Rear Admiral Kendall L. Card assumed the position of Director, Command Control Systems, North American Aerospace Defense Command/U.S. Northern Command (NORAD/USNORTHCOM) J6, July 28, 2006.
CHIPS first had the pleasure of talking with Admiral Card at MILCOM 2007 in late October. MILCOM, sponsored by AFCEA International, is a forum for bringing together military, government, industry and academia professionals to share knowledge and build relationships in the fields of communications, information technology, intelligence and global security.
Rear Adm. Card was a member of a top–notch panel of military leaders that addressed the policy, technical, procedural and operational issues standing in the way of joint and coalition interoperability. As the NORAD/USNORTHCOM J6, a naval aviator and former commanding officer of the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Admiral Card has a keen understanding of what true interoperability can do for the joint force. So I asked him to discuss his mission with CHIPS Nov. 1, 2007.
CHIPS: Can you talk about your job at USNORTHCOM?
Rear Adm. Card: Essentially, I handle anything that has electronic movement or is C4 (command, control, communications, computers) equipment in and outside the headquarters, and I coordinate for the AOR (area of responsibility). The NORAD, a bi-national command between the U.S. and Canada, mission is three-fold: aerospace warning against air threats; aerospace defense of the AOR; and maritime warning. USNORTHCOM has the missions of homeland defense as well as defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) in times of crisis.
I have about 300 people in the J6 (C4 systems) that work with me to ensure we have the connectivity for the leaders and staff. Homeland defense requires a command and control mission, but the DSCA mission requires a communication and coordination mission.
CHIPS: Do you work with agencies outside of NORTHCOM?
Rear Adm. Card: Yes, we do. If we are talking about a terrorist threat, we work with many in the intelligence field in the United States.
In addition to that, we also have what we call an interagency need to share. We have 60 different organizations represented by liaison personnel here at headquarters — everyone from the Red Cross — to the Department of Homeland Security and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
NORAD is a bi-national command, and we have many Canadians here as part of the headquarters in addition to the interagency groups. We have a Canadian political adviser as well as a U.S. political adviser, and we have a liaison officer from Mexico.
There are about 1,500 folks in the headquarters that work together every day to ensure that we have the connectivity through the entire interagency group as well as through the Canada and Mexico interagency groups. They typically funnel their efforts, like we funnel our interagency efforts, through the Department of Homeland Security and folks at Emergency Preparedness Canada.
CHIPS: There was a lot of discussion by the panel about the different authorities under Title 10, Title 32 and Title 14. Are the roles for each of these agencies clearly defined so that when you are in the disaster recovery mode the various agencies are synchronized to do what they need to do?
Rear Adm. Card: Yes, we are synchronized, but there is still room for improvement. I think improvements have been made, I would say 100-fold. When Hurricane Ernesto moved up the East Coast, the response from DHS, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and all the organizations in DHS was tremendous.
During Katrina, the National Communications System in Emergency Support Function 2, (ESF 2), was activated. The coordination between the National Communications System, NORAD and NORTHCOM for spectrum and coordination is usually proprietary, but the commercial sector was happy to share information about their infrastructure in New Orleans, Louisiana and Mississippi.
They were happy to share that information in crisis response, but our coordination wasn't what it should have been then. We have since made improvements and have a National Communications System liaison officer at headquarters that provides me with essential and immediate information.
We have moved the communication coordination timeline from days down to minutes. For instance, the National Guard is deploying folks all the time, and we are continuously watching and coordinating with the Joint C4 Coordination Center (JCCC) in Smyrna, Delaware, to ensure that we know what they know, and they know what we know.
We also work continuously with FEMA about where their emergency deployable cell towers are and ours. All of ours are completely interoperable. In terms of how we would go into New Orleans today and deploy emergency cell towers to bring temporary communications in that area, we are light-years ahead of where we were during Katrina.
In how we would coordinate all our emergency response vehicles, we are light-years ahead of Katrina. We have the ability to capture full-motion video over an area to get an initial assessment of the area (IAA). It involves coordination between the National Guard, DHS and NORTHCOM to get aircraft over the area and having the communication means to get that information into the air through our communication pipes to be passed to people who need that information to respond appropriately.
