Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Alex Beehler doesn't need proof of threats to military and government installations. He is reminded every day. His office sits next to the point of impact where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the western side of the Pentagon nearly 18 years ago during the 9/11 attacks. As the variety and complexity of threats continue to increase, security at U.S. military installations has taken increased importance in the years since 9/11.
While defending against attacks to U.S. installations has always been a priority for the Defense Department, information technology and the possibility of lethal attacks before major conflicts has made military posts more vulnerable than ever before.
"The homeland is no longer a sanctuary," said Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for strategic integration. "We've been treating our military installations as if they were sanctuary cities for a very long time, immune from the effects of the adversary. That is no longer the appropriate assumption." The Army plans to use smart technology to help defend against the increasing complexity of these security threats. Beehler said the Army needs to build a "technology-enabled" force by 2028. Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, assistant chief of staff for installation management, said that has been in discussions for the past 18 months to bring 5G wireless connectivity to all of its installations.
Army installations serve an important function as the strategic support area, which is part of the service's multi-domain concept. The strategic support area features frequent communication between commanders and support agencies as well as housing crucial warfighting components such as cyber, command and control.
"Installations are really part of the battle front," Beehler said. "One of the things that you need to be concerned about: what happens when the grid goes down and there's no power on military bases or in the surrounding communities, which service the military bases?"
The Army is currently exploring 10 technologies to innovate installations, including automated assessments of systems with limited manpower and monitoring utilities for anomalies in energy consumption. The service is also looking to track fault detection, install smart thermostats, and create autonomous vehicles. The Army will explore frictionless entry, allowing secure and efficient installation access. Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers is looking at using its Virtual Test Bed Installation, which involves artificial intelligence that will analyze data of a military installation's facilities.
The possibility of threats to its installations further increases the importance of the Army's current modernization efforts. At-risk infrastructure can undermine a base's operational ability to act. The Army could explore building the capability to counter enemy attacks against utility and infrastructure control systems. Bingham said the service could develop the means to counter against kinetic surveillance and then attack the enemy using drones and using remotely-operated sensors.