News Feature
June 26, 2008
By Doug Sherwin, The Daily Transcript

SDSU Helps to Link Military with First Responders

Bob Welty
Bob Welty
In an effort to help local officials with disaster preparedness, San Diego State University recently participated in this year's Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID) event. Directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CWID engages cutting-edge information technology focused on criteria defined by combatant commanders.

The demonstration evaluates technologies and capabilities for exchanging information among coalition partners, military services, government agencies, first responders and U.S. combatant commanders. Information sharing technologies leverage decision-making and operational flexibility on the battlefield, and during crisis response on the home front.

Several of the exercises took place at SPAWAR while others occurred at San Diego State University. SDSU's role involved using its Visualization Center (Viz Lab) as an operations center, coordinating communication between military agencies and local officials.

"We tested connectivity across the Internet to make sure we can do a secure network with the Navy lab," said Bob Welty, co-director of Viz Lab and director of homeland security projects for the San Diego Research Foundation. "We used some of their software to allow (us) to operate with them."

The school also tested an interoperable communications system -- RIOS -- to connect civilian agencies, military units and first responders. The system employs enhanced command and control features and can patch different communication assets together, like cell phones, computers and remote radios.

"All of those things were up and running and worked," Welty said, "so we're pretty pleased with that." The event also represented a chance for long-standing policies to be reviewed and updated. Several policies had become "arcane" or aren't well enough known, according to Welty, who is also the co-director of SDSU's Center for Information Technology and Infrastructure (CITI).

"Some (organizations) don't know how to tap into the military resources," he said. "It's about learning how to make a request.

"It's just coordinating effort. The more times you do it and practice it, you get your resources out there." The exercise also tested chain of command, from the city of San Diego to Northern Command to the Department of Homeland Security.

CWID 2008 helped show how local first responders can connect with the military and statewide agencies in times of crisis.

Bob Welty in SDSU VizCenter
Bob Welty inside SDSU VizCenter
"The real purpose (for SDSU) was to represent the city, so we could be the other end of the phone (for national officials)," Welty said. "It's critical we have a good rapport back and forth, so if we have another wildfire, we know who to go to when the time comes. "It's a rehearsal from that point."

Another, bigger rehearsal will be held toward the end of next month. Called Golden Phoenix 2008, the event will be more focused on local relationships within the region to see what works and what doesn't. The exercise is being sponsored by the border patrol and facilitated by the Marine Corps. During Golden Phoenix 2008, San Diego State will help defense contractors and other businesses showcase new technologies and applications.

"Companies want to show off their stuff," Welty said. "It gives us a chance to see technology and how it operates in our environment. There are so many (technologies) out there. (Businesses) can't afford everything. Part of the role of the university is to assess those" technologies, and see which are the best fit.

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