Whether an emergency is occurring in a Fortune 500 company or a military base, the need for integrated communication is critical. Unfortunately, the volume and complexity of emergency incidents have increased risk for employees.
With well over a half-million 9-1-1 calls a day, the volume of usable data is monumental. Yet, public and private emergency response teams rarely have access to it when they need it most.
To eliminate information silos between security teams and first responders, minimize response times, maximize the number of lives saved, emergency information sharing startup, SimpleSense, created a conduit for streamlined communication.
Recently, Ron joined the SimpleSense team as their Senior Defense Analyst. He is a seasoned military security and tactical expert who, while serving in the U.S. Air Force, developed and managed a $30 million security system for the Pacific Air Forces, helmed 13 overseas security projects, and helped integrate over $1 billion in emerging security technology to protect U.S. assets and infrastructure at one of the largest air hubs in Iraq.
To learn more about his role at SimpleSense and the present condition of security in U.S. military bases, we sat down with Ron for a Q&A.
SimpleSense: What are the risks of antiquated technology on military bases?
Ron Gray: The risks are to the critical assets you are trying to protect. By and large, it’s people: mission partners, dependents, contractors, etc.
The threat landscape is always evolving, and the enemy’s creativity to target our vulnerabilities never stops. From criminal threat actors to insider threats (active shooters, theft of information), outdated technology contributes to our defense’s weakness when in fact, it should be detecting, delaying, and denying threats—and perhaps even destroying them when required.
SS: What is your experience with integrating technology to minimize risk on military bases?
RG: I was on temporary duty travel (TDY) to Korea to exercise Foal Eagle in 1994, where one of our sector objectives was to test and evaluate the Tactical Automated Security System developed at Hanscom Air Force Base. This base perimeter security system integrated various sensor types (e.g., passive infrared sensory, Break Beam, ground, seismic, etc.) that sent data to a laptop in the sector Command Post.
Through user interviews, we helped shape future Air Force requirements so that programmers from Hanscom were able to “auto-slew,” or change the directions of thermal closed-circuit television cameras to the sensor alert in one to two seconds. This upgrade helped with positive identification and enhanced situational awareness.
In 1996, after the Khobar Towers attack, the Air Force funded $30 million for installation throughout the United States Central Command Area of Responsibility (CENTCOM AOR).
In 2008 and 2009, at the Joint Base Balad, I served as the Director of Operations (A3) for the standup of the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group, which consisted of roughly 1500 Security Forces (SF) members, including Ugandan contractors, where we integrated $1 billion in technology into a battlefield “swarm.”
As a baseline, we used my 2006 Naval Postgraduate School master’s thesis to “See First, Understand First, Act First.” We reduced human-in-the-loop, or human interaction and response, for Indirect Fire Attacks from minutes to seconds through an airborne platform integration with both air (Predators, F-16s, Apaches & Kiowas) and ground radars, sensors, and operations centers.
SS: Can you tell me the difference in risk management when it comes to bases overseas and in the states?
RG: Depending on the country and their military/civilian police force’s capability to protect and defend bases, missions and personnel determine how serious your risks will be. Expeditionary environments can involve a more dedicated, highly-trained enemy whose tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) change daily, which also means the threat levels are higher in those regions. The physical security threats in the contiguous U.S. are fairly benign, besides the unpredictable acts like Active Shooter and random criminal elements.
SS: In your experience assessing risk, what are the most common issues you’ve seen across both the public and private sectors?
Looking at Risk with the three basic components of Assets-Threats-Vulnerabilities, in lieu of a viable, dedicated Threat, Commanders or leaders of organizations often fall back to the vulnerabilities to steer the discussion with regard to integrated defense, yet rarely are decisions made or implemented to counter the threats or lessen the vulnerabilities. Many times, training the base populace on Active Shooter or Insider threat TTPs, where every second counts, is lacking. These immediate personal protective measures and actions can save lives.
Additionally, base exercise scenarios are rarely taken all the way to recovery, which means they do not fully stress the exercise machine to see what’s broken and how to fix it. “We’re too busy,” is an excuse I hear quite often, or “We can’t conduct this type of exercise because of city constraints” or that “larger tenant organizations will be impacted.”
SS: How do you think communication needs to improve during emergencies?
RG: First and foremost, communication must be accurate. After that, it is a foot race to get information to the initial responders and key leaders who may be directly involved in incident command and control.
SS: How did you learn about SimpleSense?
RG: I learned about SimpleSense from Jim Damato, retired Lt Col, US Air Force. We worked together at Bagram Air Base in the Spring of 2009. I developed the base defense plan for the USAF, which included validating Security Forces manpower requirements. At the same time, Jim worked the legal processes and procedures with the U.S. Army for transition of authority of Bagram Airfield to the U.S. Air Force.
SS: What excites you most about the possibility of SimpleSense technology being used on Military bases?
RG: Seeing the reactions by the first responders and controllers during incidents. I think this technology is a game-changer and can reinvigorate our security posture throughout the Department of Defense and improve collaboration with our off base counterparts (security, fire and medical).
SS: How do you see the technology evolving in the next ten years?
RG: Refer to the movie Minority Report with Tom Cruise: predictive analysis, near real-time information processing, and patrol dispatching with overhead airborne platforms providing communications, video feeds, and strike capability (albeit different in the Continental United States) —much like we do today in certain regions of the world.
SS: Why is it critical to implement this technology now?
RG: You are at the cutting edge of requirements: You get to shape the system with your stories, and you can impact what this technology looks like now and how it affects the Air Force and DoD into the future… you can’t do that sitting on the bench watching.
SS: What are the barriers to implementation?
Politics, functional area stovepipes, boss’s agenda’s changing, or poorly communicated and staffed contract awards without functional area knowledge. Ask yourself: Where does this tech capability fit or ‘nest’ with our current strategic plan or five-year plan? SimpleSense is a critical building block to make our installations safer!
Welcome to SimpleSense
We’re excited and honored to have Ron onboard. His experience and contextual knowledge are invaluable. With Ron’s help, SimpleSense will streamline the communication between first responders and AF Security Forces to ensure our most precious asset is protected: people.
SimpleSense is actively seeking early adopters and strategic partners. If you’re interested in learning more about how we’re digitizing and streamlining communication between emergency service teams, book a time to learn more about our technology.