WASHINGTON — The Association of the United States Army's annual convention (AUSA) over the past severalin recent years has had a large focus on how to fight and win in a complex world and on what the Army is doing outside of the United States, a logical direction considering the myriad of constantly growing threats around the globe.
But this time the Army association is turning its attention stateside and seeking to emphasize the service's major role in homeland security and its relationship with the Department of Homeland Security.
Last year, AUSA held one panel featuring DHS, and the department had a presence on the showroom floor, but the focus has grown exponentially this year with four panels on homeland and border security. DHS' pavilion this year is 23 percent bigger also grown by 23 percent in size, adding new organizations to the mix. Several companies have asked to display their security-related wares near the DHS pavilion.
"While some people would say, 'What is DHS doing at an Army show?' I think the answer is it's a natural fit when it comes to protecting Americans from a variety of threats, ranging from cyber to terrorist attacks. The US Army, all components — active, Guard and Reserve — play a role," Lt. Gen. Roger Thompson (ret.), AUSA's membership and meetings vice president, told Defense News.
And Army Lt. Gen. Guy Swan (ret.), AUSA's vice president in charge of education, said: "We need to show this side of the Army that is normally not recognized." For Swan, it's a natural focus to showcase the Army's relationship with DHS. He was commanding general for the US Army Military District of Washington and commander of US Army North prior to his retirement.
Some "take for granted what the National Guard does at home," he said. "What we do to support [the Federal Emergency Management Agency], the interaction of the border patrol and border security."
Four separate panels at the show will address this relationship Tuesday and Wednesday and feature topics like the Army and DHS's partnership, the interagency effort in border security, countering violent extremist threats to the Army and Defense Department personnel and facilities, and a look at the importance of Mexico to homeland security.
Speakers at these panels include Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Army North's Commander Lt. Gen. Perry Wiggins, Army National Guard's bureau chief Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, Army reserve chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, FEMA Deputy Administrator Joseph Nimmich, FEMA's deputy administrator, Deputy Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan and Texas' Adjutant General Maj. Gen. John Nichols.
Another objective for the AUSA organizers this year was "to inspire companies that have maybe never been to our annual meeting before to come and learn about DHS and the business opportunities to support them with the best products and services and at the same time, to a certain degree, inform those employees at DHS ... about what the art of the possible is in technology, procedures, services and materiel," Thompson said.
Six companies — Combat Action, Drip Drop, ForeScout Technologies, Gaff Tech, Indiana Tech and Profense — specifically requested to have booths near the be located in immediate proximity of the homeland security pavilion because they want to demonstrate their relationships with and interest in supporting DHS. The number of companies with that relationship has doubled from last year, Thompson said.
But there aren't just six companies interested in interacting with DHS at AUSA, Thompson said. "There is a wide range of companies from very large to small businesses" that will reach out to homeland security entities this week.
AUSA waived the membership requirement for interested nonmember organizations that wished to display solutions particularly tied to homeland security from aviation, maritime, mass transit, and critical infrastructure security to cyber and border security to counter-threat intelligence, public safety and emergency response.
Raytheon will showcase some of its homeland security-related efforts at the show from training solutions that "are well-suited" for the homeland security mission and its border security solutions to Jordan along with other border security efforts in southeast Asia and eastern Europe, according to Raytheon spokesman Jason Kello.
The company will also feature a pair of tethered aerostats, or airships — the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, that's currently watching over the area from Boston to Norfolk, Virginia, in dual missions: cruise missile detection and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. JLENS can now be seen in the skies above Baltimore. It's connected to the North American Aerospace Defense Command's architecture and will begin its operational evaluation later this month, according to Raytheon spokeswoman Keri Connors.
Also at AUSA, Logos Technologies will highlight a new contract with the Brazilian Ministry of Justice to provide Simera, a new exportable, wide-area sensor, for airborne security at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, according to a company statement. The technology is based on the Kestrel system used at US forward operating bases in Afghanistan since 2011.
Thales, a big player in security technology, touted, just prior to AUSA, its contract to provide surveillance and security to Mexico City using a global sensor-based surveillance system and command and control capability. Mexico City itself has said it has helped reduce crime by 30 percent, according to Thales USA's CEO Alan Pellegrini. Thales also provides physical security systems for places like airports and oil and gas outfits, as well as cybersecurity offerings.
An interest in strengthening homeland security is also apparent in the recently passed fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. Congress wants to invest in expediting the planning and design for a possible East Coast missile defense site. And a law in the NDAA would require the Missile Defense Agency to deploy, no later than the end of 2020, a long-range discrimination radar or other sensor to support homeland defense based on emerging long-range ballistic missile threats from Iran.
Congress also seeks to re-establish a commission to assess the threat to the US from an electromagnetic pulse attack and provides the Pentagon authority to help secure the southern US border.
"There is no question that DoD and the National Guard are playing an increasingly visible role in the homeland security and disaster activities," one defense industry analyst told Defense News. And the services and the National Guard are keenly aware of the need to display that they are useful and critical to the mission in order to drive desired funding levels.