Guard bulks up with simulations
- By Dawn S. Onley
- May 21, 2002
GCN Photo by Henrik G. DeGyor
'Our biggest focus is how we support homeland security with IT. It means more wireless, more handheld devices ... getting it off of the desk.'
'Maureen Lischke, National Guard CIO
The National Guard Bureau's mission has always been to provide homeland security, even before that phrase became part of the national vocabulary.
But since Sept. 11, the Guard has put an even greater emphasis on protecting Americans. The bureau's CIO wants to expand the Guard's use of IT to fulfill this mission.While it's fresh
Maureen T. Lischke, CIO and the Guard's program executive officer for information systems, is pushing a massive rollout of wireless phones and handheld devices to help the Guard quickly collect what she calls perishable information'data that comes within the first few hours of a disaster.
'Our biggest focus is how we support homeland security with IT,' Lischke said. 'We're focusing on what we need to do to adequately get information to the first responders. It means more wireless, more handheld devices ... getting it off of the desk' and quickly into the hands of Guard personnel wherever they are.
For instance, if the National Guard is called to a train wreck where dangerous chemicals had been spilled, they would gather information to be passed on to medical emergency personnel. Today, much of this information is collected on paper.
'They're going to be collecting information on who's been hurt and all of that,' she explained. 'But that information is only important for about an hour or so until you get medical personnel on-site. That's where we envision right now using handhelds.'On the shopping list
The Guard occasionally uses these devices but lacks the money for a major rollout. Lischke said buying handheld PCs for Guard personnel will be a budget priority for 2004.
The bureau also is working to determine what types of technology best serve its needs. Lischke said the Guard just wrapped up the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, a joint training exercise with state police in Baton Rouge, La.
The exercise simulated an explosion caused by a plane hitting a train. Hundreds of Guard personnel tested commercial hardware and software to support information gathering and cleanup.
Guard members assessed how the technologies performed for various aspects of the emergency, Lischke said.
'We were seeing how far we could take commercial products,' she said. The exercise included using handhelds and equipment that provided satellite and LAN services along with Internet interfaces, she said.Juggling forces
National Guard state offices also rely on the Army's Reserve Component Automation System (RCAS), one of the largest Defense IT systems ever fielded.
With the Guard's role in dealing with domestic emergencies increasing along with its national and international security missions, the Army wanted a better way to manage Army National Guard and Reserve forces.
RCAS, developed and managed by Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, helps mobilize Guard and Reserve forces by providing them with PCs and WAN connectivity and voice over IP, Lischke said. The infrastructure allows access to classified and unclassified networks.
The network gives Guardsmen standard office automation software for functions such as e-mail and spreadsheets, and gives access to 11 Defense Department areas such as personnel and pay, logistics, and medical and aviation services.
'It has integrated all the information into a single view to the commander,' Lischke said. Previously, a Guardsman had to go to several PCs depending on the work he wanted to do.
RCAS links 10,000 Guard and Reserve units at more than 4,600 sites throughout the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Europe and the Pacific Rim.