“SOLVING COMMUNICATIONS GAPS IN THE ARCTIC WITH BALLOONS” –CIMSEC

A NASA long duration balloon is prepared for launch on Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf near McMurdo Station in 2004. (NASA photo)

CIMSEC provides a discussion of the possibility of using high altitude balloons as communications links in the Arctic.

Even if balloons are not the answer, the article at least does an excellent job of outlining the difficulties of communicating in the Arctic (or Antarctic).

“Coast Guard first ever Data Strategy guides the way forward for data readiness and well-informed decision making” –MyCG

A family of Link-16 Terminals for Air, Ground, and Sea Platforms. MIDS Family. LVT 1:Provides Link-16, TACAN and Voice for Tactical Air and Surface Vessels. LVT 2: Provides Link-16 for US Army Air Defense Units. LVT 3 – Fighter Data Link: Provides Link-16 with reduced output power for the USAF F-15 fleet. MIDS LVT-1. MIDS LVT-3.

Looks like this might be important. Certainly the goals are laudable. MyCG reports on the Coast Guard’s “Data Strategy.” (I have provided the text below.) The objective that stood out for me was improved cutter connectivity. This inevitably means different things to different people. Are we talking wider availability of tactical data links or more opportunities for second guessing the captain of the cutter? There is limited access to the strategy, so I was not able to look at the original document.

There is a tendency to always want more data and to create a new system and a new reporting requirement. Hopefully this approach will minimize that tendency. The report suggests that is the intention. Let’s hope so.

Hopefully it will also help in making the case for the Coast Guard within the Department, the Administration, and the Congress.


Coast Guard first ever Data Strategy guides the way forward for data readiness and well-informed decision making

By Shana Brouder, MyCG Writer

The first in our service history, the Coast Guard Data Strategy is a critical step for improving data quality and decision making in the Coast Guard for years to come.

“In an era where data generates more revenue than oil, it is crucial that the Coast Guard modernizes its data management to help build and sustain its future force,” said Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz in the Data Strategy.

The strategy’s guiding principles emphasize a user-centric approach, highlighting people as our most important asset and reinforcing the need to more fully support them through the data and technologies they require. With our workforce in mind, the strategy focuses on reducing the burden of manual data collection by crews during daily operations. The strategy also lays out a future that simplifies access to data, enables data analytics across systems and improves security to protect the information collected.

“Almost everyone in the Coast Guard handles data in some sort of way,” said Mark Bortle, acting chief data officer for the Coast Guard. “Ultimately, we want to free up people’s time by automating certain tasks that allow them to do more mission-oriented tasks rather than administrative-oriented tasks.”

Program leaders throughout the fleet provided perspective to the Data Readiness Task Force (DRTF), charged with establishing the processes and governance to improve the scope of what information is collected, and how it should be used.

Reducing Data Redundancies

Capabilities implemented by the DRTF will tie together data from multiple systems. This means accessing data and associated analytics will be simplified and streamlined—making data-driven decisions in real time a reality.

The DRTF will also help identify authoritative data sources, which will help limit redundant data entry and reduce risk of error. Instead of several platforms or sources tracking weigh-in information for members, the structure and processes established by the DRTF will ensure that only one system tracks the data, and remains current.

Improving Data Security 

Streamlining access to data using identity management configuration will ensure only those who should have access to data are the ones who can access it. This will also make accessing data faster and easier.Data Strategy Explained. The first official U.S. Coast Guard Data Strategy, signed in February 2021, is an essential component of the USCG’s Technology Revolution and directly tied to the Coast Guard 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. It aims to improve data quality, which will ultimately lead to better decision making.

The effort ties together both the Tech Revolution and the Coast Guard Strategic Plan—moving both closer to reality. Focusing on data readiness and fostering automation to share data rapidly and accurately will promote a culture in the Coast Guard that embraces evidence-based decision making as part of day-to-day operations.

“The DRTF is implementing five core programs to realize higher data readiness and informed decision making,” said Bortle. “These core programs are Data Governance and Management, Workforce Development, Data Fidelity, Technology Way Forward, and Pilot and Real-time Learning. Our goal is to create a structure within the Coast Guard to make the right information accessible to the right people at the right time from anywhere on any authorized device.”

