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Nuclear Terrorism and Countermeasures

STATEMENT OF ARNOLD S. WARSHAWSKY, TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT GROUP, LAWRENCE LIVERMORE NATIONAL LABORATORY

House of Representatives,

Committee on National Security,

Military Research and Development Subcommittee,

Washington, DC, Wednesday, October 1, 1997.

The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:35 p.m. in room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Curt Weldon (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.

Mr. WARSHAWSKY. Thank you very much, Congressman Weldon, and whoever else is left, I guess. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to share some exciting advances in the Nation’s arsenal against the threat of nuclear terrorism.

You have heard about the threat from Ms. Stern and you have heard about the emergency response programs from Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, and Judge Webster and his colleagues just finished talking about the issues associated with Russian organized crime and the Russian military. What I am going to do is talk about some emerging technological capabilities that we believe are available for the near and the far term.

Now, before I begin I would like to point out that we believe that in order to protect against nuclear terrorism, you have to take a multilayered approach. Technology is only one piece of that approach. Indeed, the technology I am going to talk about this afternoon is only one of many kinds of technologies that are being pursued, and that is good to know.

The first layer of defense, and perhaps the best way to protect against nuclear terrorism, is obviously to protect it at the source. Nuclear weapons and nuclear materials simply have to be secured and protected worldwide, whether they are in Russia or some other country. We have all heard about General Lebed’s concern that some of the Russian nuclear weapons may not be accounted for, and though I don’t choose to comment on his remarks, I will say that the United States is pursuing very vigorously programs, especially those that are funded by the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici legislation, to help Russia to enhance the accountability and the security of its nuclear weapons and its nuclear materials. We call them the MPC&A programs by and large at the laboratory, and all the DOE laboratories are active participants in this endeavor.

I think that everything that we can do to help Russia to secure its weapons and nuclear materials is good for our security, so I would encourage the continuation of those kinds of programs.

The next layer of defense to be concerned about is catching what happens if that first layer doesn’t work, if something starts to slip out, and the first place you have an opportunity to do that is at international borders. What you want to do is catch the movement of materials and perhaps weapons when they start that leakage, if indeed they do.

Our Government also has been proactive in working with other countries to try and enhance their abilities to make those detections. What we have been doing mostly is helping with training and helping installation of modern portal radiation monitoring systems to detect things as they flow through.

A third layer of defense is to detect the nuclear materials or devices as they start to come into the United States. A number of Government agencies are working together to enhance our national capabilities to counter nuclear smuggling. It is a tough thing to do.

Particular focus I might mention is that the Department of Energy has been working to help develop inexpensive, reliable, portable radiation detectors, you may have heard about some of them, and what DOE is doing in that regard is to help develop the technology. We are working with the people who are going to have to use them, and we are studying how do you use them smartly, so it is not just a matter of throwing some technology over the transom.

I think that everything that we can do to help Russia to secure its weapons and nuclear materials is good for our security, so I would encourage the continuation of those kinds of programs.

The next layer of defense to be concerned about is catching what happens if that first layer doesn’t work, if something starts to slip out, and the first place you have an opportunity to do that is at international borders. What you want to do is catch the movement of materials and perhaps weapons when they start that leakage, if indeed they do.

Our Government also has been proactive in working with other countries to try and enhance their abilities to make those detections. What we have been doing mostly is helping with training and helping installation of modern portal radiation monitoring systems to detect things as they flow through.

A third layer of defense is to detect the nuclear materials or devices as they start to come into the United States. A number of Government agencies are working together to enhance our national capabilities to counter nuclear smuggling. It is a tough thing to do.

Particular focus I might mention is that the Department of Energy has been working to help develop inexpensive, reliable, portable radiation detectors, you may have heard about some of them, and what DOE is doing in that regard is to help develop the technology. We are working with the people who are going to have to use them, and we are studying how do you use them smartly, so it is not just a matter of throwing some technology over the transom.