Our interagency coordination group also works with the commercial sector to provide additional assistance. We can work with churches and nongovernmental organizations that are able to respond to these crises, but it takes a lot of time and effort to coordinate.
Before Katrina, we didn't have all the telephone numbers and know all the people. Now people are trained in all these areas so that everybody knows where all the emergency operations centers are; there are coordinating groups in all the emergency operations centers. It's not perfect. It's not all automatic through portals like I would like it to be, but it is light-years ahead of where we were.
CHIPS: Do you think there should be a federal mandate on data tagging? I have heard military leadership say that one of the problems with communications between agencies is that local first responders use different terms than DoD would use, which causes confusion in information sharing.
Rear Adm. Card: I don't know how that would translate to the state level, but from the federal level, having standard databases; standard ways of tagging data; and standard ways of registering and authorizing users across a net-centric system would make our communications efforts much more efficient and effective.
Once the federal standards are set, if there is a way that folks in local municipalities could be incentivized through dollars or other means to go to those standardized databases and systems, it would make a tremendous difference.
But we still would have to worry about how that would be implemented at the state and local level since those are the folks that we support, and those are the folks that are the true heroes.
We are trying to make sure that they get every piece of equipment that they need and are Johnny-on-the-spot when they need it. That is the most important piece of the link.
CHIPS: Is that what you referred to when you talked about a centrally managed and funded system of systems that is survivable?
Rear Adm. Card: There are some natural points where we are going to need to bridge large systems together. When I talked about a centrally managed and funded system, I think DoD is as large as we are going to be for a centrally managed and funded system. Our mission partners for defense support of civil authorities are mostly on the Internet. It would be difficult to centrally manage and fund that network.
For DoD services, we can link up DoD services to the Internet from a centrally managed and funded facility. The Internet is global and that is where our DSCA mission partners are. The Internet is essential to reach to those nongovernmental organizations, state and local as well.
In terms of SIPRNET and NIPRNET, which are DoD-centric systems, it makes sense to centrally manage and fund those to conduct business on a day-to-day basis and focus on interoperability with all of my mission partners.
CHIPS: Sometimes it seems as if DoD and DHS jump from good idea to good idea without following through.
Rear Adm. Card: If you look at what the panel said as a whole, you would conclude that there are a lot of pieces. You have to remember that the half-life of IT is one year. Everything changes rapidly in the cyber domain in particular and in IT systems, so we need to remain flexible.
It is very difficult not to want what is available today, and at the same time, you have to have a program of record and some sort of a road ahead. I am talking about a five, 10 and 15-year plans. I have a five-year plan and a 10-year plan for headquarters.
It makes sense to me that while we never have perfect alignment with everyone that we continually seek things that converge and become congruent as we move along. It may be tempting to take different roads and different paths because people may see a large breakthrough in one area that helps their particular niche happen more efficiently and more quickly.
That leads to proprietary systems. We have to remember that we are all a part of a bigger whole, and we have to look for congruency in the final answer so that we don't have to build so many bridges.
It is hard for me to describe what I think we have out there. If you have 1,000 stovepipes and your mission partner, Homeland Security, has 25 of those, you have to build 25 bridges to those systems. Then, for defense support of civil authorities, maybe you have another 100 bridges that you have to build to all the individual systems, instead of building two bridges to some generic or agreed upon base of systems.
We are working toward that congruency; it is just very slow to happen. A 10-year plan, from a 40,000-foot view, is to keep people moving toward this center Global Information Grid/Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (GIG/CENTRIXS) solution.
We are making progress, and I think all the combatant commanders said that. But what they said was that it is not happening fast enough. We are dissatisfied with the timeline because we see this fast-moving technology and all the things that are available. It's hard to be patient though and wait for those things to happen.
If we don't show some patience then we are all just reaching out for all the different systems, and we are not building toward a convergent road. It is like building 100 different phone systems in the United States. It took us years to tie all those pieces together.
