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GCN : October 2013
GCN OCTOBER 2013 • GCN.COM 9 matching technologies to Coast Guard needs was not simple. "The main problem is that we work in austere environments, whether at sea or in disaster response," he said. It wasn't until he came across a MANET built by a company called Persistent Sys- tems, which had already been selected for another DOD program, that Kowalske realized he had something he could base TRIDENT on. The company's Wave Relay encryption capabilities and the geograph- ical performance ranges would make TRI- DENT feasible. Other technologies had operational ranges of no more than a mile or two, 10 at the most, he said. But the Persistent Systems technology allowed for commu- nications 30 miles out at sea, from a Coast Guard cutter to a small boat, "and we've actually managed to achieve 105 miles from land to aircraft," he said. Another plus was that Wave Relay uses pure TCP/IP and not a proprietary pro- tocol, so the TRIDENT team could also use Cisco routers to create secure virtual private network tunnels and connect dis- parate networks. In a demonstration of TRIDENT's capabilities, an aircraft over Boston was able to talk to a cutter in Tam- pa, Fla., in real-time. And, because it's "pure Layer 2" IP, TRIDENT allows users to bring in fixed infrastructure IP-based solutions and also run those in a tactical environment, Kowalske said. Before TRIDENT was operational, get- ting video or sensor data from the field back to senior-level decision-makers or technical experts often depended on someone hand-carrying a camera or data from a ship to shore, and analysis would happen hours after the event. TRIDENT allows for a single tactical network over which everyone can see full-motion video, collaborate using Voice or Radio over IP, share data files and see real-time position updates. It intelligently connects with the best network backhauls available, be they traditional wired, satel- lite, 3G/4G connections, or all three com- bined. TRIDENT has been through various demonstrations, but had its first opera- tional test during War of 1812 bicentenni- al celebrations in Boston during the week leading up to July 4, 2012. It supported joint operations in the port there, giving local and federal agencies the ability to share real-time tactical information. It also didn't harm TRIDENT's chanc- es that this successful demonstration happened in front of most of the Coast Guard's top brass. Even though there was still resistance from some people, particu- larly the information security folks, its value was apparent. When the Captain of Port for N.Y. and N.J. called his head- quarters in October to say that the regular disaster contingencies after Sandy were not working, Kowalske said, "that's when I got the call to go down with the gear and see what I could do to help." TRIDENT's capabilities at least proved popular with some of those "boots on the ground" who were tasked with getting communications up and running. Miguel Uribarri, a Coast Guard IT tech- nician, was based at the Sandy Hook, N.J., facility during Sandy and volun- teered to do emergency communications restoration in New York using satellite networks, which is "pretty much our stan- dard equipment," he said. He was there within 24 hours, but only managed to get a few workstations working, and wasn't able to get any overall connectivity for the New York area through Verizon's Manhat- tan exchange. "That's when I started working with [Kowalske]. And from the mo- ment we started deploying the Wave Relay equipment until the time I left, we had restored 65 per- cent of the bandwidth capabilities normally allocated to New York," Uribarri said. "We were able to provide all the users' network ca- pabilities with just the (MANET)." For a hands-on technician, the equipment is "leaps and bounds above what other things can do," he said. It takes very few man- hours required to get circuits back up and operational, and it covers a much greater area. You can get video on the network just by put- ting a node on an aircraft, he said. "It's like a Swiss Army knife," he said. "Some of the equipment we have running now requires massive space and battery banks that take up an entire wall. Wave Relay requires equipment that can fit into a suitcase that can be pre-configured and deployed almost immediately." TRIDENT is now being deployed else- where in the Coast Guard to support daily operations. Other agencies and services are start- ing to beat a path to the Coast Guard's door to see how TRIDENT might work for them, Kowalske said. Now they have seen what's possible, such as being able to push full-motion video from the field to an admiral's iPad in Washington, D.C. And that's sparking a fair amount of pride. "It's one of the few times in history that the Coast Guard has been out front and that we have other services coming to us," he said. •