FEBRUARY 12, 2021 – A Marine’s greatest threat isn’t always a physical adversary.
Marines risk their lives to protect their country. However, some warfighters deal with a range of social, financial or mental health concerns upon returning home. This can lead to the Marine experiencing personal issues that compromise their overall health and combat readiness.
In 2020, Marine Corps Systems Command deployed an application designed to help commanders and their leadership team monitor behavioral changes among Marines.
Command Individual Risk and Resiliency Assessment System, or CIRRAS, is a Common Access Card-enabled software application that stores a Marine’s personal information, such as health, social, educational and familial data, in a secure, electronic environment for a commander’s awareness.
CIRRAS enables commanders to maintain a holistic view of Marines’ overall health and combat readiness from a single, secure source.
“CIRRAS is a system built by the Marine Corps for the Marine,” said Mary Feltis, project officer for CIRRAS at Program Manager Applications, Program Executive Office for Manpower, Logistics and Business Solutions. “The Marine Corps’ chain of command is responsible for supporting the overall well-being and combat readiness of their Marines. CIRRAS assists them in accomplishing this mission.”
CIRRAS tracks indicators that could affect performance or welfare. This information might include mental health, relationship issues, alcohol- or drug-related offenses and more. Commanders leverage this data to assign risk scores and send automated alerts to leadership of at-risk personnel.
The goal of CIRRAS is to provide commanders with relevant information to be used to increase the overall wellness of their Marines. If a Marine is dealing with serious personal struggles, commanders and their leadership staff can develop a mitigation plan that might include counseling or other professional assistance.
Development of CIRRAS:
CIRRAS is the result of an unprecedented amount of suicides among Marines in 2009, as forces were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many Marines grappled with anxiety, PTSD and depression, which affected their personal lives and work performance.
In response, the Marine Corps established under Marine Corps Order 1500.60 the Force Preservation Council—a monthly review by commanders of all Marines. FPC meetings allow commanders to monitor a Marine’s well-being using personal information on spreadsheets and other word processing documents.
However, the Marine Corps eventually realized it needed a more secure avenue for storing this data.
“These spreadsheets allowed commanders to proactively address those behavioral elements in Marines,” said Cristina Miguel Moore, the product manager for Warfighting, Planning and Analysis, Program Manager Applications, Program Executive Office for Manpower, Logistics and Business Solutions. “But the Marine Corps needed something more secure than a spreadsheet.”
The Marine Corps Requirements Oversight Council Decision Memorandum and Urgent Universal Need Statement determined that an automated enterprise solution for conducting risk assessments during the Force Preservation Process could help commanders maintain a greater understanding of the behavioral risk of their Marines.
In 2018, MCSC partnered with the Marine Corps’ Manpower and Reserve Affairs Marine and Family Programs Division as well as the Navy Information Warfare Center Atlantic to begin developing a secure Marine Corps Force Preservation application.
The CIRRAS team used Agile software development methodologies and innovative cloud computing business practices to incrementally design and develop the application. CIRRAS then underwent a successful Government Acceptance Test and received a Full Deployment Authority to Proceed Decision Memorandum from the MCSC Milestone Decision Authority.
“It’s an honor to contribute to CIRRAS and have had the opportunity to positively impact the health and readiness of our warfighters,” said Shawn Belcher, NIWC Atlantic project lead for CIRRAS. “We believe the system will play a role in improving the readiness of Marines and ultimately in proactively getting a service member necessary help.”
“The Marine Corps’ chain of command is responsible for supporting the overall well-being and combat readiness of their Marines. CIRRAS assists them in accomplishing this mission.” Mary Feltis, project officer for CIRRAS
The application became fully operational in September 2020.
Secure and encrypted platform:
The Department of Defense considers privacy a top concern.
CIRRAS underwent a rigorous approval process to ensure its cybersecurity met DOD standards. The NIWC Atlantic Navy Authorizing Official and the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence Authorizing Official with Headquarters, Marine Corps thoroughly tested and approved the security of CIRRAS prior to implementation.
CIRRAS is located in a secure cloud environment, accessible only through a government-furnished computer. Access is limited and controlled by commanders. Only personnel given access by the commander can see this confidential information.
“Commanders can only see profiles of Marines within their command,” said Feltis. “They cannot view Marines in another command.”
Personal information in CIRRAS can come directly from the Marine, or through formal notification or reporting requirements.
Either way, the creation, collection and distribution of personally identifiable information and management of privacy sensitive information adheres to the Privacy Act of 1974, a law that prevents personal information collected by government entities from unwarranted intrusions.
The Marine Corps provides a Privacy Act Statement to Marines prior to collecting any personally identifiable information directly from the Marine.
“CIRRAS limits system access and input in accordance with laws and regulations in order to protect the privacy of individuals,” said Col. Kevin L. Digman, CIRRAS functional advocate for the Marine and Family Programs Division. “All information is maintained according to the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.”
Benefit to commanders:
Marine Corps commands must request to participate in CIRRAS, but all active-duty Marines, from boot camp to retirement, have a profile in the system. Each participating command has a CIRRAS administrator appointed by the commander.
Marine Corps leaders employ CIRRAS to bring Force Preservation Council practices and processes into the modern era. CIRRAS does not change or alter the Force Preservation Council process for commanders. It simply provides a secure, integrated profile with relevant information about each Marine to enable real-time risk management and mitigation.
“CIRRAS includes the same Force Preservation data that commanders were collecting previously in a nonautomated system,” said Feltis. “This same information is now in a secure, encrypted environment for only the commander’s use.”
Maj. Indigo Gregory, company commander with Headquarters Battalion, Training and Education Command, Marine Corps Base Quantico, oversees about 500 Marines and has participated in several Force Preservation Councils over his career. He began using CIRRAS in November 2020.
“When I first heard about CIRRAS, I was eager to see it implemented within the battalion and more specifically within my company,” said Gregory.
Gregory said the application is easy to employ and has been a valuable tool in the preservation and holistic readiness of those in his company. He raved about how this at-your-fingertips tool provides commanders with a holistic view on readiness rather than just for training purposes.
“I think the application overall will benefit Marines, but more specifically it will benefit commanders,” said Gregory. “CIRRAS is a valuable tool in assessing Marines and will benefit the Marine Corps for many years to come.”
For additional information or questions about CIRRAS, Marine Corps commanders can contact the Marine Corps’ Manpower and Reserve Affairs Marine and Family Programs Division at CIRRAS.firstname.lastname@example.org
By Matt Gonzales | Marine Corps Systems Command