Additional Resources:

“Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star conducts research, collects valuable high-latitude data to expand knowledge of remote Arctic region” –D17

JUNEAU, Alaska – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel en route Juneau, Alaska, on Feb. 12, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Woods.

Below is a District 17 News release regarding USCGC Polar Star’s unusual Winter Arctic deployment. (I did do some editing to remove repetition in the photo captions.)

united states coast guard

 

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska
Contact: 17th District Public Affairs
Office: (907) 463-2065
After Hours: (907) 463-2065
17th District online newsroom

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star conducts research, collects valuable high-latitude data to expand knowledge of remote Arctic region

JUNEAU, Alaska - U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel to moor up in Juneau, Alaska, on Feb. 12, 2021, as the crew nears the end of their months-long Arctic deployment.  In addition to Polar Star’s strategic national security objectives, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker sailed north with scientists and researchers aboard to work in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Washington, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to gather data and lessen the void of information from the region and better understand how to operate year-round in Arctic waters.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow.
JUNEAU, Alaska – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel to moor Juneau, Alaska, Feb. 12, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Trevor Bannerman.

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Seattle-based Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) arrived in Juneau, Friday, for a logistics stop as the crew nears the end of their months-long Arctic deployment conducting scientific research and protecting the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security throughout the polar region.

In addition to Polar Star’s strategic national security objectives, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker sailed north with scientists and researchers aboard to work in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Washington, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to gather data and lessen the void of information from the region and better understand how to operate year-round in Arctic waters.

“The Arctic is cold, dark, and difficult to navigate in the winter,” said Capt. Bill Woityra, the Polar Star’s commanding officer. “Deploying with researchers and scientists aboard has aided in the development, understanding and pursuit of technologies that will mitigate risks and enable future mission performance so that looking forward, the Coast Guard can safely operate continually and effectively in this remote environment.”

Working aboard Polar Star, Shalane Regan, a member of the Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC), teamed up with Lt. Lydia Ames, a NOAA Corps officer to assist CRREL researchers by deploying buoys onto the ice where they will, over time, collect and transmit information about ice flow to help fill in data gaps for higher latitude oceans.

The Polar Star crew also aided in a research project concerning water flow regimes in the Arctic, specifically the Chukchi Sea, a study developed by Dr. Robert Pickart of WHOI. The data collected during Polar Star’s patrol will be used to develop a more complete understanding of the hydrology of the dynamic region.

To support Dr. Pickart’s research, WHOI provided 120 Expendable Conductivity-Temperature- Depth (XCTD) instruments to measure temperature and salinity. These profiles of the water column will give a better picture of what water and nutrient flow look like in the Arctic winter. Polar Star crew members deployed the probes every 12 hours when above 65 degrees north.

Additionally, Regan, who is a mechanical engineer and researcher with the RDC Surface Branch, worked with other scientists and researchers on board to find ways to operate most effectively in the frigid Arctic environment.

For technology, Regan brought a 3D printer and Remotely Operated Vehicle aboard Polar Star to evaluate how the systems would react to the Arctic climate and ship life.

“I used the 3D printer to complete many small projects that resulted in large lifestyle improvements for the crew,” said Regan. “Most importantly, the knowledge I was able to gather about larger issues the crew faces, for example, visibility issues due to frost accumulation on the bridge windows, I can take home for my team to develop solutions that will create a better-equipped, mission-ready fleet.”

Another big item the RDC team is focusing on is underway connectivity, specifically in the Arctic region.

To better understand high latitude communications, The Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) was installed on Polar Star to test its abilities at high latitudes in the harsh Arctic winter conditions. Developed for the U.S. Navy by Lockheed Martin, the MUOS is an ultra-high frequency satellite communications system that provides secure connections for mobile forces.

“Looking towards the future, all signs point toward the Coast Guard deploying more platforms to the Arctic, more often and during different seasons of the year,” said Woityra. “The Coast Guard is robustly proficient at summer-time Arctic operations, while winter presents an entirely new set of challenges. Polar Star’s winter Arctic deployment has served to better understand and prepare for the challenges of operating in such a harsh and unforgiving environment.”

