New Hughes Defense Team Member Brings Firsthand Emergency Response Experience

Government Solutions

The 2021 Hurricane season officially began on June 1st. This year, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a 60% chance of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. That means the Department of Defense (DoD) and civilian agencies need to prepare to respond to 13 to 20 named storms within the next five months. This is no simple task. In disaster response, there are often multiple teams coming from different federal, state, and local organizations.

“In domestic national response scenarios, it’s challenging for disparate U.S. organizations to communicate with each other since they have their own technologies and systems,” said Dan Williams, Hughes Defense new senior director of Business Development. And he should know. Mr. Williams is one of few experts in the country with a rare combination of concurrent private sector and military experience. Along with his professional communications systems engineering experience, he served as a Colonel in the Army and then as a long-term member of the National Guard. At one point, Mr. Williams supported the National Guard for 50% of his time, while devoting the other 50% to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) emergency operations communications.

During his deployments, including for Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, he experienced firsthand how critical it is for disparate systems to be interoperable. During Katrina, Mr. Williams noted, 48 states participated, with personnel from DoD, federal agencies, and multiple state police organizations. Even active-duty members of the 82nd Airborne were deployed. In these scenarios, the DoD plays a support role to civil agencies.

“The challenge is when the DoD’s equipment is different from other agencies’, none of which speak to the equipment local municipalities have. Because states have their own budgets, their choices have nothing to do with the DoD systems and may or may not interoperate with them.” Of course, hurricanes aren’t the only type of emergency requiring a national response from DoD. Teams can be mobilized for wildfires, floods, earthquakes, or even incidents along the southern border – all of which are difficult to plan for in advance.

So, what’s the solution for DoD to communicate during unpredictable yet urgent circumstances? Mr. Williams said commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) service, like Hughes SatCell Connect, can be deployed quickly to create a reliable and interoperable system to connect DoD first responders to all other teams, even in the most remote environments or in situations where power is out and cell service is down. These communications capabilities enable military leaders to send important data from critical risk assessments and make decisions on where and when to deploy people, resources, transportation, and equipment to support a coordinated effort and save lives.

“Hughes brings the capability to any location or incident, or situation requiring SATCOM backhaul. In doing so, Hughes absorbs the challenges and costs that DoD would otherwise have to manage – everything from operations to logistics to device maintenance,” he said.

While the private sector uses SATCOM service agreements that are specific and long term, defense agencies need contracts and services to be more flexible so they can establish a communications network rapidly, for shorter periods of time.

“It’s analogous to a car rental service, where you pick the size, style and type you want when you arrive at a location. Do you need a van, a 2-seater or a truck? SATCOM is similar in that regard. Customers provide us with a few data points; we determine if they need a big pipe, little pipe, or transportable pipe. The contracts are more transactional in nature.”

Mr. Williams’ unique expertise and insights on emergency response operations are a perfect complement to Hughes offerings.

“I’m excited to be a part of Hughes, and to help customers make good decisions about the best value for their agency and the nation.”