A small interagency group focused on antiterrorism technologies has seen its
budget more than triple, mostly as a result of pressing demands for counter-explosive
systems and other devices to help protect troops in Iraq.
The Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) developed a reputation in the national
security bureaucracy as a fast-response organization that could deliver counterterrorism
technologies faster than the traditional military procurement system, mostly
by relying on off-the-shelf systems.
TSWG has seen its budget grow from $60 million in 2003 to $210 million in 2004.
The group operates under State Department and Defense Department oversight.
Several projects in recent years have been sponsored by the Department of Homeland
TSWG contains 10 diverse subgroups with disciplines as varied as chemical-biological
and nuclear countermeasures, VIP protection, investigative support, and forensics.
TSWG awards contracts across a diverse range of disciplines. On behalf of the
Department of Homeland Security, for example, TSWG awarded a $775,922 contract
for new fire fighting garments that protect from chemical and biological agents.
For VIP protection, the agency awarded a $582,029 contract for the development
of a laser detection system for windows.
Another DHS project provided $370,000 for West Virginia University scientists
to develop a forensic method to determine the age of deposited biological evidence,
such as a small drop of blood.
At the top of the list these days, however, are projects that help address
“IEDs,” said Jeffrey David, deputy program manager for TSWG. Improvised
explosive devices have killed hundreds of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan,
and the Defense Department is scrambling to find any form of countermeasures
that can help soldiers detect them and mitigate their effect.
One recent anti-IED success story is the development of the Mark I and Mark
II robots by EOD Performance, of Ontario, Canada.
TSWG officials spotted the robots at a defense industry trade show, said Ken
Molner, of EOD Performance. “They had previously done a market study of
robotics throughout the States and they couldn’t find anything that fit
The Mark I can open car doors, enter cabinets and walk up stairs. TSWG purchased
13 robots for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Federal Bureau
of Investigations and the Defense Department. “It travels about .7 miles
per hour, works off a laptop and is limited to doing one task at a time,”
said Molner. “For example, it can’t turn and drive at the same time.”