Northcom cultures 'need to share'

Just a little more than two months since its official start, the Defense Department's Northern Command is suffering many growing pains, not the least of which is attempting to mesh defense, law enforcement, intelligence and homeland security cultures into a "need to share" information environment.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose, Northcom's chief information officer, said the DOD and national security structure operates in a "need to know" environment, while the federal, state and local law enforcement communities are focused on a "need to prosecute." However, he said that neither of those approaches works for Northcom, which is responsible for ensuring homeland defense capabilities and supporting civilian authorities when directed by the president or secretary of Defense.

The challenge for Northcom is to take advantage of those two established cultures and not undermine them in the command's "need to share" environment for disaster response management, Meyerrose said during a Dec. 10 panel discussion at the E-Gov Homeland Security 2002 conference, sponsored by FCW Media Group, in Washington, D.C.

Northcom itself will not be purchasing tons of information technology, but the CIO's office, which is also responsible for integration and architecture, will set policies and standards, he said.

"We're starting small," Meyerrose said following his participation in the panel. "We've gone the extra step of having face-to-face contact and mapped out the lowest common denominator of data and information exchange requirements at the tactical level. We use our established concepts of operations and architectures to drive that."

Meyerrose said the first thing generated out of any emergency situation is a voice report, and Northcom is working with its governmental partners to identify the flow of data in the various organizations. Officials then will identify the best way to exchange information in a limited sense without violating a trusted environment.

"We want that to grow and institutionalize it on a much larger base, but right now we're figuring out what common operating pictures to share and that will flow up," he said.

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