Focus on Fusion

Mar 15, 2010

To ensure common objectives such as public safety and security stay at the forefront of an ever-changing global environment, all moving parts of a nation’s security force need to be working in sync and constantly communicating. This, however, is much easier said than done.
During the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the USA, communication interoperability issues severely hindered rescue efforts, some which up to this day still plague response forces.  Predicting the outcomes of catastrophic events while, in parallel, training first responders in appropriate protocols is more important than ever.

Canada and the USA have been working incessantly to address the complex challenges that hamper effective interoperability.  To properly address these challenges, we must first ask ourselves, “where do we stand and what do we need to ensure our frontline workers can talk to each other, understand their environment, and execute plans in a command and control environment that optimizes success?”  

A good starting point in creating this ideally configured national response system is to create a Network Operations Center (NOC) that provides all authorized personnel with a Common Operating Picture (COP) similar to that of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  The newly upgraded NOC COP at DHS provides visualization of data and analysis from multiple intelligence sources, faster fusion of information, and better interfaces with legacy networks and databases in an effort to share accurate information with all counterparts to improve the decision making process.  This type of fusion center is an effective and efficient mechanism to exchange information and intelligence, maximize resources, streamline operations, and improve the ability to fight crime and terrorism by merging data from a variety of sources. Some of these sources may include military systems.  

Electronic Consulting Services, Inc. (ECS), a company based out of Fairfax, Virginia, is currently supporting the DHS NOC COP by providing IT enhancements and analytical capabilities to infuse evolving technologies for incident information management, decision support, distribution, and display. ECS has been successful in this fusion environment by applying their defense expertise to the increasingly sophisticated requirements of domestic security.  On their U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) for Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contract, ECS implements life-cycle management of interoperable training, testing, and simulation solutions “for Warfighters and the Nation.”

Lissette Ferrer, Director of Business Development for ECS believes that the ­convergence of military specifications and civilian requirements in data fusion efforts is putting the company in good stead for future programs nationally and globally.  “Every time we work on a key requirement for DHS or DoD, we learn how to apply our expertise to the next challenge. Together, these cross agency programs build our overall competence in both national defense and public safety.”

With the recent blurring of lines between emergency and military operations capabilities, Common Operating Picture is evolving as a data fusion essential. The processes followed by the military for similar security challenges can serve as a guide when it comes to successfully implementing a fusion center for a national civilian security system. While the concept of a COP has been endorsed by military planners for years, a Common Operating Picture application to domestic security is a recent development.  It has become more apparent that establishing a Common Operating Picture is integral when it comes to critical infrastructure protection and emergency response management. By obtaining a single identical display of operating information that is visible across the entire enterprise, public safety, government, and military agencies can significantly enhance their situational awareness. A COP facilitates collaborative planning and enables new levels of productivity and ­efficiency in critical operations.  

So, whether it is understanding the ­battlefield environment or inter-security agency communications regarding emergency threat indicators, a Common Operating Picture is essential for national ­security. A great deal of COP work has ­proceeded to date in Canada thanks to Defence Research and Development Canada in Valcartier Quebec.  However, given that the concept of national security truly extends to civil security concerns as well as interoperability, Canadian requirements might do well to pay close attention to the DHS NOC COP Program developments in the United States and companies such as ECS who have been able to bridge the gap between military and domestic security.

Edward R. Myers, Editor, FrontLine Security
© FrontLine Security 2010