A small, secretive organization—made up of representatives from the Departments
of Defense, State and Justice, as well as other federal agencies—is “going
public” to find new technology to use in the fight against terrorism.
The unit, known as the Technical Support Working Group, is not new. TSWG—pronounced
“tis-wig”—was created in 1983, after the suicide bombing of
the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Nearly 250 Marines died in that
attack, when an explosives-laden truck crashed through the barracks security
TSWG’s mission is find, develop and—within two years—field
equipment, said Jeffrey M. David, deputy director of the Defense Department’s
Combating Terrorism Technology Support Office, which manages the program. Its
$60 million annual budget is funded jointly by the Pentagon and the State Department.
In all, more than 80 federal agencies participate in TSWG, David told a recent
briefing, in Arlington, Va., sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association.
The agencies’ representatives meet regularly to identify and prioritize
research and development requirements for combating terrorism, he explained.
Then, TSWG funds projects in industry, academia and government laboratories
to address those requirements. The group also conducts cooperative R&D with
the United Kingdom, Canada and Israel through separate bilateral agreements.
TSWG has been “quietly operating in the background for about 20 years,”
David said. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States,
however, it has been getting “a lot more visibility,” he said.
About six weeks after the attacks, TSWG published 44 broad agency requirements,
seeking ideas for new antiterrorist technology. “The response was unprecedented,”
David said. “We received 12,000 submissions.” Of those, about 60
were approved and funded for development, he said. Since then, a total of 120
ideas have been approved.
TSWG wants it known that it has money to spend. “We’re not asking
for things we can’t fund,” David said.
During fiscal year 2003, more than 47 new contracts, worth in excess of $20
million, will be funded, he noted. In 2004, approximately 20 percent of TSWG’s
budget will go to new contracts.
Earlier this year, TWSG issued two broad agency announcements covering scores
of requirements. A third, from the Department of Homeland Security, was “put
on hold” until the department—which came into being in March—gets
its feet on the ground. A fourth, at press time, was still under consideration.
TSWG’s requirements cover such fields as chemical and biological defense,
air-defenses for civilian aircraft, new types of body and vehicular armor and
large-scale infrastructure protection, David said. TSWG representatives provided
some examples, including these:
Improved trace explosives detection sampling. TSWG wants to find new ways of
discovering trace amounts of explosives. The short-term goal is to come up with
devices that can be adapted easily for use with current sensor systems. Over
the long-term, TSWG would like to develop equipment that will work with next-generation
technology, including miniaturized, micro and nano-scale detectors.
Ballistic Shield and Framework. The group is seeking a portable, ballistic
shield to protect from handgun and rifle fire and fragmentation. The shield
should provide mobile cover for pre-operational staging and offensive tactical
maneuvers. It should be two-man portable, deploy in less than two minutes, and
offer a minimum protection area of 6 feet by 6 feet.
Very Important Person Protection. TSWG wants improved security for armored
passenger vehicles, including lighter opaque and transparent armor. Better methods
are needed to spot potential snipers. The group wants to find snipers before
they shoot, not afterwards.
Covert vehicle tamper protection. TSWG is seeking a system to alert a driver
that a tracking device has been placed on his vehicle. The system should be
self-contained, with its own power source, capable of lasting several days without
recharging. It would mount in a secure location in a tamper-resistant container,
store information for post-event analysis, and have a low false-alarm rate.
Secure video teleconferencing and document transfer. This network should serve
as many as 30 locations, and be capable of video, image and document sharing
in a sensitive—but unclassified—environment. The system should provide
protection against theft, spoofing and man-in-the-middle attacks.
Expedient tactical self-contained breathing apparatus. Tactical law enforcement
and security response teams would like a self-contained breathing apparatus
that weighs less than 10 pounds and can be donned in less than 30 seconds. Such
a system would not unduly impede the ability to fire a weapon, communicate and
perform tactical movements, such as crawling, forced entry and wall climbing.
It would be compatible with other systems with standard NATO interfaces.
Cell-phone reporting system. The group wants a rapidly deployable system to
enable disaffected enemy troops and civilians to report the location of their
leaders, combat units or other critical intelligence. Such a system would deploy
low-cost, disposable cell phones in the kinds of airdrop tubes currently used
for delivery of transistor radios by psychological operations units. The serial
number of the phones could be used to determine who might receive any reward
for aiding in the capture of enemy personnel.
Next-generation firefighter gear. TSWG is seeking a new set of protective clothing
for military and civilian firefighters. Garments would provide the same or improved
protection against heat, flame, hot gas and water as the current generation,
while reducing inadvertent exposure to hazardous chemical, biological and radiological
agents. They would not exceed the weight of current garments by more than 10
percent. In fact, reduction in weight—without compromising protection—is
National rail system passenger and baggage screening. The Department of Homeland
Security is seeking a way to detect weapons and explosives for the nation’s
railroads that is as good or better than current airport checkpoint screening.