The cutter will be visiting Juneau to close out its operational patrol and will be moored downtown through the weekend. Due to COVID-19, the cutter will not be open to the public for tours. 

Authorization (not money) for Six Icebreakers and Better Comms in the Arctic

The Coast Guard Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Program, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, launched two 6U CubeSats from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, as part of the Polar Scout project. Photo courtesy of SpaceX.

Breaking Defense reports the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes six icebreakers for the Coast Guard and better satellite communications for the polar regions.

Not really a reason to get too excited yet. Authorization does not include any money. There was already general bipartisan acceptance of the idea that the Coast Guard needs new icebreakers with the 3 heavy and 3 mediums apparently seen as reasonable. Funding ($555M) for the second Polar Security Cutter was requested by the administration and agreed to by both Senate and House oversight committees, so should be in the FY2021 budget.

The addition of better comms may be the best news in the NDAA for the Coast Guard. It has been a major problem in US Arctic operations.

“Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg Tech: RDT&E’s Annual Arctic Technology Evaluation” –MarineLink

ENS Jordan Solseth runs a test for the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) 500. U.S. Coast Guard photo by SN Kate Kilroy

Marine Link reports on the Coast Guard’s evaluation of five technologies during USCGC Campbell’s Arctic cruise. Five different technologies were evaluated. All were deemed successful:

  • Insight Mini Thermal Monocular (MTM) and AN/PSQ-20 Monoculars (enhanced night vision devices) for improved law enforcement and ice detection.
  • Handheld Glare Helios laser for stand-off hailing capabilities.
  • FiFish Remotely Operated Vehicle for underwater inspections in cold weather.
  • Long Range Acoustic Device 500X-RE for enhanced communication with vessels at longer distances.
  • Iridium Certus Terminal, which helped provide internet access for the crew to maintain communications with Atlantic Area.

These systems were referred to in the earlier linked post, but there is much more information in the Marine Link article.

I think that we are going to start seeing the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) on all our cutters. We really should have them on our Webber class bound for PATFORSWA. In addition to its communications capabilities, it can be an effective less than lethal weapon for discouraging approach or breaking down resistance to a boarding. (Remember when we played rock music for Noriega down in Panama.)

The Iridium Certus Terminal helped communications that are always difficult in the Arctic, and probably provided in major morale boost for the crew.

While I see the utility of the night vision devices, for the larger ships I would really like to see us take a look at this. It appears it could do everything the night vision devices can do, plus allow transmission of bearing and elevation information, along with its nominal function of quickly bringing weapons to bear on a visually detected threat. Maybe another good addition for Webber class going to SW Asia.

“The Value of an Extra C – The New C5ISC” –MyCG

An old Deepwater Concept illustration, but you get the idea

Passing this along, because it looks like an important reorganization. It appeared on the MyCG website that I recently added to the “Recommended Blogs” list. This seems to be putting a greater emphasis on cyber. The “Brochure” linked at the bottom of the story gives a nice breakdown of the organization and responsibilities.


The Value of an Extra C – The New C5ISC

By Shana Brouder, MyCG Writer

The Coast Guard has completed the single largest organizational restructuring of a unit in the past decade. In June, the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, and Intelligence Service Center (C5ISC) was established. It replaced its counterpart, the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Information Technology Service Center (C4ITSC) as well as assimilated the three centers of excellence: the Command, Control, and Communications Engineering Center (C3CEN), Telecommunication and Information Systems Command (TISCOM), and the Operations Systems Center (OSC).

The reorganization encompasses over 800 military and civilian personnel. The alignment promises to improve the Coast Guard’s ability to deliver technology solutions at the “speed of need” for mission success. The functional structure of this new unit will underpin and enable the Coast Guard’s Technology Revolution’s five lines of effort: Cutter Connectivity; Modernizing C5I Infrastructure; Cyber Readiness; Software, Mobility and Cloud; and Data for Decisions.

