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Pentagon, first responders share communications needs.

The military and civilian emergency responder communities share an overlapping need for enhanced communication technologies. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 covers emergency-response personnel from federal, state and local sectors, including specialists in hazardous materials response, urban search and rescue, antiterrorism, special weapons and tactics, ordnance disposal, emergency management and others.

The civilian first-responder community has communications needs similar to those of the military services. Just like the military, emergency responders must see, understand and act in challenging environments.

In fact, a 2002 study by the National Research Council, entitled "Army Science and Technology for Homeland Security," found that proper management of a disaster site--like a military operation--requires thorough coordination of all aspects of command, control, communications and other forms of data gathering and analysis.

Thus, first responders clearly can benefit by adopting many of the communications technologies already developed by the services. Congress has recognized this fact. In the 2003 Defense Authorization Act, it ordered the assistant secretary defense for homeland defense to oversee the transfer of such technologies to Homeland Security for use ultimately by first-responders.

Given the broad scope of their assignments, first responders could gain significant advantages by employing military-style command, control communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies that would link them into a system of systems similar to the Army's.

Although military services and civilian responders can benefit by sharing communications technologies, actually doing so remains a daunting challenge. Much more work needs to be done, but the nation's small business community can make an important contribution.

Small, entrepreneurial and more nimble companies remain central to our ability to develop technologies to meet evolving requirements for voice-and-data information technologies, particularly as it relates to network centric warfare.

One example of a small business responding to defense and homeland security needs in voice communication is the Incident Commanders' Radio Interface developed by Communications-Applied Technology, of Reston, Va. ICRI is a mobile, unmanned system that interconnects public safety radios, state and federal radios, land-line/cell/satellite telephones, and military radios.

The system improves interoperability (communications between two or more agencies) and intra-operability (communications within an agency) applications by providing cross-band (VHF, UHF, 800 MHz), cross platform (digital and analog, trunked talk-around, AM/FM) capabilities for mutual-aid operations and enhancing links in areas with poor radio frequency propagation. This technology is being used by the Defense Department, and first responders employed it during Hurricane Katrina.

Another example is the TrakPoint system developed by Mercury Data Systems Inc., of Greensboro, N.C. TrakPoint is a three-dimensional tracking and locating system that utilizes global positioning system, radio frequency and inertial navigation system information to accurately track the location of individuals and communicate this information to a remotely located incident commander.

Additionally, the RF capabilities allow for additional voice-and-data communication capabilities, such as the transfer of video and pictures. Organizations such as the U.S. Special Operations Command, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Navy are evaluating this technology. The Department of Homeland Security also is monitoring its development closely.

Much work remains, but the small business community is up to the challenge. To help meet that challenge, the Small Business Division of the National Defense Industrial Association is planning to create a forum where representatives from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and perhaps their prime contractors can meet with the small business community to discuss their requirements, milestones and funding opportunities.

Even though we live in a fast-paced, high-technology environment, a face-to-face meeting with a potential customer remains hard to beat. It is our hope that by working together, the small business community can continue to make it safer for American military and civilian emergency responders to communicate more effectively during their dangerous missions and remain out of harms way.

Tyrone C. Taylor is the chair of NDIA's Small Business Division. He also is director for Washington relations of the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, of Fairmont, W. Va.


Peter M. Steffes

Vice President, Government Policy

Ruth W. Franklin

Director, Procurement

Ann Stockwell

Director, International Trade Policy and Programs

Chandra Burnside

Manager, Government Policy

Meredith Kyttle

Government Policy Staff
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Article Details
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Author:Taylor, Tyrone C.
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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