DOD, DHS collaborate to improve anti-IED measures

Improvised explosive devices, commonly known as IEDs, are a problem not only for the military but for law enforcement and first responders. The Boston Marathon bombings marked, for the first time, the use of multiple IEDs to inflict mass casualties in the United States.

Despite having different missions, the Homeland Security and Defense departments have worked together to target common problems such as IEDs and domestic security issues.

For instance, DHS has developed an app called First Responder Support Tools (FiRST), which is designed to provide first responders and emergency management with map-based information to support responses. Users can define IED types to get information to set up standoff distances, and then share this information with other users. The app can also help set up isolation and downwind protection zones for hazardous materials, combining DHS guidelines with networked weather services.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), which is DOD’s combat support agency for dealing with weapons of mass destruction, has been leveraging the app for its own needs, Christine Lee, program manager at DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate, said during a panel discussion at GovSec this week. DTRA has been enhancing the app to include a plume model to provide more accurate predictions of atmospheric dispersion.

DOD, of course, has extensive experience in dealing with the IED threat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The military has developed Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (CREW) systems that can provide a zone of protection around an area by jamming potential cellular or radio signals that could be used to trigger IEDs. The United States considered sharing the technology with Russian military and law enforcement groups to protect the Sochi Olympics earlier this year.

DHS and the Justice Department have been working together to establish a domestic electronic countermeasures (ECM) capability that would likely leverage existing DOD technology. The National ECM Program was set up in 2004 specifically to develop solutions against radio-controlled IEDs.

“The ultimate goal is to make this capability available for first responder bomb squads in the future,” said William Stout, program manager at DHS’ S&T Directorate.

While the two agencies continue to leverage the successes of each other, DHS focuses exclusively on the use of well-tested solutions. This is primarily a result of DHS’s goal of quickly disseminating techniques and tools to first responder communities, rather than spending several years in research and development

“We’re also looking to get answers quickly – we’re looking for that rapid transition aspect. It’s no good to you if we have a research development project that takes five to eight years, which is traditional R&D,” said John Verrico, chief of media relations of DHS S&T Directorate. “We’re looking for those quick fixes. We’re looking for those things that we can get on the street in six months, one year, 18 months, that will actually get you answers sooner.”

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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