APAN Helps Regional Military Crisis Response

By Dialogo
October 01, 2012

Military and defense organizations in Central and South America and the
Caribbean are looking at social media as a tool to better share information and
improve coordination prior to and during crisis operations.
Among those organizations is the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), an
international committee of nationally appointed defense officials who develop
collaborative approaches on common defense and security issues facing countries in
North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. The IADB is leading a regional
effort to enhance military-to-military information sharing during crises.
At the February 2012 Humanitarian Allied Forces (FAHUM) exercise in
Washington, D.C., the IADB demonstrated the transformational possibilities of Web
technologies when incorporated into knowledge management processes. The technology
of choice was the All Partners Access Network (APAN), a U.S. Department of Defense
social-networking site successfully used during the Haitian disaster relief
operations in 2010. APAN connects people and information across organizational and
geographic boundaries.
The annual FAHUM exercise, sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM),
focuses on improving how the region’s civilian, government and military agencies
respond to natural disasters. Traditionally, the exercise occurs before the Atlantic
hurricane season to allow participants to sharpen their skills and exchange
information on crisis response operations.
For the 2012 edition, planners from the IADB, SOUTHCOM and the Center for
Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS) designed an exercise that added social media as a
tool for sharing information among military responders. During a series of table top
exercises, participants practiced by using SOUTHCOM’s APAN to exchange information.
FAHUM 2012 showed how regional militaries can harness Web-based tools such as
APAN to deliver lifesaving services. Participating in the exercises were members of
El Salvador’s Ministry of Defense, Department of Public Safety, National Emergency
Response offices, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Organization of
American States, Pan-American Health Organization, as well as IADB representatives
from more than 20 other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
A pre-exercise, hosted by the CHDS at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.,
offered participants a chance to discuss disaster relief challenges and
opportunities, with a focus on how the IADB can serve as an information broker for
the militaries of the region. A table top exercise tested the IADB’s
information-sharing concept by having delegates use APAN to respond to a fictitious
earthquake in El Salvador.
Colonel Matthew Anderson, director of the Secretariat of Advisory Services at
the IADB, highlighted the IADB’s gratitude to El Salvador and other member states
for their support of FAHUM-12 and IADB exercise.
“The exercise provided the IADB with a unique opportunity to test military
information exchange at the hemispheric level, and provided valuable information to
improve networks and allow the secretariat to be more responsive to member states’
requirements,” Col. Anderson said.
With the successful execution of FAHUM, the vision of a more integrated and
efficient military-to-military information-sharing capability is closer to reality.
Such multinational efforts will yield long-term payoffs, including saved lives and a
rapid return to normalcy for distressed populations in the region.
Oliver Barrett, Partnering Directorate, SOUTHCOM, contributed to this