“The commissioning of the new C5I Service Center represents the culmination of over six years of effort from personnel across the Coast Guard to transform the C4ITSC into an organization that will more effectively and efficiently deliver technology solutions for mission success,” explained Capt. Russell Dash, the new C5ISC commander. “Our new structure supports the Coast Guard directly through our six Product Lines, which serve as the focal point and center of gravity for our service delivery. Our robust Shared Service Divisions are designed to make our Product Line Managers successful by providing consistent, standard support including business operations, engineering and infrastructure services, workforce and facilities management, budget and finance, and asset and logistics services. The new organization is now poised to make the Commandant’s Tech Revolution a reality and deliver C5I mission support at the speed of need.”

By standardizing processes and creating intentional mission alignment with other Coast Guard units who also work in the informational technology space (e.g. Surface Forces Logistics Center [SFLC], Aviation Logistics Center [ALC], Shore Infrastructure Logistics Center [SILC], Health, Safety and Work-Life Service Center [HSWL], and Coast Guard Cyber Command [CGCYBER]), the new C5ISC structure enables faster, more nimble responses to technology-related problems.

This fundamental shift in how the Coast Guard delivers C5I capabilities, unifies efforts under a single leadership structure and follows industry-proven standard processes, which will drive efficiency and consistency in every action moving forward.

The few months since the C5I Service Center’s establishment have already reaped successes. For example, the Fleet Logistics System Mobile Asset Manager (FLS-MAM), the supply management tool used by cutter maintenance and supply personnel, was rewritten to ensure this vital program would stay safe and secure from outside threats, such as spyware or other malicious software. Another example includes the delivery of essential satellite communications equipment to the medium endurance Coast Guard Cutter Bear. Members of the C5ISC worked with other offices to provide the Bear, the important backup Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) system it needed to deploy on-time, despite tight time constraints.

Additionally, the C5ISC shared services divisions and product lines partnered with cyber operations and the Eighth District to provide a unified C5I response, which supported contingency operations for Hurricanes Isaias, Laura, Sally, and Tropical Storm Beta.

The C5ISC workforce has been aggressively working to improve the Coast Guard’s information technology infrastructure. More specifically, they have been working to identify the constraints within our external network connections that impact our capacity in the information technology arena and overall cyber resiliency. This became even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent increase the Coast Guard workforce’s teleworking. This dramatic increase in using the Coast Guard’s external network highlighted gaps that the C5ISC is now better placed to resolve, thanks to a more streamlined and cohesive set up. Through various partnerships, including Cyber and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the C5ISC has made significant headway improving the Coast Guard’s ability to meet missions and strategic goals as outlined in the Technology Revolution Roadmap.

If you have access to the Portal, more information on the C5I Service Center can be found here.

Resources:

“MYCG – MODERNIZING COAST GUARD ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS” –ALCOAST

Below is an ALCOAST quoted in its entirety. I have added a link to “MyCG,” the web site mentioned here, to my recommended blog page. It is right at the top.

