Bring together high-ranking U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Air Force National Guard officers for a course on homeland protection, and you can expect some intense learning. Add exercises utilizing the Next Generation Incident Command System (NICS), co-developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, and that learning gains a real-world perspective.
In May, Lincoln Laboratory collaborated with the National Guard Bureau Homeland Security Institute (HSI) to offer the second Homeland Protection Course at Hanscom Air Force Base in Lexington, Massachusetts. Forty-nine government leaders and military professionals, from the rank of lieutenant colonel to brigadier general, attended the course designed to provide a broad understanding of homeland protection missions, enabling technologies, architectures, and current challenges. The course consisted of technical lectures and hands-on exercises led by Lincoln Laboratory experts.
In partnership with Lincoln Laboratory, Harvard Kennedy School, and other leading institutions, HSI provides the guard with a center of excellence in homeland security leadership and technology. HSI collaborates with top educational institutions and interagency stakeholders to give soldiers and airmen a world-class military education, professional credentialing, and advanced degree credit.
The course consisted of two half-day exercises. The first exercise, a law enforcement simulation, challenged participants to make high-impact decisions during an investigation at a large metropolitan airport. The Fire Department of New York developed the second exercise, a disaster response scenario reminiscent of Hurricane Sandy. Participants self-organized and responded to situations in real time, using the NICS incident management and situation awareness tool. NICS is used by hundreds of organizations and recently helped manage 20 wildland fire incidents in California, where it supported 130 different organizations including the fire service, law enforcement, industry, the guard, and the California Office of Emergency Services.
The Homeland Protection Course exercise coordinators also leveraged the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program – Enterprise Platform (HSEEP-EP) to inject challenging ad hoc situations into NICS, monitor exercise progress, and capture quantitative exercise metrics. Sponsored by the DHS Homeland Security Advanced Research Project Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, HSEEP-EP was used in the Capstone National Level Exercise in April 2014.
The combination of NICS and HSEEP-EP continues to bridge the divide between preparedness and response. Course participants provided very positive feedback about the capability of these technologies to facilitate communications, situational awareness, and command and control.