Northcom to have joint intell cell

The Defense Department's new Northern Command will include a joint intelligence center with representatives from numerous federal civilian, intelligence and DOD agencies, according to the command's chief of staff.

Army National Guard Maj. Gen. H. Steven Blum, Northern Command's chief of staff, said the command will house "resident liaisons" from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other organizations that will form a "joint intelligence and information fusion center or cell."

Northern Command, which includes representatives from all the armed services, is a regional combatant command charged with ensuring homeland defense capabilities and supporting civil authorities when directed by the president or secretary of defense.

Northern Command officials, along with representatives from the Justice Department and other agencies, are working through the details of the joint intelligence cell with a special focus on ensuring that it works within the boundaries of the Constitution and does not violate the rights of American citizens or hinder future prosecutions, Blum said during his Sept. 10 keynote presentation at the Homeland Security and National Defense Symposium in Atlantic City, N.J.

"It's a unique command because the things we can do anywhere else in the world, we can't do here in the U.S.," Blum told Federal Computer Week, adding that the joint intelligence center, complete with an official "fancy name," would be operational by Oct. 1 when the Northern Command is officially at the Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Since the announcement of its creation in April, Northern Command has been running exercises to determine its communications capabilities internally and externally.

"Everything we do is precedent-setting, and we've done some [exercises] already that showed our assumptions were wrong," Blum said. "We made assumptions on connectivity, and a lot of the things we [thought] were compatible are not. Organizations can't talk to us on our systems."

A top priority is establishing a sufficient command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) system that is interoperable among Northern Command's land, sea and air operations. Blum called on industry to help make that happen and said that at some of his previous commands, interoperability deficiencies were solved with off-the-shelf solutions "and that has to happen again."

Sponsors of the symposium include the Army, the Association of the U.S. Army's Fort Monmouth, N.J., chapter, the Association of Old Crows' Garden State chapter, and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Fort Monmouth chapter.

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