NGAUS 2015: National Guard Leaders Meet to Learn and Confer

October 1, 2015  - By


Three weeks ago I attended the National Guard Association of the United States Conference (NGAUS 2015) in Nashville, Tenn. Few people understand that — unlike the U.S. Army and Air Force, which are under direct federal control — each state has its own National Guard organization under the control of the individual state governors. They serve as the state’s local militia responding to disasters and civil unrest as directed by the governor.

The National Guard is also part of the reserve components of the United States Armed Forces, and in that capacity many National Guard units have been called up to serve in overseas operations alongside their active duty counterparts such as in the Mideast. This dual control leads to countless discussions regarding Title 10 or Title 32 funding and jurisdiction.

Additionally, the National Guard is administered by the National Guard Bureau (NGB), which is the communications channel between the states and the departments of the Army and the Air Force. NGB is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is a joint activity of the Army and Air Force. NGB provides policies, training requirements and, most important, funds for the state units. This makes the NGAUS annual conference much more than a social gathering. It’s an opportunity for the leadership of each state to learn and coordinate, to view new technology and share best practices. It’s also an opportunity to provide official feedback to NGB regarding policies and all-important funding.

Behind-the-Scenes History. A panel discussion I found especially fascinating was the Joint Domestic Operations session. One of the speakers was the former chief of the NGB, retired Lt. General H. Stephen Blum. General Blum was the NGB chief during Katrina, and shared some behind-the-scenes discussions he had with President Bush as Katrina unfolded. We now know that the New Orleans mayor delayed giving the order to evacuate the city, resulting in thousands stranded and hundreds dead. You may remember the photo of more than 100 school buses that went unused and ultimately flooded and unusable. The governor also delayed the order to evacuate, and the request for outside help from other National Guard units and the federal government.

Anxious about the growing disaster, president Bush’s cabinet was pushing him to federalize the National Guard and take charge of the situation. However, General Blum was the single voice against federalization, telling the president that if you seize charge now you will “own the whole problem forever.” Fortunately, the call for help soon came from the Louisiana Governor, and military and National Guard action was almost immediate. General Blum was able to proudly draw the president’s attention to the TV news feed showing the military in action with the under caption “The Cavalry arrives!”

Conference Exhibitors. The NGAUS conference is held in a different state each year. Last year it was in Chicago, and next year it will be in Baltimore. Although this is not a geospatial-centered event, a number of exhibitors and sessions involved geospatial topics, with the following being good examples. I was able to shoot video clips of some of the exhibitors, since seeing technology in action is always more informative than just writing about it.

Esri. For years Esri ArcGIS has been the most common GIS platform used by most states. Several years ago, MajGen William Reddel, Adjutant General of New Hampshire, arranged to consolidate dozens of ArcGIS licenses to one enterprise license for all National Guard units. This greatly simplified GIS software procurement and saved taxpayers thousands.

ForeFlight. For years you may have seen pilots dragging large document cases through the airport. These contained countless paper maps, charts and documents required for the safe navigation of aircraft. Finally, after years of work and the incorporation of digital content that many of you created, the FAA has approved electronic flight bags. See what they look like in this video.

ForceX. ForceX and Z Microsystems have numerous tools to register and incorporate full-motion video and imagery into geospatial environments. See their technology in this video.

Rapid Composites. Rapid Composites builds high-end UAVs for the military and first responders.

As a UAV user myself (DJI Inspire 1), I’m especially interested in the proposed UAV impact tests that will be conducted by the FAA starting in October. Currently, the FAA authorizes the commercial use of drones up to 55 pounds in non-restricted airspace. However, there is a growing concern that a “Sully on the Hudson” incident could severely curtail drone use. The Mississippi State-led Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) will be doing such testing in conjunction with the FAA. ASSURE will test the effect of UAV impact on aircraft windshields, control surfaces and engines.

Knowledge Center. The Knowledge Center has an overarching system that manages assets and personnel for first responders. See their system in operation.

Other exhibitors included Soft Power Solutions LLC, which displayed a geospatial-based personnel and asset management system, and Ball Aerospace, which showed off its new compact real-time 3D collection system that I previously wrote about. The new system has been redesigned to be under 12 pounds and suitable as a payload for many military UAVs.

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About the Author: Art Kalinski

A career Naval Officer, Art Kalinski established the Navy’s first geographic information system (GIS) in the mid-1980s. Completing a post-graduate degree in GIS at the University of North Carolina, he was the Atlanta Regional Commission GIS Manager from 1993 to 2007. He pioneered the use of oblique imagery for public safety and participated in numerous disaster-response actions including GIS/imagery support of the National Guard during Hurricane Katrina; the Urban Area Security Initiative; a NIMS-based field exercise in Atlanta; and a fully manned hardware-equipped joint disaster response exercise in New York City. Kalinski retired early from ARC to join Pictometry International to direct military projects using oblique imagery, which led to him joining SPGlobal Inc. He has written articles for numerous geospatial publications, and authors a monthly column for the GeoIntelligence Insider e-newsletter aimed at federal GIS users.