Lab s experts study chem plant security Sandia decon foam in action Labs well-poised to serve US in war on terror Sandia teams aid in targeting tests
Labs experts helping evaluate security at US chem plants
Back to top Back to Lab News home page.
By John German
Long before Sept. 11, Sandia was helping US government and industry shore up their defenses against terrorism, developing systematic ways to identify the security weaknesses of buildings, dams, drinking water supplies, and other possible targets.
Now experts in Security Systems and Technology Center 5800 are helping assess the security vulnerabilities of industrial facilities that manufacture, store, or transport hazardous chemicals.
As part of a project funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Labs physical security experts are developing a scientific vulnerability assessment methodology (VAM) that could be used to improve security at more than 10,000 US chemical facilities.
The project includes visiting several facilities, reviewing current security practices, and developing a set of recommendations about how security might be improved at US chemical plants to prevent terrorist attacks or blunt their effects.
Increasingly credible threat
The US Attorney General is to present Sandia's preliminary observations and recommendations in a report delivered to Congress by Dec. 21.
Project leader Cal Jaeger (5845) says most chemical plants currently employ security practices typical of those employed by other sectors of US industry.
Stephen Melvin of the Orange County (Calif.) Fire Authority's Hazardous Materials Services Section, who is helping Sandia on the VAM, says some chemical plants' risk management plans already focus on accident and sabotage scenarios, and these facilities are generally well prepared and equipped with safety controls to prevent or mitigate catastrophic releases to the environment. Others that may not have focused on sabotage scenarios might be less prepared.
"We already know what could go wrong," says Melvin. "But now we have to look more carefully at the likelihood of a terrorist causing it. Today these facilities are considered a credible target."
The project began in January, long before the recent wave of terrorist attacks, adds Cal. But since Sept. 11, there has been increased awareness of vulnerabilities not only of the physical security of the plants themselves but also of the transport of chemicals and of the cyber systems that control the plants, he says.
The Chemical Facility VAM will take a look at all of these threats, he says.
Since January Labs experts have visited six US chemical plants, discussing each plant's operations with top executives and security managers and touring the plant sites with a terrorist's eye. They review security plans, study plant layouts and access controls, evaluate the use of security technologies, and gauge safety controls.
"We ask, if I am a bad guy, how would I do that," says Cal. "Then we evaluate the consequences and likelihood of each threat scenario."
They also have discussed the project with regulators, local law enforcement and emergency response authorities, and community groups. A key issue is how much information about a plant's security should be shared with local authorities.
The visits, along with the expertise of industry insiders such as Melvin, will form the basis of the finished VAM. More recent plant visits are providing chances to test the methodology.
In simplest terms, the VAM includes a characterization of the facility; an evaluation of the consequences if the plant is targeted; a determination of the attributes of the most likely threats; an evaluation of the effectiveness of the current security measures against the threat spectrum; a quantification of the risk as a function of likelihood, security effectiveness, and consequences; and a cost-benefit analysis of possible security upgrades.
"It will tell you how much you can improve your risk score given several options and their costs," says Cal.
The Chemical Facility VAM builds on methodologies developed to evaluate other infrastructure assets, such as dams, buildings, and water systems, says Gordon Smith, Manager of Public Safety Technologies Dept. 5861.
"We have a good foundation on which to create a prototype methodology," he says. "The long-term goal will be to create a methodology and documentation that is useful to plant owners and security managers after some training."
Having an advisor like Melvin on the team "gives us great ideas and provides a reality check so we can make this methodology as usable as possible by the people who will have to use it," he adds. -- John German
Back to top Back to Lab News home page.
Sandia-developed formulation among products being used to help rid US facilities of anthrax
Back to top Back to Lab News home page.
By John German
Sandia's decontamination formulation is among the products being used to help rid Capitol Hill buildings of anthrax.
Cleanup workers over the weekend used the formulation (often referred to as a decon foam) to decontaminate the postal room in the Ford Congressional office building in Washington, D.C. The postal room reopened Monday.
They also used the formulation to decon-taminate portions of the Dirksen Congressional Offices during remediation operations.
Two Sandians -- Larry Bustard and Mark Tucker (both 6245) -- were on site in Washington as technical advisors when the operations began.
The formulation also was used to decontaminate portions of ABC News' facilities in New York last week.
The foam was first used Oct. 12 at a Denver-area post office (Lab News, Oct. 19), but the white powder it was sprayed on later proved not to be dangerous.
