Army grappling with homeland security training requirements.
Existing training systems used in the U.S. Army can be adapted for homeland security and domestic terrorist-response training relatively easily, said Lt. Col. Joseph A. Giunta Jr., program manager for Army ground combat tactical trainers. A bigger challenge, however, is understanding how homeland defense organizations develop their requirements and how they go about funding their programs, Giunta said in an interview.
"We have to educate that community on what capabilities we already have," he said.
Local firefighters, police and hazmat units always have been first responders, but now increasingly they are being asked to prepare to deal with weapons of mass destruction attacks, such as nuclear, chemical and biological. The Army already has a significant WMD defense capability, but many homeland defense agencies are not aware of what the Army has to offer, Giunta said. Educating these agencies is "hard to do."
Military training systems, he said, "can be very quickly modified for small amounts of dollars to be used as homeland defense tools for state, local and other federal agencies."
But it often is difficult to pinpoint who is responsible to provide those dollars. Giunta's office quickly found out that most organizations don't follow the highly structured budgeting process the Army is used to. "How the money flows in homeland defense," he said, is much different than in the Defense Department.
In the Army, the process is "very stringent ... Our funding sources are very well identified. That is not actually true on the homeland defense side."
Officials from the program executive office for simulation, training and instrumentation (PEO STRI) gradually are becoming more attuned to the needs of the homeland security community, he explained. Giunta has had meetings with representatives from the Departments of Justice and State, as well as local authorities.
"They procure their capabilities through the grant process," he said. An "interagency board" with representatives from Justice, chiefs of police and various state-level officials approve a list of training devices that agencies can then purchase with federal grant money.
"Once a piece of equipment gets on that list, federal grant dollars are given to a city to procure" that equipment, Giunta said. "That is what we heard from agencies."
One device that the Army already is marketing to homeland defense organizations is the Engagement Skills Trainer. The EST is one example of the type of technology the Army can transition to homeland defense. "Why would we have taxpayers spend dollars on capabilities that already exist?" Giunta asked.
The system, used for marksmanship training, can be adapted to meet the needs of state and local agencies, Giunta said. The problem is "how we get it from the military side to the homeland defense side. ... That is the initiative we are trying to put in place."
The trainer has scenarios for military police, for example. "We took it to the state of Hawaii, because they are interested in setting up a homeland defense training center," he said. Hawaii is considering creating a simulation of the state's Capitol Building, so police units can rehearse missions in virtual reality through the building.
The National Guard, meanwhile, is gaining a predominant role in homeland defense and is expected to require new training capabilities.
"The Guard is a great customer of mine," Giunta said. Congress approved a plan that directs the Guard to field Civil Support Teams in every state, which would be responsible to assist the local authorities during WMD incidents.
Of concern to PEO STRI is how these units will train, what standards they will follow and whether they could train collectively, from different locations.
"Fighting WMD events in CONUS [continental U.S.] is new to us," said Giunta. "Everyone is struggling with how to do that, from a training perspective. ... From our perspective, how do we provide and what tools do we provide so they have the same standards? How do we leverage that for the state and local?"
The same standards taught for hazmat training in the Army are employed by the National Guard and Reserves. The active force, however, does not have Civil Support Teams. "So the Army is struggling with how to train those folks. It's new to us."
Even though several CSTs have been in place for a couple of years, "it takes a while to figure out what those standards are and what devices and tools need to be put in place to train those guys," said Giunta. "The National Guard is interested in what we have. But we have to make sure that we don't just provide them tools that don't necessarily meet the requirements."
The active-duty Army, meanwhile, would like to develop capabilities similar to the CSTs. For that reason, PEO STRI plans to fund new training systems for NBC units, under a program called VERTS (virtual emergency response training system).
The engineering school, chemical school and military police school at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., have requested training systems for NBC missions, said Giunta.
"Today, we train NBC for all our organizations, but not the installation," he explained. That is because "active components don't have an equivalent to the CST."
The requirements document for the NBC training systems is being drafted and written by the Chemical School, but it will be a joint capability, covering Army, Navy and Air Force bases.
Once the Army and the Joint Staff approve the requirements, PEO STRI plans to solicit bids from industry for this program. The Army, however, already has "an 80-percent solution," in the VERTS program. "We have been prototyping and demonstrating VERTS with Army R&D funds."
Giunta said the project could be launched within the next year or so. The funding could range from $2 million to $150 million. "We don't know how many devices we'll need. That is our best guess based on the requirements."
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|Author:||Erwin, Sandra I.|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2003|
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