From February 12 to 14, a team from U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) facilitated a Counter-Illicit Trafficking Operation Center Interoperability (CITOCI) Regional Workshop in El Salvador.
This annual event is a professional exchange of ideas and best practices for improving the efficiency and success of regional Counter-Illicit Trafficking efforts with an emphasis in multinational interoperability.
Workshop attendees were mainly the operators of the Cooperating Nations Information Exchange System (CNIES), a real-time information sharing tool designed to allow collaboration in countering illicit trafficking.
The operators participating in the event were from Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. There were also representatives from the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Maritime Operations Center, and SOUTHCOM’s Communications, Plans and Programs; and Science, Technology and Experimentation divisions.
Since 1999, the U.S. and countries in the Caribbean and Central America have been using CNIES to support regional counter-illicit trafficking operations. However, with the rapid evolution of information sharing technologies and in response to U.S. partner nations’ requests for improved domain awareness capability, SOUTHCOM has led a series of initiatives intended to develop the next generation of information sharing systems for this purpose.
Beginning in 2005 with the Regional Airspace Initiative Latin America studies, which assessed military and civilian domain awareness capabilities, and culminating in 2011 with the Virtual Integrated Domain Awareness experiment, the concept evolved from that of a “brick and mortar” facility to a “virtual” internet based, multi-domain information sharing capability: the Cooperative Situational Information Integration (CSII) system. Information sharing for counter-illicit trafficking operations currently supported by CNIES is slowly transitioning to the new, more capable, internet-based CSII platform. The complete transition is scheduled for 2014.
The CSII system integrates sensor information from participating countries into a regional, internet-based, unclassified information sharing system. It hopes to increase battlespace awareness and improve partner nation capacity in multiple mission areas, including counter-illicit trafficking, combating transnational organized crime, foreign humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and search and rescue. It aims to break down domain awareness stovepipes through the lateral and vertical integration of air tracks, maritime tracks, and land-based geo-spatial information into a single network.
In preparation for the transition to CSII, in the last two days of the CITOCI Regional Workshop, CNIES operators participated in a live demonstration of CSII. The demonstration, facilitated by SOUTHCOM’s Science, Technology and Experimentation division, and SRI (the system developer), included a brief tour of the web-based system, demonstration of key features and capabilities, and hands-on familiarization for each operator. Data sources available for the demonstration included live feeds from the Tethered Aerostat Radar System and the Maritime Safety and Security Information System, as well as manually-entered tracks.
Some of the features and capabilities demonstrated included track management (viewing tracks and position details, track history, vector projection, and threat levels), track sharing, geospatial rule management, alert management, geographic event creation, manual track creation and management, visual filtering, user preference configuration, user views and bookmarks, chat, and information sharing policy management, including both coarse and fine-grained entitlements.
With the exception of local internet connectivity challenges, CSII was successfully accessed from a wide range of commercial laptops, tablets, and netbooks. The system’s data and applications ran smoothly on all platforms. The platforms utilized a variety of Internet browsers, demonstrating a broad range of front-end compatibility.
At the conclusion of the workshop, participants were given the opportunity to provide feedback and encouraged to share their concerns, recommendations and general observations regarding operational employment of CSII and any potential mission impact the new system might have. User feedback was generally positive, and most importantly, it included operationally relevant recommendations to modify features and functions that will undoubtedly enhance CSII technical capability and operational utility.