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Homeland Security

Science and Technology Directorate Chemical and Biological Defense Division

Mission

Chemistry

The Science and Technology Directorate's Chemical and Biological Defense Division focuses on saving lives and protecting the nation's infrastructure from chemical, biological, and agricultural threats and disasters.

Leadership

Anne Hultgren is the Acting Director for the Chemical and Biological Defense Division within the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.

Overview

The Chemical and Biological Defense Division provides a comprehensive understanding and analyses of chemical and biological threats, develops pre-event assessment, discovery, and interdiction capabilities as well as capabilities for warning, notification, and analysis of incidents. The division optimizes recovery technology and processes, enhances the capability to inform attribution of attacks, and develops medical countermeasures against foreign animal diseases.

Organization and Project Highlights

The Chemical and Biological Defense Division (CBD) carries out its activities through three technical areas of focus:

  • Agricultural Defense
  • Chemical and Biological Research and Development
  • Threat Characterization and Attribution

In the execution of its program, the Division actively coordinates with interagency partners to refine requirements, maximize resources and minimize duplication. In spite of a broad and rich customer base and application space, CBD has applied its resources to deliver great value to the Homeland Security Enterprise (HSE) through the focus areas above. Examples of current projects are Foreign Animal Disease Vaccines and Diagnostics, Underground Transportation Restoration, Risk Assessment, and its Forensics Program, described briefly below.

Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) Vaccines and Diagnostics

The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the U.K. in 2001 and South Korea in 2011 resulted in the slaughter of millions of animals and catastrophic economic losses for livestock and food industries.  Fearing similar severe consequences if the highly contagious animal disease were to appear in the United States, federal scientists worked for years to develop and win approval of a unique new vaccine to protect America’s cows, sheep and pigs.  A multi-year collaboration between DHS S&T, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), industry and academia resulted in a patent for the first successful FMD vaccine technology in more than 50 years and the first licensed FMD vaccine approved for manufacture in the United States.

The United States has been free from this serious animal disease since 1929 and has strict policies on the trade of livestock products with countries that have experienced problems. While the virus typically spreads naturally from infected animals, DHS officials do not rule out the possibility that it could be intentionally introduced into U.S. livestock herds by terrorists.  An outbreak of a foreign animal disease among livestock could devastate the U.S. food industry, causing tens of billions of dollars in economic damage. During an outbreaks, our trading partners would halt the import of many agricultural products from the U.S., including meat and dairy, causing further economic damage.

In addition to the FAD vaccine project, DHS S&T’s FMD related efforts include the development of additional assays to differentiate infected animals from those vaccinated, novel diagnostic tools and biotherapeutics to provide rapid protection.  The broader Agricultural Defense program includes enhancement of mitigation efforts for FMD and other high-priority FADs through the development of state-of-the-art countermeasures including novel screening tools, broad-spectrum therapeutics and vaccines, pre-outbreak surveillance, and other tools to minimize the impacts on business continuity in the face of an outbreak.

Underground Transportation Restoration (UTR)

Across the world, mass transit systems, including underground subway and passenger rail lines, have been targets of toxic chemical attacks or improvised explosive attacks by terrorists. The function of transit systems—to move large numbers of people quickly from point-to-point—makes it difficult to keep these systems off-line for long periods without major disruption to a city’s transportation infrastructure. It is also difficult to screen passengers in underground transit systems due to the volume of people who regularly use them. These systems also offer other unique challenges for recovery due to the abundance of porous materials, dynamic air flow movement, and limited access points for remediation teams in protective gear. UTR was initiated by CBD to enhance the preparedness and resiliency of transportation systems to recover from biological events.

UTR will identify methods, tools, and protocols to meet requirements for rapid characterization, clean up, and clearance for re-use of physical structures (e.g., tunnels, stations) and trains. The project will identify system vulnerabilities and improve existing and emerging sampling, analysis, decontamination, and waste management technologies through targeted experiments, table-top exercises, and operational demonstrations. Guidance, decision frameworks, and support tools will be developed in collaboration with federal, state, and local partners. A primary UTR customer for the project’s knowledge products is the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority. S&T is also engaging the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system in San Francisco and working to secure participation of additional systems, such as WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) in Washington, DC, MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) in Boston, and CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) in Chicago. 

Risk Assessment

Under Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPD) 10, 18, and 22, DHS is mandated to conduct the Biological, Chemical, Radiological and Nuclear, and Integrated Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Risk Assessments (BTRA, CTRA, RNTRA, and ITRA, respectively). These assessments are used to inform decisions about investments to improve the domestic defense posture  and with the exception of the Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Risk Assessment, are  performed by DHS S&T on a periodic basis, along with tailored assessments and analyses conducted on an on-going basis to meet the needs of the HSE stakeholders. The assessments are designed to: 1) aid in identifying and prioritizing credible, high impact threats; 2) aid in identifying and prioritizing vulnerabilities and knowledge gaps; and 3) provide a HSE mechanism for optimizing resource allocation and product development to maximize the nation’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defensive posture. 

In 2012, DHS published three BTRA-based “tailored assessments.” The first report to HSE stakeholders provided a reference set of the extensive data collection efforts to date and allow other agencies to use the information in their own analysis, while increasing analytic transparency and data validation for the BTRA. The two additional reports added significant value to the risk modeling efforts across the HSE. In 2012, the CTRA published its third end-to-end assessment, analyzing 68 more chemicals than did the original 2008 publication. Several stakeholders leveraged the CTRA for tailored assessments and sensitivity studies as input to their operational strategies and guidance. The year 2013 was successful for the ITRA. DHS partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leveraging the ITRA to help inform decisions regarding the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) investments, and optimize the contents of the SNS by evaluating the current risk mitigation capability and identifying opportunities to enhance its performance.

Forensics Program

In accordance with HSPD-10, Bioiodefense for the 21st Century, CBD conducts bioforensics research in support of criminal investigative cases and operation of the National BioForensics and Analysis Center (NBFAC™) with the ultimate goal of attribution, apprehension, and prosecution of the perpetrator to fulfill Biodefense for the 21st Century (HSPD-10). These activities provide facilities, analytical methods, and rigorous chain-of-custody controls needed to support the FBI and others in their investigation of potential biocrimes or acts of bioterrorism. Research and development projects in this program area work to develop improved methods for characterizing pathogens and their production methods through the use of advanced "omics" technologies.

Last Published Date: October 28, 2014
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