New SOUTHCOM-Sponsored Mapping Capability Software to be Tested in Honduras

New SOUTHCOM-Sponsored Mapping Capability Software to be Tested in Honduras

By Dialogo
September 12, 2013

One of the biggest problems faced by troops and other crisis responders deployed to Haiti following the devastating earthquake that hit the capital, Port-au-Prince, in January 2010, was not the lack of humanitarian aid, but the lack of understanding of the situation, the particulars of the various actors involved, their capabilities and the status of their efforts. Tons and tons of rice, bottled water, and other goods were occasionally sent to regions of the country that did not need it.

The global response following the Haiti earthquake can be best characterized as a “complex operation”, one involving many types of needs, suffered by a very large number of people, spread out over a vast region, and being responded to by a wide range of organizations and individual actors.

It quickly became apparent to the United States and its Partner Nations that current, complete and reliable information was necessary in order to improve the collective response to natural disasters. “Western Hemisphere nations worked together to provide much-needed help, but lacked an effective way to collaborate in real-time and focus efforts where they were most needed,” declared then U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta during the X Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Punta del Este, Uruguay, on October 8, 2012.

To that end, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, through its Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) Program, invested to create a software tool known as Rapid Open Geospatial User-driven Enterprise (ROGUE). The Science, Technology and Experimentation Division (J72) at the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) became partner in this endeavor.

To complete the task at hand, SOUTHCOM’s J72 teamed up with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Mississippi, and the Pacific Disaster Center in Hawaii to develop the technology, while Honduras’s Permanent Contingency Commission (COPECO) agreed to facilitate the evaluation of the tool’s utility during the first operational demonstration of ROGUE.

ROGUE is a Web-based application that allows information sharing of geospatial data (mapped information) by geographically dispersed participants for the purpose of improved shared situational awareness and decision making. ROGUE’s capabilities have direct applications in the coordination of activities during complex operations. ROGUE was built on open source, open standard software, which ensures utmost compatibility with other systems and facilitates data sharing among a wide array of potential users.

“The ability to have good maps at the tactical level is very important, and we have limited capability in some geographical areas right now,” says Juan Hurtado, SOUTHCOM’s Science Advisor and head of the Command’s Science, Technology and Experimentation Division. “What ROGUE will do is give you the capability to see the conditions of a road, a bridge or a hospital, for instance, immediately after a disaster happens, almost in real time, via a mobile device. Think about the new mapping capability available for identifying where everybody is, where logistic, medical and food distribution centers are…You will be able to see all these locations popping up in a coordinated manner on the Internet, via the Pacific Disaster Center.”

The software was built so that anybody can find the information. If you download the mobile application then you can individually snip that information to a service somewhere. “Anybody can submit information much like social media, or you can restrict it to avoid unwanted participants, who are there just to play. You develop those trees of interest and a relationship, then you can open or close it to the folks who are allowed to participate based on your ability to trust their data,” said Donald Jones, Operational Manager of the ROGUE program at SOUTHCOM.

The development of ROGUE is part of a two-year JCTD program funded by the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Rapid Fielding. It allows the U.S. Department of Defense to try out transformational technologies for acquisition decisions. During this two-year period, ROGUE will go through two operational demonstrations.

For the first one, which will take place in Tegucigalpa and Soto Cano Air Base from 12 to 15 September, SOUTHCOM partnered with COPECO. Both organizations have worked together before in other successful projects, such as PEAK, a modular system designed to provide disaster response teams with sustainable, essential services, such as potable water, communications and electricity.

This demonstration will allow COPECO to use ROGUE’s information sharing and decision support capabilities to exercise its management and coordination of emergency response, first in a simulated scenario, and then in support of Honduras’s Independence Day parade.

Every year, COPECO supports this event by working with emergency management centers, police stations, fire departments and medical facilities. This time, the company will use ROGUE to capture and share geospatially-tagged data and pictures that will be sent from mobile devices to the command center at COPECO. This information will facilitate the decision-making process based on a clear view of the situation in the field.

Another key participant in this demonstration is Joint Task Force-Bravo, which will connect to the ROGUE server remotely to collaborate with COPECO during the response to a simulated stadium collapse in which, hypothetically, Honduran and American citizens become injured as a result of the accident.

Upon the completion of the program, ROGUE will be integrated with the existing Pacific Disaster Center’s map-based situational awareness platform and the U.S. Department of State’s Humanitarian Information Unit. This integration will allow governmental and non-governmental partners to plan, analyze and collaborate during foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations by using dynamic map data.