Sandia licensed rights to commercialize the chem-bio formulation to two companies last year -- Modec, Inc. (Denver, Colo.) and EnviroFoam Technologies (Huntsville, Ala.) -- following a five-year research and development project at Sandia funded by the NNSA's Chemical and Biological National Security Program. (For more about the formulation's development, see www.sandia.gov/media/cbwfoam.htm.)
EnviroFoam Technologies (EFT) was contracted Oct. 22 to supply its version of the formulation to support the Environmental Protection Agency-led remediation effort on Capitol Hill.
Over the weekend the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory tested EFT's EasyDECON AB (anthrax blend). The test regimen, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), confirmed the effectiveness of EasyDECON against anthrax. (For more about the EasyDECON product, see EFT's web site at www.easydecon.com. For more about theMDF product, see Modec's web site at www.deconsolutions.com.)
Works against chem and bio agents
The Sandia-developed formulation, a cocktail that includes ordinary household substances such as those found in hair conditioner and toothpaste, neutralizes both chemical and biological agents in minutes. It can be applied to a contaminated surface as a liquid spray, mist, fog, or foam.
Traditional decontaminating products typically are based on bleach, chlorinated
solvents, or other hazardous or corrosive materials. Many are designed to work against only a limited number of either chemical or bio-
The Sandia formulation works against a wide variety of both chemical and biological agents and is nontoxic, noncorrosive, and environmentally friendly.
In multiple independent lab tests and military field trials, the formulation was effective against viable anthrax spores and chemical warfare agents. In lab tests at Sandia it also destroyed simulants of anthrax, simulants of chemical agents, vegetative cells, toxins, and viruses.
"It has performed well against biological agents as well as the most worrisome chemical warfare agents such as nerve and blistering agents," says Cecelia Williams (6245), a member of the development team.
Other Sandia team members include Rita Betty, Joanne Paul, and Caroline Souza (all 6245).
Foam co-developer Maher Tadros (Lab News, March 12, 1999) is now in the Advanced Concepts Group (16000). -- John German
Back to top Back to Lab News home page.
Labs well-poised to serve US in war on terror
Back to top Back to Lab News home page.
By William Murphy
Sandia, with its long history of systems engineering savvy and with several counterterrorism technologies in the R&D pipeline and in the marketplace, is well-poised to answer the nation's call in its time of need. And that's no coincidence: Labs Executive VP Joan Woodard said last week that Sandia's strategic planning going back several years has placed increasing importance -- and funding, via discretionary mechanisms such as Laboratory Directed Research and Development dollars -- on positioning Sandia to meet new unconventional threats to the nation's security.
In a briefing at Sandia for Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Joan offered an overview of the Labs technical capabilities and technologies that may have relevance in the nation's war on terrorism. Udall's was the latest in a series of briefings for members of the New Mexico congressional delegation. Previously, briefings were provided for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M.
Joan acknowledged that since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, "the phone's been ringing a lot" at Sandia as various government agencies contact the Labs to see if it can offer solutions to specific technical problems. Joan noted that other national laboratories have seen a similar increase in contacts.
Joan described how the Labs' research foundations -- computation and informational sciences, engineering sciences, materials and process science, microelectronics and photonics sciences, and pulsed power sciences -- can contribute solutions to a range of post-Cold War threat scenarios. Indeed, she said, the Labs' newly articulated vision statement, "Helping our nation secure a peaceful and free world through technology," is a logical extension of its Cold War nuclear weapons mission, one that seeks to leverage fully the research foundations that represent a 50-year investment by the nation's taxpayers.
Joan described under the heading "targets of terrorism" Labs capabilities in aviation security (work for the Federal Aviation Administration) and infrastructure protection (vulnerability-analysis software, architectural surety, and other protective/preventive technologies, many of which emerged out of Sandia's nonproliferation work.).
Under the heading of "means of terrorism," Joan described a number of Labs-developed counter-technologies:
Sandia's sensor technologies give counterterrorism fighters a powerful suite of tools to detect, screen, monitor, and analyze a range of threats. Sandia sensors range from space-based thermal imagers to now-being-perfected microchemlabs (chemistry labs on one microchip) that are tiny, robust, versatile, and cost-effective enough to be widely deployed.
"I can't overemphasize how important sensor development is," Joan said. "It's just so important in so many areas."
Sandia's computer modeling and simulation capabilities are being brought to bear in the new National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center. Sandia, along with Los Alamos National Laboratory, industry, and other government agencies, uses computer tools to model interdependencies of the nation's infrastructures. By understanding those connections, Joan said, planners can design systems that are resistant to the cascading effects of a failure or breakdown in one part of the system.
