In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Navy deployed its two hospital ships, USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, to Long Beach, California, and Manhattan, New York, to provide medical and hospital support to large, populated areas.
In its ongoing effort to drive innovation and build partnerships across the Department of Defense, the Defense Information Systems Agency is answering its call to duty by providing a high-speed, high-capacity fiber communication connection to the ships; thus increasing their ability to contact medical staff and off-ship support facilities.
“As America’s premier combat-support agency, DISA is uniquely qualified to provide direct support to the whole-of-government COVID-19 response,” said DISA Director and JFHQ-DoDIN Commander Navy Vice Adm. Nancy A. Norton. “We have a ‘Mission First, People Always’ focus that applies to our work within the agency and externally to our mission partners and others. Our mission during this pandemic is to support the department and its men and women in uniform, so that Americans in need can get life-saving care and treatment.”
In late March, DISA received urgent requests to provide network connectivity to pier locations from Navy leaders, said DISA’s Infrastructure Executive Military Deputy Navy Capt. Johnny Turner.
“Coordinating with vendors and multiple external agencies, our team worked 24/7 to meet this requirement,” he said.
Although the average time to establish network connectivity to a new location can range from one to four months, due to the urgency of these requests, DISA was able to begin coordination and provisioning prior to the ships’ arrival. Systems were then installed and operational just a few days after the initial request.
The agency is working with vendors, mission partners and external agencies to ensure the Defense Information System Network is postured to support changing and increasing demands on the network infrastructure, said Turner.
“In some instances we've increased bandwidth, rerouted network traffic and modified internet access points,” he explained. “These efforts are on-going and are focused on providing maximum telework capabilities across the department while continuing to support day-to-day missions.”
DISA is prepared to support network connectivity to the Navy ships for as long as it’s needed, said Joseph Wassel, DISA’s Cyberspace Operations Directorate executive.
“When these gigantic, white floating hospitals docked, a small group of proactive professionals quietly connected circuits to allow critical patient information and lifesaving data to flow onto the ships and throughout the ships’ 1,000 beds, multiple operating rooms, intensive care units and pharmacies. We’ll continue to do our part for as long as we are needed.”
Learn more about the work of the USNS Comfort, USNS Mercy and the DoD’s response efforts at https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/.