U.S. Promises New WMD Detection Capabilities Within a Year

WASHINGTON — The United States will over the next year develop new capabilities for detecting nuclear material in shipping containers and a new generation of biological- and chemical-agent detectors, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said today.

In a speech at George Washington University marking the Homeland Security Department’s first anniversary, Ridge outlined second-year goals for the department. They included greater cooperation with business; better interoperability of communications and other emergency management equipment; better citizen preparedness; and a more standardized, integrated picture of the terrorist threat and of the level of vulnerability to attack around the country.

Among science and technology priorities, Ridge highlighted the WMD detectors.

“Over the year,” he said, “Homeland Security will be buttoning up our lab coats a little higher and committing to specific goals ― developing new capabilities for detecting the presence of nuclear materials in shipping containers and vehicles and developing next-generation biological and chemical detectors, ones uniquely sensitive enough to redirect air flow to allow evacuation of buildings if a dangerous pathogen is detected.”

“Both capabilities are critical to a war where speed of knowledge and action is vital to the protection of the public,” Ridge said.

Among other specific benchmarks, Ridge predicted “real-time nationwide connectivity between all 50 states and territories” within the year, including “cyberconnectivity” within three months; a secure videoconferencing network in all governors’ offices by July; an integrated national database of critical infrastructure by December; and the expansion of the Container Security Initiative, which currently provides increased scrutiny of shipping containers at 17 foreign ports, to 10 more such ports within the next 12 months.

“A year from now, I invite you to come back and grade us ― see if performance met the goals,” Ridge said.

Ridge named the WMD detection programs as his top priorities for the department’s Science and Technology Directorate.

February 23, 2004
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WASHINGTON — The United States will over the next year develop new capabilities for detecting nuclear material in shipping containers and a new generation of biological- and chemical-agent detectors, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said today.

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