Report | July 1, 2013

Improved Oversight of Communications Capabilities Preparedness Needed for Domestic Emergencies


What We Did

Our objective was to determine whether DoD communications equipment was available, maintained, staffed, and ready for use to ensure interoperability during a domestic emergency. National Guard (NG) personnel are the military first responders for most domestic emergencies. The National Guard Bureau (NGB) fielded 97 Joint Incident Site Communications Capability systems (JISCCs) to NG units across 54 states, territories, and Washington, D.C. (locations) to address the lack of interoperable communications capabilities identified after the September 11th terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina. NG units used the JISCC to communicate with first responders and Federal and state agencies through high-frequency radio, telephone, video, and satellite.  

What We Found

NGB officials did not always ensure that interoperable communications equipment was available, maintained, staffed, or ready for use during a domestic emergency. Specifically, NGB officials fielded JISCCs, but did not always ensure that NG units:

  • processed 44 (27.0 percent) of 163 Trouble Reports active more than 30 days from November 2011 through September 2012 (average delay: 78.3 days) in a timely manner;
  • prepared 5 JISCCs for scheduled information assurance assessments between June and September 2012;
  • sent a sufficient number of JISCC operators to NGB-authorized JISCC training in 35 (64.8 percent) of 54 locations, of which 12 (22.2 percent) locations sent no operators since the course inception in July 2008; or
  • completely and accurately reported critical elements of JISCC readiness, including underreporting the length of JISCC outages in at least 32 instances.

These conditions occurred because NGB officials did not have adequate oversight procedures in place to monitor sustainment of JISCCs provided to NG units. As a result, DoD may experience reduced communications when coordinating with Federal, state, and local first responders during future domestic emergencies, which may adversely affect rescue and relief efforts and increase the risk of physical and economic damages and human casualties.

What We Recommend

Among other recommendations, we recommend that the Chief, National Guard Bureau, establish oversight procedures, including performance metrics, to verify that National Guard units resolve repair and troubleshooting actions for the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability system in a timely manner.

Management Comments and Our Response

The Director, NG-J6/Chief Information Officer, National Guard Bureau, responded on behalf of the Chief, National Guard Bureau and agreed with the recommendations. Comments were responsive.