HAITI Earthquake: What Did Pentagon Know and When Did It Know It?

Posted on January 22, 2010


A Haiti Disaster Relief Scenario Was Envisaged by the US Military One Day Before the Earthquake

By Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, January 21, 2010

 

 

A Haiti disaster relief scenario had been envisaged at the headquarters of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami one day prior to the earthquake.

The holding of pre-disaster simulations pertained to the impacts of a hurricane in Haiti. They were held on January 11. (Bob Brewin,  Defense launches online system to coordinate Haiti relief efforts (1/15/10) — GovExec.com, complete text of article is contained in Annex)

 The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense (DoD), was involved in organizing these scenarios on behalf of US Southern Command.(SOUTHCOM).

Defined as a “Combat Support Agency”, DISA has a mandate to provide IT and telecommunications, systems, logistics services in support of the US military. (See DISA website: Defense Information Systems Agency).

On the day prior to the earthquake, “on Monday [January 11, 2010], Jean Demay, DISA’s technical manager for the agency’s Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, happened to be at the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami preparing for a test of the system in a scenario that involved providing relief to Haiti in the wake of a hurricane.” (Bob Brewin, op cit, emphasis added) 

The Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project (TISC) is a communications-information tool which  “links non-government organizations with the United States [government and military] and other nations for tracking, coordinating and organizing relief efforts”.(Government IT Scrambles To Help Haiti, TECHWEB January 15, 2010).

The TISC is an essential component of the militarization of emergency relief. The US military through DISA oversees the information – communications system used by participating aid agencies. Essentially, it is a communications sharing system controlled by the US military, which is made available to approved non-governmental partner organizations. The Defense Information Systems Agency also “provides bandwidth to aid organizations involved in Haiti relief efforts.”

There are no details on the nature of the tests conducted on January 11 at SOUTHCOM headquarters. 

DISA’s Jean Demay was in charge of coordinating the tests. There are no reports on the participants involved in the disaster relief scenarios.

One would expect, given DISA’s mandate, that the tests pertained to simulating communications. logistics and information systems in the case of a major emergency relief program in Haiti.

The fundamental concept underlying DISA’s Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project (TISC) is  to “Achieve Interoperability With Warfighters, Coalition Partners And NGOs” (Defense Daily, December 19, 2008)

Upon completing the tests and disaster scenarios on January 11, TISC was considered to be, in relation to Haiti, in “an advanced stage of readiness”. On January 13, the day following the earthquake, SOUTHCOM took the decision to implement the TISC system, which had been rehearsed in Miami two days earlier: 

“After the earthquake hit on Tuesday [January 12, 2010], Demay said SOUTHCOM decided to go live with the system. On [the following day] Wednesday [January 13, 2010], DISA opened up its All Partners Access Network, supported by the Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, to any organization supporting Haiti relief efforts.

The information sharing project, developed with backing from both SOUTHCOM and the Defense Department’s European Command, has been in development for three years. It is designed to facilitate multilateral collaboration between federal and nongovernmental agencies.

Demay said that since DISA set up a Haiti Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Community of Interest on APAN on Wednesday [the day following the earthquake], almost 500 organizations and individuals have joined, including a range of Defense units and various nongovernmental organizations and relief groups. (Bob Brewin, Defense launches online system to coordinate Haiti relief efforts (1/15/10) — GovExec.com emphasis added)

DISA has a Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Field Office in Miami. Under the Haiti Disaster Emergency Program initiated on January 12, DISA’s mandate is described as part of a carefully planned military operation: 

DISA is providing US Southern Command with information capabilities which will support our nation in quickly responding to the critical situation in Haiti,” said Larry K. Huffman, DISA’s Principal Director of Global Information Grid Operations. “Our experience in providing support to contingency operations around the world postures us to be responsive in meeting USSOUTHCOM’s requirements.”

