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Homeland Security

Radiation sensors deter, detect terrorist attacks


Story Identification Number: 20033713437
Story by Sgt. Joshua S. Higgins

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.(March 7, 2003) -- The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a Department of Defense agency tasked with safeguarding the United States from weapons of mass destruction, held a technology demonstration here Feb. 26, to display the capabilities of recently installed Unconventional Nuclear Warfare Defense Program test beds.

The beds contain radiation sensors and camera systems capable of transmitting electronic surveillance information to security personnel aboard the base in case of an attempted terrorist attack, according to Catherine Monte, program manager.

"There is no particular threat here, but possible attacks on the United States prompted officials to expand efforts to develop and field systems that can detect and defend against weapons of mass destruction," said Monte. "A threat is not inconceivable here, but to date, there isn't one."

According to a DTRA fact sheet, the Department of Defense is establishing the beds at four different military installations, one for each service. The installations are varied in nature and geography to develop and demonstrate applications and techniques to meet a variety of threats. With six test bed locations on board the base and throughout Onslow County, N.C., Camp Lejeune is the first base where the program is integrated with the civilian community.

"One thing particularly good here is we have a wonderful cooperation with the community," said Maj. Gen. David M. Mize, base commanding general. "We hope to continue our good relationship and are happy to be the first integrated part of this program."

Daniel Pritchard, program technical staff member, said the sensors, embedded in orange barriers strategically placed along roadways and railways, detect radiation isotopes passing by and send the information to an alarm display box. The box then alerts military and civilian 911 centers and other emergency responders. Specified on-duty military policemen carry pagers indicating the same information. A laser-triggered camera similar to those found at tollbooths simultaneously snaps a photo of the suspected vehicle. Military and civilian authorities would then search the apprehended vehicle with a hand-held instrument that has both visual and audio alarms, according to Pritchard.

After three months of set-up procedures, the sensor beds are fully functional, said Monte. They will remain in operation as long as necessary to complete testing and experimentation. The results of the four installation tests will enable DTRA to more coherently focus its efforts on what kind of sensors and identification tools need to be developed in the future. For now, the beds are an added security benefit for the base and the county, Monte said.

"This has been the most complicated of all sites," she said, "but with coordination from base and county officials, it has been an enjoyable experience."

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