WASHINGTON: U.S. Army Fort Bliss is set to have the first Department of Emergency Services in the Army to deploy its emergency vehicles with Apple iPad devices integrated with its computer-aided dispatch software.
FB DES configured 45 devices, which included equipping 17 police and fire vehicles with Department of Defense Mobility Unclassified Capability iPads. These lightweight mobile devices will allow emergency services to track police and fire department vehicles and will allow officers to update the status and progress of incidents while on location – a capability they did not have until now.
“We originally started working this project with the former director who wanted a way to track our police vehicles using our computer-aided dispatch software,” said Sean Farrell, systems administrator, FB DES.
After ruling out several other options due to compatibility or space concerns, the department decided on iPads and reached out to the Defense Information Systems Agency’s DMUC program for assistance, Farrell said.
DISA is the lead for the Department of the DoD Mobility Program, which includes unclassified, secret and top secret mobile offerings. DMUC manages more than 95,000 mobile devices for the Army alone.
DISA is also the lead for DoD public safety communications, a topic which has gained high-level attention in recent months with the release of the DoD C3 Strategy in September.
“The DoD C3 Strategy turned public-safety communications into a command and control system and elevated it to a mission critical priority,” said Dr. James Travis, agency lead, DoD public safety communications. “This means in the future, PSC will not be tethered to a building anymore. This moves us forward to accomplishing the mission to protect the American people and the diverse community of personnel who live and work on our bases. These include soldiers, civilians, contractors and others.”
Despite inherent challenges with the project, the DMUC team was eager to support.
“When we were contacted with the unique requirements to support Fort Bliss police and firefighters we were honored, and ‘no’ was not an option,” said Al Smith, DMUC program manager.
Smith’s team met with Farrell in March and outlined a way forward. Because the iPads would not be assigned to specific users, DMUC set up the iPads as non-person entity devices.
FB DES needed to devise a policy that met requirements from the Department of the Army and implemented new device restrictions (e.g., settings, configuration, applications) to meet the Criminal Justice Information Services security policies. These then had to be approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“There were several wickets to check to get to the solution, and there was quite a bit of work we needed to do our end, but we were ready to execute with DISA by the August/September timeframe,” Farrell said.
By the end of October, the team had laid the groundwork and finalized configurations for the effort. They created a new Army FB DES space on DMUC servers, established FB DES Tier I Service Desk administrator access and provided real-time Tier I administrator training. With the technical integration process done, FB DES conducted its first train-the-trainer course for using the capability Nov. 12-13.
“This is an example of the Army and DISA collaborating to bring about capabilities that weren’t there before,” said Rick Walsh, program manager, Army Mobile. “My goal is to continue this kind of partnering and extend DISA services to a great number of users across the Army. The more we understand about the capabilities that DISA offers, the more we can share those services across the Army.”
This effort not only means additional capabilities for Fort Bliss, but serves as a use case for modernizing public safety communications, Travis said. “These types of efforts allow us to begin assessing how well this works and as we learn what is reliable, we’ll want to roll it out to the entire DoD,” Travis said.