Newswise — Everyone knows that securing the homeland is a monumental activity. It takes manpower, talent, and coaching. It takes infrastructure and cutting-edge instruments. It takes collaboration and innovation. And, you already know what else it takes? Science.
We all know this as a result of it’s who we’re. Science just isn’t solely in our identify, it’s in our blood.
The Division of Homeland Safety (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is main the way in which in all these crucial areas. We do that in order that DHS and its elements might help federal, state, native and tribal counterparts (in addition to the general public) put together for and defend in opposition to a variety of threats—from on a regular basis emergencies to pure and artifical disasters. And sure, even world pandemics.
How does S&T do that? You may say we now have it right down to a science. (Pun very a lot meant.)
With out a number of fanfare, this crucially necessary work is achieved by way of deploying S&T’s superior lab-based technical expertise and capabilities in analysis, growth, take a look at and analysis (RDT&E). This important work is carried out by 5 impartial but mission aligned laboratories at seven websites which are all managed and operated by S&T.
“Our in-house labs provide technical assist, infrastructure and core capabilities that produce onerous science to assist the mission,” stated Julie Brewer, director of S&T’s Workplace of Nationwide Laboratories (ONL). “These labs are key as a result of their capabilities align to the core DHS mission, which permits us to do a lot of the science in-house. This enables for environment friendly and efficient execution—particularly when time is of the essence,” she stated.
Outlined within the Homeland Security Act of 2002, ONL’s “networked laboratory system” is pivotal to S&T’s success. Inside the labs, a whole lot of scientists and assist employees work tirelessly to offer DHS and its companions with a wealth of lab-based science to help decision-making, enhance DHS element operations within the discipline, and inform acquisitions—amongst many different functions. These superior capabilities are within the areas of chemical, organic, animal illness, explosives detection/mitigation, radiological and first responder assist.
Enhancing chemical safety by way of evaluation
Emergency planners and first responders want actionable details about chemical threats or hazards at a second’s discover. In communities throughout the nation by way of which chemical compounds are transported by truck and rail, or the place residential neighborhoods meet industrial areas, having actionable scientific knowledge and instruments can imply the distinction between illness and well being, and generally life or dying. Based mostly in Aberdeen, Maryland, the Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC) is the nation’s solely federal research, evaluation and information administration lab for assessing these sorts of chemical threats and hazards, whether or not from unintentional incidents or intentional acts of terrorism.
With Project Jack Rabbit, as an example, the lab helps emergency managers perceive the character and influence of enormous scale poisonous chemical releases. CSAC’s HExCAT modeling tool helps state and native governments plan for and mitigate potential explosive assaults, and the Chemical Agents Reactions Database equips regulation enforcement with sources to unravel chemical-related crimes. CSAC has additionally suggested DHS businesses on chemical detection solutions to display for the trafficking of artificial opioids into America by way of mail. Most just lately, through the record-breaking 2020 hurricane season, CSAC’s 24/7 technical assistance hotline stood prepared to offer modeling and evaluation concerning chemical hazards, vulnerabilities, and incidents. The lab did this so they might arm choice makers with the knowledge wanted to save lots of lives and infrastructure that have been within the path of harmful storms.
Understanding the character of organic threats and hazards
A organic assault on American soil might go undetected for hours, days, or weeks if not for the work of the scientific neighborhood. Positioned at Fort Detrick in Maryland, S&T’s National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) is the one most safety biocontainment laboratory within the nation devoted to offering menace characterization and forensic evaluation on organic brokers for DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It’s this skilled evaluation functionality that may additionally help authorities in understanding how lethal organic pathogens can be utilized by dangerous actors to hurt harmless folks.
NBACC’s biosafety degree 4 designation authorizes the lab to carry out analysis on essentially the most harmful and lethal pathogens on the planet. Utilizing their superior aerobiology tools, the lab was crucial within the nation’s response to each the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and the SARS CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) world pandemic. Because the COVID disaster intensified, NBACC produced groundbreaking novel insights on the virus’s survivability. Leveraging knowledge from these NBACC research, S&T developed two on-line calculators for emergency planners, responders and most of the people to make use of in estimating the decay fee of SARS-CoV-2 on each surfaces and additionally whereas airborne underneath varied environmental circumstances.
