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Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff visits Sandia, speaks highly of Labs' antiterrorism technologies

Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff visits Sandia, speaks highly of Labs’ antiterrorism technologies

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Taking up Sen. Pete Domenici’s suggestion that he tour Sandia, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said during a visit to the Labs last Friday that "it turned out to be good advice."

Chertoff spent a half day at the Labs to learn about Sandia’s capabilities, and received briefings on several specific Sandia-developed homeland security technologies and programs. The briefings came from new Labs President and Director Tom Hunter, other members of senior management, and several subject matter experts.

Following the briefings, Chertoff, joined by Domenici, Rep. Heather Wilson, and Tom, conducted a half-hour news conference in the Bldg. 810 lobby to talk about the relationship between Sandia and the Department of Homeland Security. Representatives from most of the Albuquerque news media attended.

Chertoff said he was impressed with what he had learned at Sandia and expressed a hope to spend more time at the Labs in the future.

"There is a tremendous contribution [to homeland security] to be made here," he said. He said the energy, the dedication, and the creativity at Sandia "truly are remarkable."

The 21st century challenges in national security, Chertoff said, more and more will be characterized by "asymmetric warfare," conflict in which a much weaker adversary can challenge a much stronger one through the use of such tactics as suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices, and other low-tech but lethal technologies.

"This is a set of challenges we haven’t had to deal with before," Chertoff said, adding that America’s technology is the "added value" that can differentiate it from its asymmetrical adversaries.

Chertoff noted that Sandia had begun addressing many homeland security, counterterrorism, and related issues even before 9/11. The Labs’ foresight in tackling those problems before they rose high up on the national radar, he said, "is a tribute to the value of these labs." Chertoff said Sandia and the other national labs, because of their track record of looking at and addressing challenges before they fully materialize, are invaluable in preparing the nation for the wars it may have to fight not just today, but in the future.

Introducing Chertoff, Tom said the secretary had very quickly established himself "as a person in whom we can have great confidence." Domenici, speaking of Chertoff, said that the secretary’s sharp mind and probing intellect were on display during the morning briefings. "Sandians will attest that he’s quick."

Domenici said he hoped the briefings will help convince the secretary that the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t need to "re-invent the wheel" in the matter of research and development. "Today was another way to show [Chertoff] that he has a lot of resources right here. This laboratory is premier; this is first- class."

Chertoff, who noted that he has a long-standing personal affection and regard for Domenici (which Domenici also noted in his own remarks), indicated that he got the message.

"We don’t have to re-invent the wheel," he said. "There are tremendous wheels right here and at the other [national] labs."