The variety and number of domestic and military operational roles the Defense Department fulfills in today's uncertain environment require mission rehearsals with civil authorities and an astonishing number of government and non-government agencies.
Noble Resolve can help. Noble Resolve is a U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) campaign plan designed to enhance homeland defense and improve military support to civil authorities for quick and decisive action in the event of natural or man-made disasters.
The aim of Noble Resolve is to develop solutions for U.S. agencies and organizations to use to deter, prevent and defeat threats and aggression aimed at the United States, its territories and interests.
Supported by U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), Noble Resolve is the first of what will be a series of experiments held over a number of years on this theme. USJFCOM's Joint Innovation and Experimentation Directorate (J9) manages Noble Resolve experimentation.
According to Rear Adm. James Winnefeld, J9 director, more than 125 people from across the United States and multinational participants, including Canada, Germany, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, and others, came together in the weeklong event. USJFCOM collaborated with the U.S. Transportation Command and other federal agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and Customs and Border Protection. In this event, JFCOM teamed with the commonwealth of Virginia and, in a later phase, Oregon will be added.
Winnefeld discussed Noble Resolve with members of media April 26, emphasizing that it was important to understand how crucial the exercise was to understanding and planning the Department of Defense role in effectively assisting civil authorities. Referring to current disaster relief capabilities, Winnefeld said that organizations at every level need to improve disaster response methods and that JFCOM is eager to assist.
Virginia's General Assembly passed legislation in 2005 that required the governor to establish a multi-agency intelligence center to receive and coordinate information related to terrorism and other hazards. Because JFCOM is located in Virginia, working with the commonwealth and its agencies is a logical choice and saves taxpayer dollars, Winnefeld said.
The timing was especially good because the commonwealth was simultaneously conducting an exercise in conjunction with the Army, called the Virginia Emergency Response Team Exercise, or VERTEX, centrally managed at the Virginia Fusion Center, located in the Virginia State Police Combined Headquarters in suburban Richmond.
"We are working with the Fusion Center carefully. We are helping them with nodal analysis tools to help them understand where their communications seams might be. We are trying to stay out of their way. They are running an exercise, and we don't want to be viewed as the 100-pound gorilla muscling in trying to run their experiment for them," Winnefeld said.
Results from the exercise will be analyzed and become an after action report that will then be sent to all participants, as well as Virginia officials, including Gov. Tim Kaine and mayors of the cities in Hampton Roads, said Winnefeld. However, a quick look report will be distributed to participants within 30 days of the conclusion of the experiment.
The Fusion Center, run by the Virginia State Police Criminal Intelligence Division, provides criminal intelligence and technical support to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The center's role in Noble Resolve was to coordinate the flow of information during Virginia's response to the scenario and allow the various federal, state and local entities involved to get a clear picture of what was happening. These included firefighters and police officers from the Tidewater area, who worked with agencies all the way up to the national strategic level.
Those partners include Virginia's Department of Fire Programs and Department of Health. Other state and local agencies, like the Virginia Port Authority, connect to the Fusion Center from their own offices, feeding up-to-date information into the system. Some of these tools have nationwide applicability to other states' Emergency Operations Centers and local municipalities, according to Winnefeld.
"Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim was in here this morning and he was interested in getting some of the tools into his hands instantly so that he can apply them to some of the problems Norfolk might have. We had folks from Hampton here that were interested in the same things," Winnefeld said.
Because homeland security threats cut across the interests of many government and public agencies, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, National Guard and even the Maersk shipping line, based in Norfolk Va., participated. Maersk was helpful in showing its capabilities for maritime domain awareness, Winnefeld said.
On a tour of the experimentation cells, Winnefeld and Dave Ozolek, executive director of JFCOM's Joint Futures Laboratory, and other exercise coordinators, explained the dimensions of the exercise by demonstrating some of the technology used in the experiments. It's difficult to create a sense of excitement observing rooms full of people staring at computer screens, but Winnefeld and Ozolek succeeded by their enthusiasm and knowledge of the technological innovations they demonstrated.
JFCOM has a rich experimentation environment with advanced modeling and simulation technology. It uses realistic computer-generated battlefield models and other types of simulation that provide an operational background to conduct high-level exercises and training events. JFCOM uses systems distributed around the globe, so more people can participate in a greater number of events without the expense of collocating.
JFCOM's Synthetic Environments for Analysis and Simulation recreates the business, economic, social, political and infrastructure of the real world using agent-based modeling and is just one of the tools that creates an incomparable, virtual common operational picture.
"We have a wide variety of experimentation venues that we produce and things that we try to test. Last fall, many of you came to Urban Resolve 2015, which is a robust experimentation environment, and an extremely mature experiment, where we went into Baghdad with millions of entities and a sophisticated modeling and simulation environment to test solutions in urban warfare," Winnefeld said.
Although JFCOM conducts other mature experiments, such as Multinational Experiment 4 (MNE 4), Winnfeld said that Noble Resolve's homeland defense experimentation is embryonic.
"We are at the very beginning stages. We are just now beginning to understand how we go about doing homeland defense experimentation. We are just now doing things like discovery and looking at new solutions to some of the problems that we are facing in that particular environment."
According to Winnefeld, Noble Resolve identifies gaps to sharing information across agencies. It also identifies capabilities that one agency may have that can be shared across a broad spectrum of agencies in support of homeland defense and disaster response.
In this scenario, which was developed by NORTHCOM, a hurricane from West Africa does extensive damage to the Hampton Roads region of Virginia followed by a terrorist attack from a ship that is sailing to Virginia from the West African region.
"If you have a disaster such as the hurricane that hit Hampton Roads just five minutes ago (according to the live simulation), you have a curve of requirements and level-of-effort over time. There is going to be a tremendous local, state and federal effort required to take care of the aftermath of that event, but the local first responders take an immediate hit when the hurricane hits or they may lose capability in the first few days," Winnefeld said.
If first responder resources are overwhelmed by the emergency, regional and state authorities will have to step in and failing that, the governor will formally request aid from federal and DoD agencies. This interval of time is critical, Winnefeld explained, to ensure there is no hesitation in response due to not understanding what is required or not being able to share information across agencies.
"There are a couple of different ways we can be better prepared. We can speed the response, get to the emergency quicker or make the response a little more robust, or we can bring the requirement down. For example, if you know a hurricane is coming to Hampton Roads, we can evacuate people earlier so there are less people needing assistance once the hurricane hits," Winnefeld said.
Noble Resolve II, planned for August, will be centered in Oregon. It will include NORTHCOM, Joint Task Force – Homeland Defense (U.S. Army Pacific) and West Coast agencies. From then on, JFCOM plans to execute Noble Resolve twice a year, one in Virginia and the other at another location.
"We feel we need to reach out to other places across the country. That is why we will go to different places for that second experiment each year," Winnefeld said.
According to Winnefeld, some of the tools used in Noble Resolve have been adapted from other sources.
"There are a couple of examples where we are using a tool that we built to use in an overseas environment. For example, a tool that might identify routes that an insurgent might take to go from Pakistan into Afghanistan, may also apply to securing our own borders."
In addition to the impressive array of bleeding edge technology, Winnefeld said that the experiment brought together an extraordinary group of scientists, analysts and military operators.
"Some of the smartest people on the planet are the people from all these agencies, some that we rarely work with. They see a cool tool and suggest that we try to do things with it that we never thought of, and that is the exact kind of thing we are looking for," Winnefeld said.
"There is going to be a rich output of unexpected results that we are going to be working our way through in the next few weeks. We have already identified some."