Joint civilian-military rescue unit adopts WiMAX

One lesson of Hurricane Katrina was the need for better coordination between civilian and military agencies in emergency situations and rescue operations. The Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS) and Joint Forces Command are now testing wireless technology which will allow first responders to act faster--and in a more coordinated fashion--during disasters involving weapons of mass destruction. JTF-CS is part of the newly created U.S. Northern Command, and its mission is to be the first military unit on the scene in such an event. There is one obstacle to the quick deployment and effectiveness of the JTF-CS: The sheer quantity of wires and cables they must carry with them, and the sheer effort to roll out, connect and maintain these cables and wires during an emergency.

The solution? A program called Wireless for the Warfighter (W4W) which aims to make the entire operation of the unit wireless. The program provides a wireless extension for computers and phone lines that can be set up in a crisis within minutes rather than hours. W4W is part of a three-phase program. The program already provides for a secure 802.11 WLAN. The next phase will see an upgrade to 802.16d and 802.16e.

Note that JTF-CS is not the only military unit planning to adopt fixed and mobile WiMAX in their operations. Other units and commands are also asking for wireless capability, but security certification and accreditation remain a problem because of the sensitive nature of the communication.

For more on the JTF-CS project:
- see Josh Rogin's report