united states coast guard

ALCOAST COMMANDANT NOTICE                                              CANCEL DATE 25 AUG 2021

R 260950 AUG 20
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//CG-092//
TO ALCOAST
UNCLAS//N05700//
ACN 098/20
SUBJ: MYCG – MODERNIZING COAST GUARD ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS
A. Coast Guard External Affairs Manual, COMDTINST M5700.13 (series)
1. Purpose: This ACN announces updates to the Coast Guard’s organizational
communications program, to include the launch of MyCG. MyCG is a publicly
available web interface that will serve as an authoritative source for
organizational news, announcements, and information. These changes will be
codified in the upcoming change 2 to REF (A).
2. Discussion. Over the past several years, Coast Guard senior leaders have
dedicated significant effort to advancing the readiness of our workforce.
MyCG is a continuation of this effort. In order to achieve the Commandant’s
vision of a mission ready total workforce, we must modernize our approach
to organizational communications to ensure that enterprise-wide initiatives
and program updates that are important to our people and their families are
clearly communicated via an easily accessible system and targeted to reach
intended audiences. With these goals in mind, the Coast Guard is restructuring
its organizational communications to improve personnel readiness and mission
execution, and to reinforce a world-class military service that empowers
people as our most crucial resource.
    a. To centralize, streamline, and enhance enterprise-wide organizational
communications through MyCG, COMDT (CG-092) will implement a communications
planning and execution process, and provide continual service-wide and regional
communications/updates via the MyCG platform. The MyCG site is intended to
reduce duplicative information from multiple sources; to centralize key
information into a common location; to provide that information in a way that
is easy to access; and to be interesting, timely, and relevant for our people.
    b. In order to maximize information accessibility, the MyCG site will be
available on the public web at: https://www.work.uscg.mil/mycg/, enabling
everyone’s access via mobile phone, personal computer, or work station. The
site will focus on news, features, and resources that support workforce readiness
and resilience.
    c. MyCG will serve as a centralized, authoritative source for enterprise-wide
organizational communications, to include announcements that impact the entire
Coast Guard workforce and their families.
3. Responsibility. COMDT (CG-0922) will manage MyCG, and coordinate the
organizational communications planning, development, and distribution process
for content shared via MyCG. Critical to the success of this initiative will be
integration of communications best practices, and sustained coordination between
COMDT (CG-0922) staff and communications liaisons designated by Headquarters,
Area, and District staffs.
4. Point of contact: Christie St. Clair, COMDT (CG-0922), 202-372-3021 or
Christie.E.StClair@uscg.mil.
5. Released by RDML Jon Hickey, Director, Governmental and Public Affairs.
6. Internet release is authorized.

Phone based Data Link?

A Beechcraft AT-6B Wolverine experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range, N.M., July 31, 2017. Aircraft like the AT-6B and Embraer A-29 Super Tocano provide close-air support to U.S. allies and partners and can also be outfitted with commercial off-the-shelf command and control units like the Airborne Extensible Relay Over-Horizon Network, or AERONet, increasing their combat effectiveness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ethan D. Wagner)

AirForceMag.com has an article about the purchase of four light attack aircraft that contains an intriguing little side note:

AEROnet is a fledgling air-to-air and air-to-ground radio system that would let the U.S. and foreign militaries share video, voice, and chat communications as well as command and control via tablets, smartphones, and mobile apps for less than $500,000.

Secure communications between Coast Guard units and other armed services, particularly in the case of a rapidly developing terrorist attack, has been one of my regular concerns. This goes back to an exercise I planned and supervised some time ago. We had two Air Force aircraft included in a counter terrorism exercise, but when they got on scene we could not effectively identify the target for them.

This system might be useful both within the Coast Guard and between the Coast Guard and other services. This lead me to look for more information “AERONet prototype could provide combat insight to allies.”

“The Airborne Extensible Relay Over-Horizon Network, or AERONet, digitally links friendly forces, providing them with their own location, the location of other friendly forces and real-time enemy movement updates. It will be showcased to partner nations at the Bold Quest exercise in Finland this month. AERONet is a version of systems already used by law enforcement to patrol borders and track and combat smugglers. First responders use similar systems while fighting wildfires in the mountain states.”

There is more here, “AEROnet Gets an Audience.”

Lt. Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, military deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, dons the Airborne Extensible Relay Over-the-Horizon Network concept combat tactical vest with the help of Steve Brown from the Tactical Data Network Laboratory at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Sept. 26, during Bunch’s tour of the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks division. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Aerial Network Division at Hanscom will bring AERONet to production, after the Air Force Research Laboratory prototyped the system. It is designed to support U.S. and partner nation operations as a tactical data network, as outlined by the Chief Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

“34 VHF towers are down in AK; CH 16 not being picked up by USCG” –Alaska Fish Radio

BALTIMORE Ð A digital selective calling VHF-FM marine-band radio, set to channel 16, is shown energized for operations at Coast Guard Station Curtis Bay, Md., Dec. 9, 2010. DSC radios allow for a digital transfer between radios versus voice transmission which allows mariners to instantly send an automatically formatted distress alert to the Coast Guard, provided the radio is registered with a Maritime Mobile Service Identity number and connected to a compatible GPS unit. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandyn Hill.

A disturbing report from Alaska Fish Radio that a third of the VHF towers in Alaska are down and in many cases the Coast Guard is not monitoring channel 16 where it would be expected that we would.

Curious how we got in this situation?

Thanks to Eric for bringing this to my attention.