WASHINGTON — National Guardsmen may soon be able to use their personal electronic devices for official functions during domestic deployments to help fill a resources gap and reduce mobilization time, according to the service’s chief information officer.
Speaking during a C4ISRNET webcast, Kenneth McNeill said an initiative called “Bring Your Own Approved Device” would allow guardsmen to use personal mobile equipment to perform the same functions in the field that they would otherwise carry out at a desktop in their offices.
“In a typical state, all of our guardsmen, unfortunately, they may not have government-furnished devices — mobile cellphones, iPads,” McNeill said. “It cuts down on time when we’re planning for a mobilization.”
The initiative, which is a collaboration with the Department of the Army and the Pentagon’s cybersecurity office, is in its third phase of a pilot program consisting of a yearlong trial with the largest sample size to date. After this trial, if deemed successful, the initiative will be enacted, McNeill said.
Work began on the initiative before the pandemic, which drove a transition to remote work. The realities of the situation forced the Guard to accelerate its efforts.
“This is another tool in the toolkit that will give us an opportunity to allow our workforce, even after the pandemic, to continue to telework and [perform] remote work that is critical in the National Guard,” McNeill said. “I don’t think we’re going back [to] everyone in the office. I think this is the future of how we’re going to operate here in the government and in the Department of Defense.”
While deployed to the streets of Washington, D.C., following the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol, the National Guard employed a similar capability called Commercial Virtual Remote to carry out the mission that was limited in scope and time.
“Now we will have a capability that really links our force, even before they are called up for deployment,” he said. “This will be a game-changer.”
McNeill also discussed an addition to the Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept being implemented by the DoD that would focus on the needs of the National Guard’s mission set. Called “Project Homeland,” the initiative would apply the same capabilities of JADC2 to the domestic front.
JADC2 is a project by the Department of Defense to connect all the sensors from the individual services and compile data collected into a single information network. Previously, each service had their own tactical networks that were unable to interface with each other.
“JADC2 is a warfighting necessity to keep pace with the volume and complexity of data in modern warfare and to defeat adversaries decisively,” the department said in a statement. “JADC2 enables the Joint Force to ‘sense,’ ‘make sense,’ and ‘act’ on information across the battle-space quickly using automation, artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics, and machine learning to deliver informed solutions via a resilient and robust network environment.”
Project Homeland would apply those same capabilities during domestic deployments across the 54 states and territories National Guard units and their civilian interagency partners as opposed to the military services and their coalition forces.
McNeill spoke to the challenges the National Guard faced during their humanitarian relief operations post Hurricane Katrina. On the ground, the Guard was unable to talk with the local first responders because they did not have cross-banding communication systems.
“We learned from that experience that we’ve got to think out of the box,” McNeill said. “We’ve got to look at capabilities that can talk to first responders and focus on what we do in the homeland.”
Ryan White is a reporting intern at Sightline Media. He is currently a senior at The University of Maryland, College Park studying journalism.