DOD, FEMA test systems link

Representatives from all armed services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other organizations recently began exploring how compatible their communications systems would be in homeland defense situations.

The 2002 Joint Users Interoperability Communications Exercise (JUICE), which began Aug. 5 and runs through the end of the month, is using a mix of legacy and new technologies to support communications, command and control requirements for a deployed joint task force in simulated homeland defense scenarios.

In such scenarios, the Defense Department plays a supporting role to FEMA and other groups, said John Caruso, chief of DOD's Executive Agent for Theater Joint Tactical Networks.

"We're looking for collaborative scenarios and making sure [military] communications equipment is interoperable with FEMA's," Caruso said, which includes not only establishing links among systems, but also identifying redundancies. "We want to define the processes, methodologies and information flows that are in place."

During JUICE, systems and operational approaches are being tested, including network defense from cyberattacks. "We're putting a network up and testing the defenses available," he said. "We'll be actively attacking our network in a controlled fashion."

Technical and military personnel in about 60 units worldwide, representing all the armed services, are participating in this month's exercise and will be manning the Joint Communications Control Center, the communications hub for JUICE.

The center, which was set up by the Army Communications-Electronics Command Software Engineering Center and the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical at Fort Monmouth, N.J., is controlling all satellite and terrestrial communications and sensor activity during JUICE.

Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Dixon, senior military communications officer for JUICE, said the exercise enables all of the services to test new software upgrades and equipment and "work through the issues that come into play."

JUICE is being carried out in phases, the first of which — establishing links for satellite communications among the different players — is under way, Dixon said. "Once those are set up, we'll begin the proof of concept with the equipment that's online."

FEMA, which participated in JUICE for the first time last year, is playing a bigger role in this year's exercise as part of a new collaborative initiative with the military, Caruso said. FEMA Mobile Emergency Response System detachments will participate along with civil support teams from a number of states including Arkansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Eric Hainzer, a telecommunications specialist in FEMA's mobile operations branch, said that although his agency has vast experience responding to disasters, exercises such as JUICE and others offer "opportunity training" for working with DOD in scenarios involving homeland defense and weapons of mass destruction.

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Carl Sherblum, watch chief for JUICE, said the Defense Message System (DMS) is one of the main systems being tested during the exercise. DMS is the secure messaging system that is replacing DOD's Automatic Digital Network, commonly known as Autodin. Testing DMS during JUICE is essential because FEMA also uses a version of it, he said.

"What we're trying to do, whatever homeland security ends up being, is to have a skeleton in which to operate...and templated off to latch up the DOD and civilian communities," Hainzer said, adding that FEMA is the only civilian agency with a deployable DMS that is compatible with the defense community. "That's a critical element that's been missing for some time, that cross-connect between the two."

Participation in JUICE, which was first conducted in 1996, is voluntary and participating agencies and units pay their own way, Caruso said. "There's no centralized pot of money. People participate because there's something in it for them."

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JUICE Mix

During the Joint Users Interoperability Communications Exercise, which was first conducted in 1996, members from the armed services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Defense Department explore how compatible their communications systems would be in homeland defense situations.

This year's exercise began Aug. 5 and runs through the end of the month using a mix of legacy and new technologies to support communications, command and control requirements.

The initial focus this year is on establishing links for satellite communications among the various players.

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