DOD deploying hazard-detection network

The Defense Department this year will complete the installation of command

and control networks linked to chemical and biological hazard detectors

at major air bases and ports worldwide, according to a Pentagon report delivered

to Congress Wednesday.

DOD's annual report on the status of chemical and biological defense programs

outlines ongoing and future efforts to protect military personnel and installations

from attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.

Among those efforts is Portal Shield, a system that grew out of one of DOD's

Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations and has since been placed into

production to meet what the report calls "urgent [commander in chief] requirements."

But the Pentagon must overcome technological hurdles before it can achieve

its objective of a fully integrated warning, detection and reporting network

of sensors and command and control systems. Some of the major challenges

include fusing sensor data with mapping, imagery and other real-time display

systems, according to the report. Department plans call for testing of a

single network of sensors by 2010.

Researchers are developing lightweight, automated sensors that can provide

long-range detection and automatic reporting of chemical and biological

agent hazards. According to the report, programs such as Portal Shield "will

facilitate the integration of chemical detectors into personal warfighter

gear" as well as installation of the sensors on aircraft, ships, armored

vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Pentagon's ultimate goal of creating a single network of sensors may

also benefit state and local programs designed to monitor air pollution,

noxious fumes and municipal water supplies, the report stated.

DOD has deployed 10 Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection units, now called

Civil Support Teams, nationwide to work with local firefighters and emergency

response personnel in the event of a terrorist attack involving chemical

or biological weapons.

The Pentagon's fiscal 2001 budget proposal requests $836 million for weapons

of mass destruction defense programs, including an additional 17 CSTs.

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