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Military Aerospace Technology

WMD Center Sparks Collaboration

The Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction at U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) has reached full operational capability. The USSTRATCOM WMD Center integrates and synchronizes efforts to combat global WMD proliferation.

By Michael Burnett

The Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction at U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) has reached full operational capability, according to its deputy director, Rear Admiral William P. Loeffler, and has made substantial progress in getting Department of Defense components to work together in their efforts to halt the proliferation of deadly chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive weapons in the past two years.

“We have established a number of relationships throughout the interagency as well as throughout the Department of Defense. We have got all of the players sitting at the table and talking to each other,” Loeffler told Military Aerospace Technology. “That in my mind has been the biggest thing that we have been able to do—get all of the stakeholders together and have them talk about what they can do and what they can’t do and come up with a road ahead. That in and of itself is probably worth a bumper sticker.”

U.S. Marine Corps General James E. Cartwright, commander of USSTRATCOM, opened the center in January 2005 at Fort Belvoir, Va. A year later, the center achieved initial operational capability. In the meantime, on Aug. 26, 2005, Cartwright established the SCC-WMD as his lead subordinate command to coordinate USSTRATCOM’s WMD countermeasures with those of the other combatant commanders throughout DoD.

The USSTRATCOM Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (SCC-WMD), which employs about 50 military and civilian personnel, is collocated with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). DTRA Director Dr. James Tegnelia also serves as director of the SCC-WMD.

Loeffler explained that the SCC-WMD has managed to formalize the process of discussing approaches to WMD strategy in less than a year of existence.

“We have come a long way toward maintaining what I like to call situational understanding, which is the merger of the situational awareness piece of what is going on with the technical information that the subject matter experts at DTRA can provide, to create situational understanding for the operational commander. So we can actually tell them this is what happened and this is what the technical side is and this is what it means to you, general or admiral, in terms of your responsibilities,” Loeffler elaborated.

“We have had reasonably good success within the Department of Defense. We have started to make inroads throughout the U.S. government interagency. Our primary goal would be to expand this throughout the U.S. government interagency so that we are all sitting down and talking to each other and truly looking at a holistic government viewpoint,” he continued. “The Department of Defense has realized, as with most mission areas, that combating weapons of mass destruction is not purely a Department of Defense issue. It stretches across the entire government.”

Interagency Collaboration

Loeffler estimated that 43 different government entities were playing some role in combating weapons of mass destruction, as of press time. That count includes organizations with the Defense Department.

“That goes across the U.S. federal government, the states and the local providers,” the admiral said. “This truly has to be a holistic view of this capability or else there will be gaps and overlaps. Just getting people to sit down and talk to each other is important.”

The center is co-located with DTRA headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va., both to enable interagency collaboration with its proximity to the seat of the federal government and to tap the scientific expertise of DTRA personnel.

“General Cartwright at STRATCOM is trying to leverage the inherent technical subject-matter expertise that is resident within DTRA,” Loeffler said. “We are here in the greater Washington, D.C., area also to provide us access to the technical side of it with the DTRA folks as well as the ready access to the U.S. government interagency.”

In doing so, the SCC-WMD follows its implementing directive to integrate and synchronize efforts to combat global WMD proliferation and use throughout DoD. That involves ensuring that resources are not being wasted on duplicative efforts, Loeffler noted.

“Our role is to identify the capabilities that are resident within DoD and look for overlaps and seams so that we can reduce both of those,” he said. “There is no need for five or six different organizations to do the same thing. If we can identify some of the overlap, we can better utilize the funding that is available and fill in some of those seams so that somebody is doing something about each one of these areas.”

The SCC-WMD also works to synchronize interagency efforts. By examining the programs and processes within the capabilities of other agencies, Loeffler hopes to strengthen overall efforts to combat WMDs throughout the government by starting dialogues.

“Part of that is making each other aware of what everybody else is doing and what their capabilities are so that we can work together for a common U.S. government picture instead of just the stovepipes that sometimes happen in any large organization like a government,” Loeffler remarked.

The center also assists combatant commanders with their planning capabilities related to WMD planning. Traditionally, USSTRATCOM and the eight other unified commands within DoD have had a short supply of WMD planners. A combatant commander today generally has no more than one or two planners working for his organization, Loeffler revealed. So the SCC-WMD can step in and provide a centralized capability for combatant commanders to tap in times of need.

