Magazine article National Defense

Interagency Group Looking for a Few Good Innovations

Magazine article National Defense

Interagency Group Looking for a Few Good Innovations

Article excerpt

The interagency organization that fosters counterterrorism technologies and puts them into the hands of military or civilian users has seen a steady increase in funding.

"How much money is there? That's always tough to answer," said Jeff David, deputy director of the Technical Support Working Group. The amount budgeted to fund research and development contracts in 2007-2008 is $40 million to $60 million, with a potential to reach $80 million to $100 million. "Every year, it goes up," David added.

For companies large and small hoping to win a contract the challenges can be daunting.

"We're giving you the hardest problems we have," said Larry, Tierney, program manager for the explosive ordnance disposal/low intensity conflict subgroup. "They're not designed to be glamorous."

The working group releases its requirement documents in March, and potential contractors have until June to write white papers. If accepted, they have until October to submit their full proposal.

"Literally, the guy working in the garage has received a contract from us," David said.

The proliferation of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan--along with fears that terrorists will again employ similar tactics in the United States--were reoccurring themes this year.

How to detect explosives, how to dismantle them, how to lessen damage caused by them, and how to assist forensic teams in figuring out who used them are all acute needs, according to program managers.

The safety of bomb disposal personnel is high on the list. TSWG is soliciting proposals for technologies that make their job easier and lessen their exposure to detonations.

The technological hurdles can be challenging. For example, TSWG's improvised device defeat subgroup has been searching for a multi-purpose collapsible cart, which would allow bomb disposal personnel, or a robot, to haul up to 600 pounds of equipment to an incident sight.

It requested proposals for such a system last year, but didn't find one worthy of funding.

The cart must be adjustable in height, able to double as a gurney in case of injury and be made of material that will not cause further fragmentation damage in the event of an explosion. On top of these requirements, it must be collapsible so it can be easily stored in a bomb disposal unit vehicle.

And don't forget "affordable." As is the case for many items on the TSWG wish list, the cart is intended for both military and domestic use. States and municipalities don't have big budgets, program managers reminded participants at a recent industry conference. …

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