Serving as scientific advisors to first responders
America’s city areas have complicated landscapes that current distinctive risks and troublesome operational challenges for our first responders. Whether or not it’s defending folks and property from acts of violence, responding to radiological or nuclear hazards, enabling better communication, or simply getting to incidents faster, first responders depend on sound science and expertise to get the job accomplished. Police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and responders shouldn’t should query whether or not their gear does what it’s speculated to do. That’s the place S&T’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) proves indispensable.
NUSTL works intently with interagency companions and multinational stakeholders—in addition to the responders themselves—to check and consider a variety of applied sciences as a way to enhance efficiency and assess capabilities and limitations. Positioned in New York Metropolis, NUSTL has the benefit of learning these applied sciences each within the lab and in operational settings. From its Manhattan residence, the lab is ready to strategically use the town’s panorama as one of many world’s largest city testbeds. Whether or not by way of discipline assessments or the System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) program, NUSTL’s work typically informs businesses’ selections to buy or deploy applied sciences altogether.
Conducting essential animal illness analysis
Sure illnesses present in livestock pose grave threats to our agricultural financial system. A safe homeland means getting ready for these threats earlier than they attain our shores or mitigating the influence in the event that they do arrive. S&T’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), positioned in Orient Level, New York, defends our agricultural financial system in opposition to unintentional or intentional introductions of overseas animal illnesses that influence livestock and threaten our meals provide.
PIADC works with the U.S. Division of Agriculture to check and develop vaccines for high-threat overseas animal illnesses, akin to foot-and-mouth illness (FMD) and African swine fever virus (ASFv). PIADC is the one U.S. federal laboratory permitted to work with reside FMD virus and in 2020, it patented a new, safer vaccine development process. In partnership with business, PIADC additionally examined and evaluated a novel rapid ASFv field test that gives outcomes inside hours and can be utilized within the discipline or at border checkpoints throughout meat and animal inspections. This expertise will assist the federal government and the pork business mitigate threats posed by unintentional or intentional introduction of ASFv into the U.S.
In 2023, PIADC’s mission will relocate to the brand new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a state-of-the-art most biocontainment facility at present underneath building in Manhattan, Kansas.
Advancing transportation detection capabilities by way of science
The federal authorities screens over two million passengers, a million checked gadgets, and 5 million carry-on gadgets day-after-day for the presence of explosives and different contraband. It is a colossal enterprise, so S&T’s Transportation Security Laboratory (TSL), positioned in Atlantic Metropolis, New Jersey, works intently with tools producers to make sure that these conducting the screenings have detection expertise that meets their wants.
TSL is a home chief within the growth of requirements, protocols, and “take a look at articles” (akin to simulated explosives, and so forth.) which are mandatory for detection expertise assessments. The lab additionally investigates the properties of explosives (and different contraband) to help within the design of those take a look at articles, that are used to guage the effectiveness of screening techniques. For seamless coordination, TSL manages S&T’s capabilities in homemade explosives threat characterization by overseeing the Detection Expertise Heart (DTC) in Huntsville, Alabama, and Tyndall Reactive Supplies Group (TRMG) positioned in Panama Metropolis, Florida.
TSL has even obtained a number of patents for take a look at articles involving x-ray and millimeter wave-based techniques in addition to for quality control methods for explosives trace detectors. With a nod to the longer term, TSL specialists are currently evaluating artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities with potential to enhance safety in our transportation techniques.
Clearly, these 5 S&T federal laboratories characterize an unequalled and indispensable supply for trailblazing RDT&E. DHS operational elements, different stakeholders and most of the people depend on them for pioneering science that spans the sprawling mission to guard our nation.
“Individually, every of our S&T labs is a nationwide asset, however collectively they kind the muse for a lot that S&T does to assist the homeland safety mission,” stated Brewer. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that we do the science that retains America protected.”
For extra details about S&T’s Workplace of Nationwide Laboratories, please go to https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/office-national-laboratories.
For associated media requests, contact STMedia@hq.dhs.gov.