We are trying to tie all the pieces together, and we don't need it to take years and years. We need to do it much more quickly than we are doing.
CHIPS: Can you talk about your 10-year plan and give some examples of what your goals are?
Rear Adm. Card: As I mentioned, we have a building that doesn't support the architecture doubling every five years. That's a lot of servers. Blade technology [server solutions] has helped us out a lot there and virtualization is going to help.
ACC (Air Combat Command) is moving toward a centrally managed and funded facility which is important because the Air Force is our sponsor service here at NORAD and NORTHCOM.
My folks have developed a plan for how we are going to become more centrally managed and funded, how we are going to ensure that we are dual-redundant and have that automatic switchover to the system in the areas that we need to.
We have that in our critical systems already, but some would say that SIPRNET is critical, and some would say that NIPRNET is critical. We have different levels to describe how critical it is.
We have a 10-year plan that makes us more redundant, that focuses on Web-enabled services, that focuses on a centrally managed information assurance plan and includes less firewalls which decreases our vulnerability, makes us more maintainable and reduces our risk.
We are working hard with other partners from policy all the way down to systems on how to build better multinational information sharing. We are working hard with U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) for cross-domain execution and working on many other things like VPN, virtual private network, and how we would use that in event of a pandemic influenza event. We would have a lot of folks working from home and not here in the headquarters where contamination could spread.
The 10-year plan has many different focuses. It makes us more convergent with all our partners. I believe we are going to reach convergence through programs of record.
CHIPS: Do you and the J6 have a role in the new maritime strategy, which includes: forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response?
Rear Adm. Card: Yes, we do. As the maritime strategy continues to evolve, we will ensure that we have the connectivity to make that happen. Whether that's assessor phone calls or systems that collate or manage information, data and knowledge, we are definitely part of it.
Maritime domain awareness is not in its infancy but coordination of a global picture is. I am sure you have heard Adm. Mullen, when he was CNO, talk about the 1000-ship navy. From that, we are looking for a global maritime picture, and the J6 will support that with systems. Whether it is tracking ships, managing cargo data or intelligence information that may be tracking persons around the world, all of those data systems have to flow somewhere, be managed and the information correlated to give us the best global picture.
That's a common operational picture with a lot of amplifying data on each one of those units that are moving, where they came from and maybe where they were, and where the cargo onboard was picked up.
If you want to fuse that information to give you the best picture and to develop threat strings, J6 will play an important part in that. Most of those networks and most of those systems already exist — it is fusing them together that's the tough part of the picture today.
CHIPS: Do you work with the other J6s across the services and the COCOMs; do you get requirements from them?
Rear Adm. Card: No ma'am, I don't take their requirements. Typically, we work through the services and through JFCOM to fuse our requirements through the Joint Staff and the services so that they can develop systems and programs of record that meet all of the COCOM requirements for maritime defense.
We state our requirements to JFCOM along with the other combatant commanders and JFCOM formulates those systems to meet our requirements. JFCOM is working on a cross-domain solution that meets all of the COCOMs' requirements, a singular program of record that meets all of the combatant commander requirements around the globe.
JFCOM takes our requirements and works with vendors and technology to come up with a solution. As our requirements continue to evolve, we continue to update those requirements as a system.
As they develop the system and we use it, we can find improvements for it. As the mission evolves, we can have them spiral that program of record to produce new things that we need. An important part of the acquisition process is testing these systems in exercises to see if we are meeting all the requirements of that mission and those COCOMs.
We are developing an information management plan with DHS and with the National Guard Bureau to make sure that we have a common operational picture, a common situational awareness display and a common chat tool. Even though we have many user-defined operational pictures and many other displays in our headquarters, we still have one central display that displays the critical information for all of us, and it is in all of our operations centers.
We have three tools, but one sheet of music that we all agree upon that is the situation as we know it. We all have the opportunity to update the information plan through whoever is responsible for that piece of the architecture, and we do that electronically as well as through phone calls and other means. That information plan gives us a central knowledge base from which our decisions can be made.
