Story by Stephen Baack on 05/07/2019DORAL, Fla. (May 7, 2019) Work is complete on a $2.5 million modernization project for U.S. Southern Command's 45,000-square-foot Conference Center of the Americas here.
Led and managed by the Huntsville, Alabama-based U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, the project upgraded a suite of facility communication distribution systems in 11 rooms throughout the conference center.
Spearheading the effort was the team from Huntsville Center's Communications Infrastructure and Systems Support, or CIS2, a program under the Facility Technology Integration branch.
Facility communication distribution systems, or FCDSs, are integrative audiovisual systems that incorporate connectivity and communications capabilities. The newly upgraded suite of FCDSs are the technical centerpiece of the Conference Center of the Americas, or CCA, and are what enable SOUTHCOM and its strategic partners to meet and talk in a secure environment using a multitude of upgraded audiovisual and video-teleconferencing systems throughout the facility.
The CCA can serve a variety of functions, including as the nerve center for emergency response exercises, a communications and coordination hub for disaster relief efforts, and a way for U.S. warfighters to strengthen relationships and coordinate activities with both security and military partners throughout the region.
"It's important to know this is a conference center that can and does accommodate heads-of-state from throughout the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility," said Chris Harvel, project manager with the CIS2 program.
SOUTHCOM is a joint command that covers 31 countries including Central America, South America and the Caribbean. It is one of the Department of Defense's 10 unified combatant commands. Their lines of effort include humanitarian assistance and human rights work, countering transnational criminal activities, strengthening relationships with partner nations, and ensuring force protection for U.S. military resources in their area of operations.
The facility, which sits next to the SOUTHCOM headquarters building, includes a 6,000-square-foot main conference room that can hold as many as 230 guests and is equipped with a movie-theater-sized array of integrated screens.
The overall project included complete upgrades to components throughout the facility, including screens, audiovisual consoles, VTC systems, projectors and displays, public address systems, translation audio systems, lighting and speakers. It also increased the throughput for translation services, increasing the number of translators who can work on site simultaneously from three to eight.
"That is a huge increase in their capacity, and it changes the diversity of the delegations they can support in a single meeting," Harvel said.
Jonathan Santy, project manager for SOUTHCOM, said the overhaul of the CCA systems was much-needed.
"It was necessary because our old system simply didn't work anymore, and the new system they put in not only gives us back our ability to hold these conferences, but it vastly improves the conference center experience," Santy said.
Harvel said SOUTHCOM originally reached out to Huntsville Center to leverage its expertise in solving several specific technical issues, but, he said, the project only expanded from there.
"They had anticipated to be able to upgrade two rooms for approximately $2.8 million, but we did everything in that facility for $2.5 million," said Harvel.
Though the Center's CIS2 program managed the project, Harvel said project success would not have been possible without a number of partner organizations. These include the Directorate of Public Works at U.S. Army Garrison Miami, SOUTHCOM's Network Enterprise Center and the J6 Communication Systems Directorate, the CCA facility management team, SOUTHCOM and U.S. Army Garrison Miami leadership, and the contractors.
"I think the hurdles, the innovations and the things that we did to make this a successful project are hard to capture with brevity," Harvel added. "All and all, though, I think we did a huge service for them that went above and beyond their expectations."
"It's working fantastically," Santy said. "The end product that was delivered is just incredible."