area because of the proximity of military installations to one another.
In the summer of 2003, the program was renamed JPEN, and in December it was transferred to the sponsorship of Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, recalled Marc Sorensen, program manager at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command-San Diego.
'NORTHCOM hired SPAWAR Systems in San Diego to develop JPEN for nationwide use,' he said. 'It took from January to September 2004 to re-engineer the system to make it more robust.'
The system is purposely intuitive and easy to use. In fact, to users, it doesn't appear to be much more than a Web site with a password, Sorensen said. 'We maintain the servers and the database and push data out to government agencies, such as the Defense Counterintelligence Field Activity, for analysis.'
Using an Oracle server and database engine, Java-based code and Microsoft Internet Explorer as the browser, JPEN enables authorized personnel at installations to input information such as names, Social Security numbers, license plate numbers and driver's license numbers into specific fields.
Once data is entered, the system provides near-real-time sharing of data across installations with any other individual who has access to the system.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff initially set it up with a budget of $5 million in fiscal year 2003, $10 million in fiscal year 2004, and $5 million in fiscal year 2005. While the number of installations and users will be expanding in 2006, funding will not, according to Les Anderson, technical lead for JPEN.
'We're more in maintenance and small-upgrade mode,' he said. 'But that could change based on threats and decisions by NORTHCOM.'
Anderson explained how JPEN might work:
'Let's say someone in a car pulls up to a gate at Camp Pendleton and wants entry. The guard at the gate would open a pull-down menu and enter the person's name, license plate number and driver's license number, and could note in an open text field if the person was agitated or anything else relevant to the situation. If that person is turned away and tries to enter another base, the guard at that base could open JPEN and as they enter that same data, the system would inform the guard of the previous incident.'
This push-and-pull system includes Web-based training, as well as round-the-clock help desk assistance, Anderson said.
SPAWAR worked on the project with design partner Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego. 'The key elements for us were defining what the requirements really are, so users in the field get what they want,' said John Quigley, SAIC systems engineer.
'Once JPEN was in deployment, we worked with users through the help desk to make sure they knew how to use the system and to find out what modifications they wanted,' he said. 'For instance, we found that one group of people wanted to use JPEN to generate reports. There wasn't a way to do that,' so they incorporated that function into the system.
Sorensen said a major challenge was trying to re-engineer someone else's code and make it more robust. 'We put an initial system online on Oct. 1, 2004, for 100 people. In January 2005, we were up to 600 people and now we're in the thousands,' he said. In fact, the newest version fielded has been tested to 4,500 concurrent users at up to 6,000 sites, including recruiting stations.
Sorensen envisions other organizations using a JPEN-like system. 'I could see a version of JPEN going out to local law enforcement, the [Federal Aviation Administration], or Homeland Security [Department],' he said. 'It can collect and disseminate whatever information you wish. That could be very useful to a lot of different organizations.'Caron Golden is a freelance writer in San Diego.