For instance, the Commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM, Gen. Gene Renuart, can be in our operations center, DHS Secretary Chertoff can be in his operations center and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. Blum, can be in his operations center, and they are all seeing the same data. If they pick up the phone, they can talk off the same display and coordinate with each other.
It is more important that we coordinate at the lower levels because that's where the small, efficient decisions that save individual lives happen. But at the same time, you want an overall picture so the strategic decision makers can move together in the same direction.
CHIPS: Any other thoughts on interoperability?
Rear Adm. Card: We have come a tremendously long way. We have made great advances, but as an operator, I think about warriors in the field in Iraq or Afghanistan. If I can provide them with situational awareness through a display, or I can help their captain or second lieutenant make better decisions about how to deploy their forces and save lives, then I need to get that technology to the warfighter at the edge of the spear as quickly as I can.
There is some frustration in that we want to get that information to him or her as quickly as possible to help save lives. In Gen. Renuart's area of responsibility, we think we have made great advances in architecture, full-motion video, interoperability of deployable cell towers and our use of ACU-1000s to bridge all these communication systems. However, we still know that we only have minutes in some cases to rescue people off rooftops or do the things in New Orleans that the Coast Guard and the Navy did.
In California with the burning wildfires, we sent C-130s with massive equipment — every one of those houses is precious — and everyone inside those houses is precious. We are looking to save lives and mitigate human suffering through more efficient and effective communications systems — from the people on the ground — to the local responders who are the true heroes.
At NORAD and NORTHCOM, we monitor the nation. When I talk to folks out on the road, they really don't understand the full breadth of what we do. We monitor the nation in all five domains: air, land, sea, space and cyber intrusions or problems.
NORAD is monitoring everything in outer space that moves, anything that might pose an issue for a shuttle or a space station or might leave the atmosphere and come back down to hit Earth. They are tracking thousands of pieces that are moving around to see if they pose danger to anyone as they reenter. That's the space piece.
We're looking at the sea piece, at ships, people and cargo around the world.
If you look at the air piece, we monitor all the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) traffic in the U.S., all the NAV Canada air traffic and anything that's coming within our area of responsibility, tracking not individual people but individual instances or circumstances that might be happening on those aircraft.
If you look at the land domain, we monitor any power panel that blows up in a subway system because it is faulty, any truck that tips over with hazardous materials and any white powder incidents in any city or state. If it might have an impact on the average American or Canadian, we are monitoring it. In 99 percent of the cases, we don't become involved because local and state agencies or law enforcement officials can take care of those problems.
We are there to ensure that if they need some capability that they don't have we can provide it. We act in cooperation with 150 operation centers throughout our area of responsibility every minute of every day and track all the things that they are tracking.
It is hard to convey that message to all the folks in our AOR, Americans and Canadians, that there are many hard working people tracking all these things so they are safe.
CHIPS: It is hard to convey because the notion of it is just immense.
Rear Adm. Card: You have to do it and still protect individual rights of all those citizens.
CHIPS: I entered your name on Google and saw that your hometown of Fort Stockton, Texas, is very proud of you — and rightfully so!
Rear Adm. Card: It's very humbling to go back home. People are appreciative of what our services do for them. Having the opportunity to go through the ranks and the good fortune to be at the right place at the right time a few times in my career, for me, it is very humbling.
They certainly have me on a pedestal much higher than I deserve to be. The whole town goes out of their way to make me feel like I am a hero every time I am in town.
I try to focus on who the true heroes are in Afghanistan and Iraq because they are the people doing the hard work.
CHIPS: One thing that always impresses me when I talk to military leadership and service members is their passion — you just know it comes from the heart. You all work so hard and sacrifice so much and America's heartland understands that, and that's why our service members are heroes.
Rear Adm. Card: All the folks at NORAD and NORTHCOM feel like we have the most important mission in the world, protecting the homeland and protecting the people in the homeland. It is not hard to be passionate about that mission because they are all of our neighbors, all of our friends, all of our relatives, and all of the people we love.
It is easy to be passionate about the mission.
For more information about the missions of NORTHCOM and NORAD, go to www.northcom.mil.