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News > CPSD supports vital mission for NSA and Iceland
Björgvin Ingimarsson of the Iceland Coast Guard (foreground), troubleshoots issues with Cryptologic Systems Division members (from left to right) James McCarty, James Barnett and Ronald Garcia Jr., on critical communication security equipment at a remote Iceland site. The CPSD team was instrumental in getting the equipment back up and running after it had fallen into a state of disuse. (Photo courtesy of James McCarty)
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CPSD supports vital mission for NSA and Iceland

Posted 4/27/2012   Updated 4/27/2012 Email story   Print story


by Larry Kishur
Cryptologic Systems Division

4/27/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Responding to an urgent request from the National Security Agency, recently members of the Cryptologic Systems Division's Engineering Branch headed to Iceland to rapidly reestablish vital secure communications capabilities for the entire country.

Last December, NSA sought CPSD's expertise as part of their plan to resurrect equipment used in conjunction with the Identification Friend or Foe, or IFF, mode 4 system, which had been abandoned for more than three years in Iceland's hostile weather environment. CPSD was asked to quickly establish and execute a plan to make a critical communication security capability fully operational by March, to permit its use during NATO exercises later in the month.

Shortly thereafter, James McCarty, an electronics engineer in the unit's Information Assurance Technical Assistance Center, pulled together and led a team of four CPSD engineers, an NSA program manager and three Icelandic Coast Guard members into arctic-like conditions to perform the essential site surveys.

Overcoming the hardships associated with winter in that remote part of the world, McCarty and his team were able to accomplish the first stage of their mission in less than two weeks. They were able to determine that even after being neglected for more than three years, 90 percent of the equipment was still capable of being returned to operational status.

After compiling the data from their site surveys, the team returned to Texas to develop and fine tune their plan to get the system back "online."

In mid-February, McCarty and six Iceland Coast Guard technicians began executing the second part of the mission to restore all the equipment to normal operations.

As expected, weather continued to be a challenge, and at times forced McCarty to call in snow plows to clear the extremely remote access roads for his teams. Additionally, equipment failures since the original site surveys exacerbated the situation.
At times, weather conditions allowed only a three-hour window to work on the equipment. Because of strict prior transportation arrangements, had the team not completed their tasks within that window, they would have had to spend additional days at that location.

Despite the myriad challenges, the team was able to meet the deadline and had the system fully operational by March 1.  

"This is great to have up!" said Icelandic Coast Guard Radar Director Jon Guðnason. "We have been trying for three years to get the CI-13 up and working. This will be a great time-saving tool in supporting day-to-day operations."

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