Expert Q&A: Scott Penland Discusses the Shared Early Warning System and Its Impacts for the United States and Its Partners
Scott Penland is a program operations manager with the Tetra Tech Federal IT Group supporting the Department of Defense (DoD) and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). He has more than 25 years of experience in command and control (C2) systems, secure interoperability, cybersecurity, and partner nation engagements supporting U.S combatant commands and national policies.
Scott spent 21 years in the U.S. Navy as a helicopter pilot; Afghanistan-Pakistan strategic advisor; and command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems integrator. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Northwestern University, a Master of Business Administration from Saint Leo University, and a certification as a Project Management Professional.
What is a Shared Early Warning System (SEWS), and how does it support the United States and its partners?
SEWS provides reliable, accurate warning information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year to save lives and protect critical infrastructure from ballistic missile attacks. Due to the nature of the mission, SEWS must provide exceptional reliability to detect and warn U.S. and partner nations against pending attacks.
SEWS operates by combining multiple systems—Theater Event System, Tactical Receive Suite radios, Radiant Mercury (RM), and Global Command and Control System - Joint (GCCS-J) tactical displays—to detect, process, and disseminate critical missile warning information to U.S. and partner stakeholders. To ensure performance and protect information at appropriate levels, the system uses communications security devices and robust cybersecurity practices, including Risk Management Framework (RMF) compliance. SEWS is a complex integrated C4I system designed to operate around the clock to provide critical warning of attacks.
What are the major challenges with SEWS?
SEWS involves multiple systems with varying timelines that need to be managed and integrated to provide consistent, high-level availability with absolute minimal downtime. Each of the components has their own upgrade and modernization schedules that must be closely coordinated with system upgrades at U.S. and partner nation sites across the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), and CENTCOM.
Cybersecurity and protection of U.S. Classified Military Information processed in SEWS is a constant focus of the overall program to ensure threats to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of critical data are recognized and mitigated to the maximum extent possible. As technology and threats continue to evolve, SEWS must be able to adapt and react to counter new threats from advanced missile technology to increasingly complex cyberattacks.
How is Tetra Tech supporting C4I initiatives within the DoD?
Tetra Tech currently supports C4I systems at the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), CENTCOM, and EUCOM. We also provide information technology infrastructure support, such as network provisioning and implementing a demilitarized zone environment, at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which facilitates secure communications and information sharing between DoD organizations and non-DoD mission partners. Our team examines and reviews information exchange requirements from a user perspective and helps develop technical solutions that meet requirements while complying with applicable U.S. policies and regulations.
Tetra Tech also provides cybersecurity solutions within the DoD and civilian sectors by capitalizing on our knowledge and expertise to protect systems from vulnerabilities and cyberattacks. Our approach combines technical expertise, operational knowledge, customer intimacy, and understanding of the operational environment to provide optimized solutions to the DoD.
How can Tetra Tech support complex systems with multiple stakeholders like SEWS?
Tetra Tech provides an integrated solution and proven capabilities supporting complex systems with touch points including combatant commands, U.S. users, and foreign partners. Our extensive Foreign Military Sales experience and knowledge of EUCOM, INDOPACOM, and CENTCOM areas of responsibility provides a global network of knowledge workers. We leverage our strong C4I systems knowledge gained in a high operational tempo environment to provide holistic technical and operational support. Additionally, we are very involved with national-level policy discussions on information sharing and air and missile defense preparations for our partners.
Tetra Tech currently supports GCCS-J operational users at CENTCOM, and our understanding of GCCS-J as the display for missile warning increases our operational and technical system expertise to effectively share missile warning information with our partners across classified domains. Our global team regularly participates in partner national missile defense meetings and engagements and possesses an extensive and thorough knowledge in training and the export of classified technical information to appropriate foreign partners.
Through our work at CENTCOM, DISA, and the civilian sector, Tetra Tech has a thorough understanding of cybersecurity requirements and the RMF to protect and safeguard SEWS information.