The system should be able to handle at least 200 passengers per hour at a cost
of less than $1 per passenger. The technology must address the open operational
environment, including many stops, along a designated rail route.
Underwater loudhailer. This requirement seeks a design for a device to notify
a potentially hostile underwater swimmer that he or she is in a secure area
before the use of force. The device should be equipped with a microphone and
transmit clear and intelligible commands automatically and continuously in English,
to an underwater swimmer, at a distance of 500 yards or greater and a depth
of 130 feet. The system should be easily adaptable to languages other than English.
Standoff detection. TSWG wants a system capable of detecting explosives at
a distance. “Standoff detection means ‘I’m here, and the sensor
is over there,’” said Louis Wasserzug, TSWG’s program manager
for explosives detection.
The system needs to work in cluttered environments, including maritime shipping
containers, aircraft pallets, trucks and automobiles, Wasserzug said. “It
should not be big,” he noted. “”We’re not talking about
Boston’s ‘Big Dig.’”
One of TSWG’s objectives is to “keep these things low-cost,”
especially for first responders, David said. “When items cost more than
a squad car, it becomes very difficult to explain to a city manager why he needs
to buy one. He’d much rather buy a squad car, which he can use every day,
as opposed to these devices, which—we hope—are hardly ever used.”
By the time the deadlines for the two BAAs passed in early April, the TSWG
had received thousands of responses. At press time, the exact number had not
been tabulated. The responses are receiving careful reviews by TSWG staff members.
Those who submitted ideas deemed to be promising will be asked to develop white
papers, detailing their concepts, David explained. Successful white papers will
result in a request for a full technical and cost proposal for final evaluation.
Many technologies developed from previous TSWG BAAs are already on the market.
For example, the First Responder Toolkit—produced by Defense Group Inc.,
of Alexandria, Va.—is now commercially available as the Chemical Biological
CoBRA is an emergency management database system that provides rapid access
to needed information, wireless communications, and hardware and software that
can be tailored to needs of specific agencies. The FBI is procuring CoBRA for
all bomb squads in the United States.
Disposable Toxic Agent Protective Suits are low-cost chemical protective garments
that can be worn at a contaminated “hot zone.” Since 2001, when
they went on the market, hundreds have been sold by two manufacturers, Geomet
Technologies LLC, a subsidiary of Versar, of Springfield, Va., and Dupont Protective
Apparel, a unit of E.I. Dupont de Nemours and Co., of Wilmington, Del.
The Hand-Held Radiation Monitor, the size of a flashlight, was developed as
an inexpensive, easy-to-use detector for radioactive substances. The manufacturer,
Sensor Technology Engineering Inc., of Santa Barbara, Calif., has sold more
than 700 of the monitors to departments across the United States.
The Palmtop Emergency Action for Chemicals, produced by AristaTek Inc., of
Laramie, Wyo., is a hand-held computer that lists more than 10,000 toxic chemicals.
The PEAC was designed for use by federal, state and local law enforcement and
emergency personnel responding to terrorist attack, hazardous material incidents
or other chemical spills.
TSWG has worked with Med-Eng, a Canadian manufacturer, to improve the SRS-5
Bomb Suit, now used by all certified bomb squads in the United States. The suits
now are designed to accommodate the wearing of a self-contained breathing apparatus,
incorporate more effective fabrics and employ lighter weight materials.
The group cooperated with the FBI and Sandia National Laboratory to design
the PAN Disrupter, a device to disable small, homemade bombs. Made by Ideal
Products, of Lexington, Ky., it is standard equipment for more than 400 civilian
bomb squads around the country, and it is being acquired by many military explosive
TSWG worked with PerkinElmer Inc., of Boston, to develop the First Responder
Biological Sampling Kit. After the 2001 anthrax attacks, investigators had little
more than cotton swabs to gather samples from large areas, such as air ducts
and office space.
The kit was delivered to the U.S. Capitol Police, in Washington, D.C., during
the first days of the contamination. The kit includes samplers that come in
larger sizes, permitting a 20-fold increase in collection efficiency.
TSWG continues to seek good ideas in the war against terror, David insists.
The group maintains a secure, Web-based service, called the BAA Information
Delivery System, to receive and process responses. The system can be accessed
via the Internet at www.bids.tswg.gov.
Any visitor to the Web site can download the full BAA package. To upload submissions,
however, submitters have to register with the site. Submitters have access only
to their own documents, and a submission’s status is provided as “pending,”
“accepted” or “rejected.”
Before submitting a BAA proposal, David advised, take time to read the directions.
Write your proposal to fit a specific requirement in the BAA. “And no
shotgunning,” he warned. In other words, don’t try to submit the
same proposal for more than one requirement. If you do, it won’t be considered
Also, he said, be aware of closing dates and times. The BIDS software will
not allow uploads after the due date and time for the BAA.