Office Pursues New Ways to Protect Warfighters from WMD

By Stew Magnuson
The Joint Biological Agent Decontamination System

JPO CBRN Defense photo

BALTIMORE — The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense has a lot on its plate.

There are currently 93 acquisition programs in the pipeline with $807 million annually to pay for them all, its leader Darryl J. Colvin said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s CBRN Defense Conference and Exhibition held in Baltimore.

“The onus is on us — this enterprise, from the industry on down — to make every dollar count,” he said in a keynote speech.

Defending against weapons of mass destruction falls under three distinct sciences: biology, chemistry and nuclear physics. The office is charged with developing vaccines for pathogens, sensors to detect exposures to all three of the categories, protective garments, cures if exposed and decontamination technologies for both personnel and equipment.

“The metric to say how successful we are is: have we denied our adversaries any advantage to using those CBRN weapons?” he said.

These are data-driven sciences, which is why Colvin sees promise in artificial intelligence to help the JPO solve some of its tough problems.

“Our ability to optimize AI solutions is at our fingertips. We just have to get the data,” he said, citing a common problem across the military — accessing the massive amounts of information out there.

As for sensing attacks, the office wants to leverage work the services are doing to connect 5G-enabled networks, he said.

“It means developing network sensors that that can communicate and share information with each other in a very timely manner. And it must be done in such a way that we’re not overwhelming that commander,” he said.

In the protection category, the office continues to tackle the age-old size, weight and comfort problem.

“We’re trying to shed weight off of the soldier because every battery, every component, every communication device, every CBRN piece of equipment that we provide a war­fighter adds weight to what they’re already carrying around,” he said.

For the decontamination problem, the office is developing coatings and barriers that can absorb a threat, neutralize it and then “shear it off,” he said.

One recent project that has come to fruition is the Joint Biological Agent Decontamination System that deals with extra-large equipment.

He described it as a “large Pac-Man” that can wrap around an aircraft the size of a C-130. It applies heat and humidity to decontaminate the platform and put it back in service. “That’s here today,” he said.


Topics: Chem Bio Protection, Weapons of Mass Destruction, CBRN

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