Sandia LabNews

Sandia, other labs impress Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge with antiterrorism technologies

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge says he knows what it’s going to take to win the war on terrorism. And he saw a perfect example of it recently in Washington, D.C., when Sandia and other laboratories demonstrated for him some of their top antiterrorism technologies.

"In the months and years ahead, technology-based solutions will be a huge component of a comprehensive national homeland security plan," Ridge said at his weekly homeland security briefing Nov. 15, with DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham at his side. "And you [national laboratories] have given me a great deal of assurance, and more importantly, I think you’ve offered to the public today, all of America, a great deal of assurance that American ingenuity is already at work developing that technology."

Ridge made his remarks following a 40-minute tour at Department of Energy headquarters that featured more than two dozen technologies from the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, as well as from DOE’s science labs — Oak Ridge, Brookhaven, Pacific Northwest, Argonne, and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories.

Abraham spoke of the "technological wonders" and "wizardry" he and Ridge witnessed. "When I was helping lead this little tour today, I felt a little bit like Q in those old James Bond movies, with Gov. Ridge as our James Bond," he said.

Sandia presented decontamination foam, ChemLab, Hound and Hound II, Rapid Syndrome Validation Project (RSVP), robotics, and jointly presented information on the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC) with Los Alamos.

"It was obvious to me that both [Ridge and Abraham] understood the implication and potential applications of a combination of cooperative behavior, advanced mobility, and miniaturization for homeland defense," says Barry Spletzer (15211), who presented a variety of robotics with Paul Klarer (15252). "One specific area we talked about was using a small cooperative swarm to map out a building’s ductwork, decontaminate it, and assure that the decontamination effort was complete."

Sam Varnado (6500), who helped present NISAC, which provides computer modeling and analysis of the nation’s at-risk infrastructures, says Ridge seemed very interested in the technology. "When I mentioned some of the uses for it, such as determining which infrastructures to bring back up after a disaster and its use in identifying critical nodes that should be protected, he broke into a smile," Sam says. "He impressed me as being a very intelligent man who, although he is not a technologist, understands what technology can do for him."

Al Zelicoff (5320) says Ridge also showed a great deal of interest in RSVP, an Internet-based collection and response system that enables doctors and health workers to easily report suspicious illnesses to a central point. "He said he was going to have his people contact my people," Al says. "Also, a friend of mine saw Ridge on Larry King Live that evening and told me that he specifically mentioned the disease-monitoring program he saw at the DOE."

Other Sandia presenters were David Hannum (5848), with Hound and Hound II, hand-portable sample and preconcentration devices capable of detecting faint odors (parts per trillion) of explosives, drugs, and other chemicals; Larry Bustard, Mark Tucker, and Rita Betty (6245), with decontamination foam; and Duane Lindner (8101) and Pat Lewis (1764), with ChemLab, the handheld equivalent of a fully staffed chemical/biological detection and identification laboratory.

Sandia President C. Paul Robinson, who attended the tour and briefing with fellow lab directors John Browne of Los Alamos and Bruce Tarter of Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, says he was delighted with Ridge’s interest in the laboratories’ counterterrorism technologies.

"We’ve been working on a lot of these things, some for as long as five years. So, there is a lot of pride in having Gov. Ridge see them for himself," Paul says.