Defense seeks humanitarian communication

The Defense Department's chief information officer will consider buying this year a communications system that lets warfighters more easily communicate with officials of humanitarian organizations outside the military's classified and unclassified networks.

DOD needs a communications system that warfighters can quickly load, transport, set up and start communicating with officials in allied countries and non-governmental organizations (NGO) participating in humanitarian relief missions around the world. And the system must begin operating in hours of reaching a destination rather than days and weeks, said Linton Wells II, the acting assistant secretary of Defense for networks and information integration and CIO. He spoke today during a luncheon briefing sponsored by the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

The system, based on lessons from the military's experiences responding to the killer tsunami in Thailand, should allow for warfighters to communicate, collaborate and translate will allies and NGOs. DOD officials do not need to develop one because commercial products exist today to quickly assemble it, Wells said.

The DOD CIO's office created the Contingency Support and Migration Planning office last fall to work on policy and procurement issues related to stability and support operations. Officials in the new office will work on the proposed system, he said.

DOD and government officials should also devise a way that lets war-fighters leave the system behind after they depart a distressed country or region so government officials there can communicate. It should also include a small, financial package that lets them continue using it, Wells said.

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