Insight by Verizon Frontline

How NCIS forms a technology ‘bridge’ to maintain relationships with other agencies

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) operates globally and is responsible for investigating crimes and criminal activity related to the United States Navy and Marine Corps.

Comprised of about 2,000 personnel, NCIS is unique among military criminal investigative organizations as it is a civilian-run agency and is headed by a civilian law enforcement professional who reports directly to the Secretary of the Navy.

It is responsible for investigating crimes ranging from espionage and terrorism to murder and sexual assault.

“We have a strong focus on the counterintelligence side and the national security side,” Laukik Suthar, an executive assistant director with NCIS, said during a Federal Insights discussion sponsored by Verizon Frontline.

The agency operates in approximately 191 locations in more than 40 countries.

It works closely with other law enforcement agencies, both domestic and international, to gather intelligence and prevent threats before they can harm military personnel or infrastructure.

“If there’s an espionage investigation, we focus on protection of secrets, ensuring that nothing is being sent out that shouldn’t be sent out and ensuring that people aren’t leaking information out either,” Suthar said.

Cutting-edge tech brings new opportunities

The emergence of 5G technology has the potential to greatly enhance the ability of NCIS to carry out its mission.

One of the key benefits of 5G is its speed and bandwidth capabilities.

With 5G, NCIS can transmit large amounts of data quickly and efficiently, enabling agents to access critical information in real-time.

That can be particularly useful in situations where time is of the essence, such as during a crisis or emergency situation.

“It’s not just communicating from point to point, we’re talking about how you communicate to the helicopter or the plane,” Suthar said. “You might be working with another organization that has to transfer large amounts of information, and 5G has that capability.”

Another advantage of 5G is its ability to support a wide range of connected devices.

That can allow NCIS to deploy numerous pieces of equipment, such as cameras and sensors, to monitor and secure Navy and Marine Corps installations and infrastructure.

For instance, 5G-connected cameras could provide real-time surveillance of sensitive areas, while sensors could detect and alert NCIS agents to potential security breaches.

In addition to its speed and connectivity capabilities, 5G can support more advanced technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Those tools may be used to analyze and process large amounts of data, such as social media activity or video footage, to identify potential threats or criminal activity.

Joining forces with other agencies

Agents with NCIS frequently operate in locations where local, state or foreign law enforcement agencies have primary jurisdiction, meaning that partnering with other law enforcement entities is essential.

Through those partnerships, agencies can work together to address criminal incidents, identify and mitigate threats to U.S. naval forces and assets and pursue joint proactive operations.

There can sometimes be a technology “language barrier,” however.

“Different people are operating on different frequencies all the time,” Suthar said. “You have your traditional radios, Bluetooth, hard phone lines and also the phone you use on a regular basis just to communicate using 4G, LTE or 5G.”

It presents unique challenges, especially when communication between various agencies is needed immediately during a high-risk operation.

“Devices are not going to be compatible all the time,” Suthar said. “Some agencies aren’t going to have the same type of capability or advancement as others, so we’ve got to have a bridge.”

Leaders on the state and local levels have jurisdiction over crimes that occur within their respective regions, which can often intersect with NCIS investigations.

That’s why it’s so important for NCIS to not only create relationships with state and local law enforcement agencies, but to constantly reinforce and maintain them.

Long-standing partnerships between agencies can provide NCIS with vital information and resources.

“If it’s the first time you meet with an organization, it takes some time to understand each other’s systems,” Suthar explained. “Once you build the relationship, it’s an easy call from our technical specialists with their technical specialists, and they get together and the system is already set up and you have it in a common language.”

Additionally, state and local agencies often have a more thorough understanding of local criminal networks and social dynamics, which can help NCIS identify potential suspects, informants or witnesses that might not have been discovered otherwise.

“That communication where individuals are working with one another is key, especially with our organization,” Suthar said. “It happens every single day, and it just doesn’t stop.”

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