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News | April 28, 2020

Army space capability contributes to National Guard’s pandemic fight

By Ronald Bailey U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

One might not associate an Army space capability and its developers as a key asset supporting the National Guard’s nationwide fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but that is exactly what is occurring right now. This capability has a distinctive name, too: DAART.

The Domestic Operations Awareness and Assessment Response Tool, or DAART, a capability the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Space and Missile Defense Center of Excellence collaboratively built for the National Guard nearly a decade ago, is doing just that.

Based on requirements from the National Guard Bureau, the SMDCoE, then known as the Future Warfare Center, developed a web-based, free-to-use geospatial intelligence capability designed to improve operational situational awareness for both civic and military leaders and provided to all state and territory guard forces. 

“Although originally designed for more traditional National Guard operations such as hurricanes, wildfires and counter-drug missions, it is also working very well right now supporting the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the president’s ‘whole-of-government approach,’” Curtis Miller, USASMDC DAART Sustainment Team lead, said.

DAART provides the National Guard the ability to harness technology at the most local level. These capabilities reinforce the Guard's commitment to their communities during times of crisis or special interest, such as with the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides situational awareness to the guardsman at street level along with the sheriff's deputy or other first responders and allows them to view or upload photos, maps, video and other information to command centers utilizing simple and already available equipment, such as smartphones.

It has become a primary information sharing system between the National Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, as well as many state and local emergency managers. It is also leveraged by U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command for situational awareness of national level events. 

Miller said DAART’s simplicity, portability and universal connectivity are precisely what makes the tool desirable to develop a common operating picture among the myriad of agencies involved.

“The goal was to develop a tool that could work across the Department of Defense and the local first responders to share information back and forth,” Miller said. “One of the primary benefits of the system is that it is unclassified so it can be shared with non-DOD entities, even permitting for the handling of for official use only information on a user-by-user basis when vetted by the proper authority.”

Ever evolving, DAART has been through several modifications over the last several years upgrading its software with additional functionality in response to Guard requirements, but a timely decision by the National Guard Bureau to operate the system on a secure, commercial cloud service has greatly enhanced the capability to support a many fold increase in users on the system going from a couple of cells with a few dozen active users to hundreds of active users in many locations across the country simultaneously. This implementation came just ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the declaration of the national emergency by the president, the DAART support team is working to sustain the capability, supporting existing and new customers with account setup and training, and assisting with integration of Guard forces with their interagency partners. 

In the first 40 days since the declaration, DAART has largely been used for COVID-19 support with some, 3,100 active users signing in more than 48,000 times in support of 323 different events. In that same time period those users have uploaded 1,520 new images, 9,520 new documents, and 129 video clips for command-centers to process and use. 

The DAART Sustainment Team has not only provided technical support to the Guard’s existing users and cells, but has created and provided accounts and training for 2,023 new users in that short time period.

The development team is currently collaborating with industry and government partners to identify new information sources or applications that can provide improved understanding of the response efforts and, most recently, automated means to track the requirements and status of various classes of relief resources.