T.J. Allard of the Executive Staff Director office (12100) interjected that infrastructure surety, while vitally important, doesn't have a clear and immediate payoff for industry. "It is invisible to shareholders; it's hard to get the private sector to invest in this."
A number of Sandia technologies -- chem/bio foam, bomb disablement technology, risk-analysis software, for example -- are in the marketplace and are being brought to bear in the war on terrorism. And while other technologies are poised for wider use, the Labs needs to proceed deliberately. As Joan noted, "It had better be foolproof; it had better work 100 percent of the time."
Joan noted that in thinking about terrorism threats, it is useful to consider them as systems problems.
"We aren't creative enough to think of every possible threat" a terrorist might concoct, she said. As such, countering terrorism requires a systems approach -- Sandia's strong suit. (As an example, there may be a number of ways a terrorist might attempt to seize control of an aircraft; a systems approach would not try to come up with a counter for each scenario. Rather, it would make the air travel system itself more attack-proof.)
Joan said it is not yet clear what the long-term impact of the nation's war on terrorism will be on Sandia.
"In some areas, we'll expect increased work, but in other areas our work may decline," she said. "It's a matter of balancing federal priorities, and that's something Congress needs to do."
Joan said she is aware of a strong sense of purpose across the laboratories she visits.
"Every time I talk to anyone who's involved in this work, I hear the same thing: 'It's really sad that it took such an overwhelming event to jolt this nation, but we're glad we have something to offer.' " -- John German
Two Sandia teams played key roles in separate tests that tracked moving ground vehicles and successfully targeted them with missiles.
The tests were part of the Affordable Moving Surface Target Engagement program (AMSTE), funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and administered by the Air Force Research Laboratory.
As part of the program, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon competed to develop an inexpensive way to destroy moving ground vehicles from standoff ranges, using multiple radar systems with GMTI (ground moving target indicator) capabilities. These radar systems typically also have synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capability, which produces radar imagery of the terrain but is unable to detect moving targets.
A Sandia team from Synthetic Aperture Radar I Dept. 2348 supplied the Lab's SAR/GMTI testbed radar for Raytheon. Another team from Signal and Image Process System Dept. 15352 is developing robust algorithms for feature-aided vehicle tracking for use by Northrop Grumman in future, more complex tests.
In August the two companies conducted separate tests, placing radars with GMTI on airplanes and tracking remotely controlled moving ground vehicles -- Northrop Grumman's was a step van and Raytheon's was a dune buggy. The radar information identifying the location of the moving targets and the generated targeting solution was transmitted to missiles launched from fighter aircraft. The missiles continued receiving target location updates during flight, making bull's eye hits in both cases.
Jim Redel (2348), project leader for Sandia's efforts with Raytheon, says having GMTI capabilities on a single plane monitoring a mobile ground target doesn't provide enough information to give precise target location information. But by triangulating radar data from two or three planes, the location of the moving target can be pinpointed.
"One plane equipped with radar by itself can't tell where the target is," Jim says. "You need the information from the different platforms to accurately track the target."
Hitting moving targets at night and in all weather with predictability and accuracy has been a long-standing military problem. Since GMTI works only for moving targets and SAR for stationary targets, move-stop-move scenarios -- like at intersections -- pose significant challenges. Situations where there are many vehicles moving in close proximity are challenging as well.
Technology being developed as part of AMSTE could assure a perfect hit nearly every time.
The Raytheon team completed the first AMSTE test, Aug. 15, at China Lake, Calif. The test used three radar-equipped surveillance aircraft -- a U-2 with advanced SAR/GMTI, a Global Hawk UAV radar flying on a manned A-3 testbed aircraft, and the Sandia testbed radar on a Twin Otter simulating an advanced fighter. The weapon was a modified, GPS-aided, Maverick missile launched from an F-16. The missile came very close to the remote-controlled dune buggy target. The customer considered the test a direct hit.
Northrop Grumman's test came later in the month at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and scored a direct hit on the target -- a remote-controlled step van moving at 20 mph along a slightly twisting road -- with the missile. SAR systems with GMTI were carried on two aircraft, a BAC1-11 and Joint-STARS E-8. An F-16 launched the missile, a Lockheed Martin GPS-guided munition.
Northrop Grumman was tapped by DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory to participate in the next phase of AMSTE.
Following the China Lake test, Stephen Welby, DARPA Program Manager for AMSTE, congratulated the team for a successful flight test.
"Yesterday's flight test was the first of its kind . . . a real-time multi-laterated GMTI tracker directed precision weapon delivered against a moving target," he said. "This is a powerful transformational capability for US war fighters." -- Chris Burroughs
Last modified: Nov. 2, 2001