Little-Known Organization Finds Innovations for Fighting Terrorism
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2003 A little-known organization that canvasses private industry to quickly find and develop innovative solutions to problems inherent in fighting terrorism may be emerging from the shadows.
The Technical Support Working Group seeks "better ideas" from industry for use by military and other government and civilian agencies' counterterrorism missions, said Jeffrey M. David, deputy director of DoD's Combating Terrorism Technology Support Office.
David's office oversees TSWG, pronounced "TIS-wig," which was created in 1983 after the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. On Oct. 23 of that year, he said, a terrorist drove an explosives-laden truck through the barracks' security perimeter, crashed through the first floor wall into the building and detonated his charge. The suicide attack killed nearly 250 service members and wounded scores more.
The working group, co-funded by the departments of State and Defense since 1992, had been "quietly operating in the background for about 20 years," David said, when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States occurred.
TSWG received "a lot more visibility" after that, he noted. On Oct. 23, 2001, he said, the government put out 44 requirements or broad agency announcements seeking ideas how to fight terrorism, such as conducting combat operations against terrorists in remote locations, destroying difficult targets, and developing the means to counteract weapons of mass destruction.
"The response was unprecedented. We received 12,000 submissions," David said, noting that about 60 submissions were approved and funded for development from TSWG's $60 million budget. Since then, a total of 120 ideas have been approved, he pointed out.
One of the "better ideas" being adopted is a low-cost, credit-card- sized radiation dosage-measuring badge now being fielded for evaluation, he said. He remarked that other radiation-measuring devices for individual wear are either too bulky, too slow in measuring or too expensive -- the new ones cost just $3 each.
TSWG's goal is to find, develop and field counterterrorism equipment within two years, David explained, pointing out that the new radiation dosimeters were fielded in January -- just five months after the contracts were signed.
He said other ideas and new equipment being considered include better night-vision goggles, improved unexploded ordnance removal, and biological agent detection.
"We're asking industry (and) academia, 'Give us the ideas as to how you'd solve this requirement,'" he said.
Three more broad agency announcements -- covering 70 individual requirements for this year -- will be issued in about two weeks, David said. Two announcements will be from TSWG and the third from the Department of Homeland Security, he said.
Thirty-five individual requirements are in the chemical and biological attack realm, he noted. Some other requirements include air-defense countermeasures for civilian aircraft, new types of body and vehicle armor, and large-scale infrastructure protection programs, he added.
"We've covered the gamut of combating terrorism," David noted, adding he expects to see "between 8,000 and 12,000 submissions."
David said he makes it a point to visit with U.S. troops while on overseas business trips. "I see all of these pieces of equipment that we developed for them.
"They have no idea who I am or what this program is," he remarked. "They just know they have equipment that works -- and they use it."