Under the provisions of an advanced concept technology demonstration that is jointly funded by DOE’s Office of Non-Proliferation and National Security and DOD’s Defense Special Weapons Agency, we are scaling up laboratory experiments to provide protection for a U.S. military base. We call the technology the wide area tracking system. We call it WATS for short.

WATS consists at the moment of commercial radiation detectors and vehicle detectors, communications, and it has an advanced data-fusion algorithm, which is actually the heart of its capability.

What we have done is to take a total system approach to developing this technology. We are involving the operators early in the process so that when we are finished, what we have is a usable system, and not just a technological curiosity. This system approach, coupled with the data-fusion algorithm, has enabled us to turn a network of relatively inexpensive detectors, each with a high detection probability, yet a very high false alarm rate that comes along with that, into a system that keeps the high detection probability, but manages to have a very low system false alarm rate. That is the key to making the whole thing work.

As you can imagine, security provisions prevent me from going into more detail about WATS in this forum. However, I would like to emphasize that there are two aspects of the project that are particularly important. Acting early in the development process with the people who are going to use it, that is the response force, and the people who would sit behind the computer that we would put in place. The second thing is following a measured growth path. It started with a computer model, to an experiment in our laboratory, and is now being scaled up to a deployment around a U.S. base. We believe the next logical step, particularly if we are successful with the base, is to scale WATS up to test its performance in an urban area. We learn a lot about important real world things when you take this kind of a measured total system approach.

Our vision for WATS takes advantage of the algorithm’s ability to use information from lots of different places. For example, if you were to use WATS to protect against a threat that was moving along a road, you could tap into sensors and cameras and historic traffic flow patterns that actually are going to be available because of the ongoing programs called the intelligent highway system. Thus you can take advantage of funding that is happening anyway.

Our vision of WATS takes advantage of the fact that the algorithm that we use doesn’t care what detectors are doing the detecting. That is useful because it means that when future technology gives us better detectors, we can plug them in and not have to change things.

Let me turn now to how WATS might be deployed in a city. There are three ways that come to mind off of first bat. One can permanently place WATS sensors at a chosen location. Permanent deployment has a lot of technical advantage, but it limits somewhat your operational flexibility. At least you have to figure out which specific places are you really going to protect and put the permanent installation there. You don’t have the flexibility that way to protect the next city down.

Frankly, it is even expensive to install a traffic light. We were kind of astonished at how expensive that becomes, and it is illustrative to find out.

Alternatively, you could operate a mobile or movable capability, and there you would put your detectors perhaps in a fleet of vans and drive them out to where you wanted the detectors to be. You could centrally warehouse the vans and equipment until you had a reason to make the deployment. That would be what we would call a deploy-on-demand system. It is attractive because you don’t have to decide a priori where you are going to protect. But to be successful with it, you have to have very good intelligence warning in one of the other layers.

Third, you could try and do the best of both worlds and have a hybrid deployment, which might make sense, combining a subset fixed emplaced sensors at certain locations and have a supplementary mobile system to deploy on demand.

At this point, we don’t know which is the best choice. We believe you need to study that issue carefully, and we believe that an urban test program would be a good way to do that.

So, from our perspective, what are the remaining challenges for the WATS development? Of course we understand the devil is always in the details, and in the case of WATS, there are technical details that involve both detection technology and the central processing algorithm. Maybe more important at this point, there are operational details. You have to figure out and work with the first responders in the law enforcement community to figure out what are the appropriate connections, how do the systems talk to each other, how would the people respond.

We are very encouraged by the foresight of DOE and DOD to start on the joint ACTD, which will scale the laboratory capability to military base protection, and potentially in the future to a city protection capability. We believe that advanced technologies like WATS, coupled at the outset of their development with the emergency response people, the law enforcement people, and other operational capabilities, can significantly enhance our Nation’s ability to defend against nuclear terrorism.

Sir, this would conclude my prepared remarks. I thank you for the opportunity to speak with you, and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

OODA Analyst

OODA Analyst

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