DTRA Expertise

The SCC-WMD and DTRA have mapped specific goals to recommendations from the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). Dr. Tegnelia testified as to those goals at a Congressional hearing last April, noting that the five specific decisions made in the QDR regarding WMD fall squarely within the responsibilities of DTRA and the SCC-WMD.

The first of those was to designate DTRA as the primary combat support agency for USSTRATCOM in its mission to integrate and synchronize WMD efforts.

The second goal directs the expansion of the Army’s 20th Support Command—dealing with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) capabilities—“to enable it to serve as a Joint Task Force capable of rapid deployment to command and control WMD elimination and site exploitation missions by 2007,” Tegnelia reported.

Third, DoD must expand the number of servicemembers possessing “advanced technical render-safe skills” and increase how quickly they can deploy and respond to threats.

“The Department will develop further recommendations to improve render-safe capabilities for the fiscal year 2008 budget,” Tegnelia told Congress. “The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the combatant commanders including commander, U.S. Strategic Command, the Services, DTRA, and the Department of Energy are assessing render-safe requirements, current and needed capabilities, and the path ahead in a coordinated, comprehensive effort.”

The progress is classified, the director added, but the agencies intend to pursue enhanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal capabilities and priority airlifts for moving resources to combat WMDs in fiscal 2007. In addition, DTRA and the SCC-WMD intend to expand DoD technical capabilities for locating WMD threats.

The fourth goal calls for the expansion of U.S. military capabilities “to locate, track and tag shipments of WMD, missiles and related materials, including the transportation means used to move such items.” Here, DTRA has proposed a Smart Threads Integrated Radiation Sensors Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration for a modular radiation detection system in fiscal 2007, Tegnelia revealed.

“Efforts have begun on a scanning system to detect hidden and shielded nuclear material from an extended distance and we anticipate a prototype test in FY08,” he said. “The nuclear detection development efforts being executed by DTRA are fully coordinated with the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security. These DTRA programs leverage the expertise of these and others, but are focused on unique DoD applications.”

DTRA also plans to explore sensors that “provide integrated chemical, biological and radiological combat assessment capabilities on unmanned air vehicle (UAV) and expendable mini-UAV platforms,” Tegnelia said. “We intend to demonstrate this capability for airborne biological sample collection starting in FY07 for the United States Pacific Command.”

Finally, DTRA was charged with reallocating funding to invest more than $1.5 billion in broad-spectrum medical countermeasures against advanced bio-terror threats.

Looking Forward

In the future, Loeffler would like to continue to boost interaction between federal agencies. Doing so would provide WMD decision-makers with more timely information on various activities so that any course of action could receive a full evaluation with more accurate information.

“That would truly offer a holistic government viewpoint instead of just a particular agency’s view, so we will get better solutions,” Loeffler argued.

Loeffler cautioned that it would be a mistake to think that very good critical assessments aren’t being made today. However, he would like to see the process of sharing information and collaborating across WMD programs to gain a greater degree of formalization. The SCC-WMD could then leverage the increased integration to make better use of its situational awareness on global WMD programs. Loeffler has found other government leaders to be forthcoming and cooperative in identifying gaps in WMD capabilities and working together to synchronize government-wide efforts.

In addition, the close relationship with DTRA enables the SCC-WMD to communicate on a technical level and to seek out common technological solutions as necessary. That includes seeking assistance from the defense industry whenever commercial solutions are required.

“Part of the reason that the center is co-located here with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency is because of DTRA’s robust research and development in science and technology programs,” Loeffler said. “The center is leveraging DTRA’s contacts and relationships with industry. Why should the center do something that DTRA is already doing? So we work very closely with R&D and the S&T folks here at DTRA to identify capabilities that might be required and then allow DTRA to go through the R&D process. So any contracts that would be let with industry would be done through DTRA.”

Companies should utilize the acquisition structure in place at DTRA to communicate with the SCC-WMD and to offer capabilities and solutions for combating WMDs, Loeffler said. The research and development program at DTRA, led by Dr. Peter Nanos, has been working on a number of programs for the SCC-WMD, he said, adding that he was not at liberty to reveal any details of those programs.

Loeffler pointed out that DTRA also has an incredible resource in its ability to reach back to the 50 states and territories through the National Guard WMD Civil Support Teams, which the agency supports with its technical know-how.

“As President Bush has said, combating weapons of mass destruction is the mission of the 21st Century,” Loeffler concluded. “If we don’t get this right, then our kids and our grandkids are going to have to deal with the consequences. This is a tremendously important area that needs our full attention. The Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction is just one more tool in the toolkit for doing that.”