A multi-agency government organization, that was relatively unknown
less than a year ago, today finds itself in the limelight and swamped
by questions from thousands of contractors seeking business opportunities.
The Technical Support Working group, or TSWG (Tiswig, as their
members like to call themselves) is a federal interagency panel
that, for years, has quietly worked on the research, development
and deployment of novel technologies for anti-terrorism and homeland
security applications. Located in Arlington, Va., the agency has
a budget of just under $100 million, which is a relatively small
amount by Pentagon standards.
Things have changed since last fall. The U.S. war on terrorism,
increased requirements in homeland defense and growing budgets have
turned the TSWG into a “must” agency for government
contractors interested in the anti-terrorism market. For TSWG officials,
that means they are busier than ever.
“You can’t stay in the background and still deal with
the people we have to deal with,” Jeff David, the head of
the TSWG, told National Defense.
“We’re getting more interest from a broader range of
industry.” The numbers of proposals have increased considerably,
and there are “a lot of submissions from both very large and
small companies,” he said. According to David, the quality
of submissions has mostly stayed the same, but “some are very
The TSWG still works on projects that it does not talk about. Under
the current circumstances, however, “you don’t get good
ideas if you don’t tell them what you need,” David said.
During the agency’s annual briefing for industry earlier
this year, TSWG officials cited seven areas that will require new
technologies: explosives detection, improvised device defeat, personnel
protection/tactical operations support, infrastructure protection,
chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear countermeasures,
investigative support and forensics, and physical security.
A lot of work has been done in all these areas, TSWG officials
said, but some new requirements have emerged.
Last year, the TSWG spent 45 percent of its budget on explosives
detection (considered the most important in counter terrorism) and
physical security efforts. (National Defense, May 2001) Twenty three
percent was assigned to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear
countermeasures, while 11 percent was allocated to surveillance,
collection and operations support. Seven percent was for investigative
support and forensics, while 6 percent was sliced for tactical operations
support and 5 percent for personnel protection. Three percent was
spent on infrastructure protection.
Lou Wasserzug, manager of the explosives and detection subgroup,
said the agency is evaluating standoff detection, a system that
should be able to detect military, commercial and improvised explosives
in cluttered environments, including standard maritime shipping
containers, civilian and military aircraft pallets, trucks and cars.
“If you can solve this, it’s the holy grail,”
he said. The subgroup has $450,000 for fiscal year 2003. The money
will also be allocated to technologies that can screen cargo and
monitor containers for explosives, hazardous chemicals and human
intruders. Additionally, the TSWG is seeking a non-intrusive capability
to detect concealed liquid explosives, military chemical agents
and toxic industrial chemicals in either rigid or flexible containers.
Wasserzug noted that current cargo assessment and detection techniques
are limited. His group is pursuing technologies that can offer 95
percent detection and only 5 percent false alarm.
To detect and disable improvised explosive devices, both active
and passive technologies are sought, said Mark Asselin, a TSWG official.
He added that explosive-ordnance disposal personnel need technologies
that would allow them to disable/destroy electric and electronic
circuits within an improvised explosive device.
The TSWG plans to invest in integrated portable diagnostics systems
that can help the bomb squad more accurately display and characterize
the composition of a suspect item. This subgroup is working with
a budget of $4.4 million.
For military force protection, the agency is evaluating a lightweight,
transparent armor for combat and tactical vehicles. This armor must
be capable of defeating the M-61 150 grain, armor-piercing round,
at 2,800 fps.
On a smaller scale, the force-protection working group is interested
in a portable concealed weapons detector that can be used from a
standoff range of at least 10 feet. Also, a point-to-point personal
duress alarm system is needed, TSWG officials said. It would have
both a transmitter and receiver, with the transmitter being capable
of sending out, when activated, a burst of signals to a belt-clip
The subgroup, with a budget of $5.5 million, is also working on
a handheld computer that would help a commander manage tactical
data in the battlefield.
The chemical-biological defense subgroup—expected to receive
$8 million in fiscal year 2003—has requirements for maritime
chemical alert monitors, adsorption filter technology, mitigation
of chemical agent release in a public transport terminal, emergency
training for agricultural bioterrorism response, treatment of high-risk
passenger luggage, food protection for critical and overseas facilities
and a package water treatment system for U.S. Installations in foreign
The group with the longest requirements list deals with investigative
support and forensics. With a budget of more than $4 million, the
group has about 17 technology requirements. Among them is a handheld,
wireless, tracking system, a searchable database on stable isotope
signature of explosives, establishing morphological traits of DNA
and age determination, based on recovered serological evidence from
a crime scene.
Around $15.5 million a year is allocated to the physical security
subgroup. One of its goals is to field a tactical video surveillance
system with motion detection activation and advanced assessment
capabilities. During emergencies, a portable personal alerting system
could provide rapid audio and/or visual warning messages to individuals
or large groups.
In the realm of infrastructure protection, the TSWG is seeking
a secure teleconferencing bridge. Relying on fixed and mobile phones,
the system would disseminate threat warnings, facilitate distributed
crisis management and enable discussions on sensitive topics. The
group has about $3 million to spend on this technology.
A broad-area announcement that the TSWG released last fall generated
tens of thousands of proposals. The plan is to award contracts between
October 2002 and February 2003. However, David warned, “ I
can’t remember a year when we have funded all proposals.”
More information on the BAA can be found at http://www.tswg.gov.