Operation Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief Main Image 

Above: NPS Lecturer, Brian Steckler and his team of students and researchers travel the globe after natural disasters and set up mobile communications networks providing real-time humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Right above and below: From the recent typhoon in the Philippines, to the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami that devastated coastal Japan, NPS-developed emergency communications have proven vital in the immediate aftermath.


Information Sciences Lecturer Brian Steckler’s bags were packed in the days leading up to Typhoon Haiyan, knowing he and his team of students would likely be deployed to the region to support the coming HA/DR operation.

He had good reason to assume he would be called upon … Steckler and his Hastily Formed Network Research Group focuses on the rapid deployment of communications capabilities when every infrastructure needed to make them happen is destroyed. It is a capability he, along with teams of his students, have provided in the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the 2005 tsunami in southeast Asia, among other recent major catastrophes.

Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief have been widely recognized as core missions and capabilities for sea services by their respective chiefs, as well as Combatant Commanders and senior defense leaders in the Pentagon. A strategic shift to the Pacific will only add to their importance, where they are an almost annual effort for Pacific Fleet and Pacom assets.

Operating forward means many things for American power projection and immediacy in response to any and all threats … But it also means the U.S. is ready to respond when needed in the face of humanitarian tragedy and natural disaster. And that is a powerful enabler to developing long-term partnerships with our allies and friends throughout the Pacific, and the world.

While Steckler and his team of students provide an onsite capability to the HA/DR mission, they are just a small piece of the university’s overall contribution, where more than 20 students dedicated their master’s degree theses to a focused analysis on recent HA/DR missions in 2013. Every aspect is analyzed … from the integration of Twitter analysis for advanced situational awareness to the role of the private sector in national response systems.

The sea services have made significant improvements over the past decade on the efficiencies in HA/DR operation execution … And the next wave of efficiency is waiting in the free analyses accumulated through the efforts of these students.

“HADR logistics necessitate a response supply chain, and these supply chains are very difficult to manage. There are critical time windows that must be met and a great need for collaboration amongst a diverse array of players … We have the necessary faculty with the expertise to make it work. We look at processes and at weakness within those processes. That sort of education lends itself naturally to looking at HADR problems.”


Operation Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief Image one Operation Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief Image two