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CHIPS Articles: DISA team supports Secret Service, Joint Staff event communications

DISA team supports Secret Service, Joint Staff event communications
By CHIPS Magazine - January 31, 2018
The Defense Information Systems Agency has two remarkable communications teams supporting the United States Secret Service: Communications Management and Control Activity (CMCA) and the White House Communications Agency (WHCA). The WHCA provides communications support to the Presidential Protection Division of the USSS, whose responsibility is to protect the president and vice-president, according to a DISA release. CMCA supports all other major events, providing communications support to the USSS’s Dignitary Protective Division, which provides protection to former presidents and their families, and visiting heads of state.

It’s a big job, but the teams are staffed with dedicated professionals who recognized the criticality of the services they provide.

The CMCA has ensured the safety of candidates, dignitaries, former presidents, and veterans at events held throughout the United States for 46 years by supporting Secret Service and the Joint Staff Homeland Defense Division.

The CMCA, part of the Operation Center’s Infrastructure Directorate, delivers extensive support to the Secret Service by assisting them in establishing staging areas, command posts and operations centers. In all instances, CMCA’s military augmentee personnel work shoulder-to-shoulder with Secret Service technicians to construct multi-agency communication centers from the ground up — installing all communications equipment, such as antennas, mobile and hand-held radios, fiber optic and network cables, computers, and video walls in various locations — sometimes under harsh conditions.

After installation and verification personnel remain on call during events to ensure systems stay up and running and to repair any equipment failures. “We’re there the whole time and don’t leave until it’s torn down,” said CMCA chief Thomas Watson.

In September 2017, the CMCA team deployed 25 personnel to New York City to support the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly. This job included the installation and set-up of a multi-agency communication center, structuring communications in an existing command center, and securely outfitting more than 300 vehicles.

While supporting the Joint Staff, the CMCA fills a systems engineering role by planning and determining the necessary radio, video surveillance, and security systems needed based on event requirements. Physical security equipment — walk-through and hand-held magnetometers and under-vehicle inspection systems — are often used. Transporting equipment, along with personnel support when warranted, is necessary to facilitate the execution of events.

The CMCA collaborates with numerous agencies to accomplish its mission. The activity works with U.S. Strategic Command to obtain temporary frequencies; coordinates with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the FBI — among others — when major event support is requested. The CMSA also interacts with the Department of Justice and the Department of Veterans Affairs in their support of Joint Staff events.

You may be surprised at some of the events the CMCA supports. In 2018, the team will provision several Joint Staff events, including:

  • U.S. Navy Fleet Week.
  • National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
  • The Endeavor Games.
  • U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships.
  • Special Olympics National Games.
  • The International Sea Power Symposium.

Event support can last as long as 120 days, and most events require at least 90 days of preparation.

It’s a small team with a big mission.

The CMCA team, comprised of 10 active-duty military and five civilian personnel, also provides critical communications support for short-notice events, such as state funerals, G-20 summits, and more, by tapping into their cadre of 39 rigorously-trained, credentialed military augmentees when needed.

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