DISA, a Combat Support Agency, engineers and [sic] provides command and control capabilities and enterprise infrastructure to continuously operate and assure a global net-centric enterprise in direct support to joint warfighters, National level leaders, and other mission and coalition partners across the full spectrum of operations. As DoD’s satellite communications leader, DISA is using the Defense Satellite Communications System to provide frequency and bandwidth support to all organizations in the Haitian relief effort. This includes Super High Frequency missions that are providing bandwidth for US Navy ships and one Marine Expeditionary Unit that will arrive shortly on station to provide medical help, security, and helicopters among other support. This also includes all satellite communications for the US Air Force handling round-the-clock air traffic control and air freight operations at the extremely busy Port-Au-Prince Airport. DISA is also providing military Ultra High Frequency channels and contracting for additional commercial SATCOM missions that greatly increase this capability for relief efforts. (DISA -Press Release, January 2010, undated, emphasis added)

In the immediate wake of the earthquake, DISA played a key supportive role to SOUTHCOM, which was designated by the Obama administration as the de facto “lead agency” in the US Haitian relief program. The underlying system consists in integrating civilian aid agencies into the orbit of an advanced communications information system controlled by the US military.

“DISA is also leveraging a new technology in Haiti that is already linking NGOs, other nations and US forces together to track, coordinate and better organize relief efforts” (Ibid)


ANNEX

Defense launches online system to coordinate Haiti relief efforts

By Bob Brewin, Govexec.com 01/15/2010

http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=44407;dcn=e_gvetwww

As personnel representing hundreds of government and nongovernmental agencies from around the world rush to the aid of earthquake-devastated Haiti, the Defense Information Systems Agency has launched a Web portal with multiple social networking tools to aid in coordinating their efforts.

On Monday [January 11, 2010, a day before the earthquake], Jean Demay, DISA’s technical manager for the agency’s Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, happened to be at the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami preparing for a test of the system in a scenario that involved providing relief to Haiti in the wake of a hurricane. After the earthquake hit on Tuesday [January 12, 2010], Demay said SOUTHCOM decided to go live with the system. On Wednesday [January 13, 2010], DISA opened up its All Partners Access Network, supported by the Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, to any organization supporting Haiti relief efforts.

The information sharing project, developed with backing from both SOUTHCOM and the Defense Department’s European Command, has been in development for three years. It is designed to facilitate multilateral collaboration between federal and nongovernmental agencies.

Demay said that since DISA set up a Haiti Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Community of Interest on APAN on Wednesday, almost 500 organizations and individuals have joined, including a range of Defense units and various nongovernmental organizations and relief groups.

APAN provides a series of collaboration tools, including geographical information systems, wikis, YouTube and MySpace-like pages and multilingual chat rooms.

Meanwhile, other organizations are tackling different technological challenges. Gianluca Bruni, the Dubai-based information technology chief for emergency preparedness and response for the World Food Programme, is setting up networks and systems to support United Nations and nongovernmental organizations in Haiti. WFP already has dispatched two communications kits to Haiti, with satellite systems that operate at 1 megabit per second and can support up to 100 users. It also has sent laptop computers, Wi-Fi access points and long-range point-to-point wireless systems to connect remote users to the satellite terminals. Bruni said eventually WFP plans to set up cyber cafés in Haiti for use all relief workers in the country.

Jon Anderson, a DISA spokesman, said the agency is supplying 10 megabits of satellite capacity to Navy, Marine and Air Force units engaged in the Haiti relief operation.

Many of the relief organizations and agencies in Haiti are bringing their own radio systems to the country. DISA has deployed a three-person team from its Joint Spectrum Management Element to help manage radio frequency spectrum.

The Joint Forces Command’s Joint Communications Support Element deployed two teams equipped with satellite systems and VoIP phones to support SOUTCOM in Port-au-Prince late Wednesday. Those systems were operational “in a matter of hours,” said JCSE Chief of Staff Chris Wilson. The organization will send another team to Haiti in the next few days.

Wilson said JCSE was able to get its gear into Haiti quickly because the systems already were loaded on pallets in Miami in preparation for an exercise that has been canceled.

So many governments and agencies from around the world have responded to the crisis in Haiti that they have overwhelmed the ability of the Port-au-Prince airport to handle incoming relief flights. The Federal Aviation Administration has had a ground-stop on aircraft headed for Haiti for much of the past two days.

FAA warned in an advisory Friday that “due to limited ramp space at Port-au-Prince airport,” with the exception of international cargo flights, “the Haitians are not accepting any aircraft into their airspace.”

The advisory added that domestic U.S. military and civilian flights to Haiti must be first be cleared by its command center. Exemptions will be based solely on the basis of ramp space. The agency also starkly warned “there is no available fuel” at the Port-au-Prince airport.