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05 18 2021

NATO Agency keeps Allies connected for Exercise Steadfast Defender

The NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) is supporting thousands of Allies during Exercise Steadfast Defender, which kicked off earlier this month.

Steadfast Defender 2021 is a readiness exercise used to test NATO's ability to rapidly deploy large numbers of troops, equipment and supplies across the Atlantic and Europe.

NATO Agency keeps Allies connected for Exercise Steadfast Defender

This NATO defence exercise brings together more than 9,000 military and civilian personnel, from more than 20 Allied Nations and partnered countries.

NCI Agency experts have been instrumental in helping to connect the new command structures being tested in this year's exercise.

Major Keith Lambert, US Army, is leading the NCI Agency's support to the exercise.

"Exercise Steadfast Defender is truly massive in scope. It provides us with a real chance to practice interoperability on a large scale and a much higher complexity than is typical of many of the other exercises we provide services for," said Major Lambert.

Steadfast Defender 2021 will be the first large-scale test of NATO's adapted Command Structure, with the involvement of two new NATO commands – Joint Support and Enabling Command based in Ulm, Germany and Joint Force Command Norfolk, based in the United States.

The Agency's Communications and Information Systems Support Unit (CSU) in Norfolk provided all of the technology necessary to bring the new NATO Joint Force Command (JFC) online and connect it to NATO, and the rest of the Alliance.

Up to 156 military and civilian NCI Agency staff have been involved with the exercise planning, preparation and execution. Throughout this exercise they have all played a part in ensuring NATO Allies can communicate whenever and wherever they need to.

"Dedicated colleagues from across the Agency have successfully delivered a complex network solution that is able to support NATO and its Allies," said Croatian Army Captain Antun Mutzhaus, a Project Manager at the NCI Agency. Captain Mutzhaus is responsible for running an enterprise software project, in addition to the acquisition and funding portion of the exercise.

Before, during and after the exercise, the NCI Agency staff's main objective is to provide a help desk function, resolving IT support tickets in real time. In such a large-scale exercise, the NCI Agency team participating has been organized to handle a high volume of tickets at any time, as the need arises.

"Any outage has the potential to cause a serious impact on NATO's operational capabilities, so we ensure the correct people are on hand 24/7 to resolve any issues with mission-critical IT infrastructure," said US Navy Commander Jeff Wilcox, Assistant Project Manager at the NCI Agency.

The NCI Agency is also the provider of services that are crucial to the success of the exercise, including enterprise services and command and control-related services. The NCI Agency also provided IT infrastructure and equipment.