The Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office was established in December 2017 by consolidating primarily the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, a majority of the Office of Health Affairs, as well as other DHS elements.
For current information related to CWMD, please visit the following:
The Assessments Directorate objectively evaluates the performance and operational effectiveness of radiological and nuclear detection capabilities and supporting programs. The Directorate engages in a range of activities – including government led developmental and operational testing, standards development, standard-based testing, operational assessments, program assessments, and red team operations. The Assessments Directorate evaluates materiel (i.e. detector systems) and non-materiel (i.e. Concepts of Operation) solutions such as acquiring new technology or new concepts of operation or other process changes to address a particular situation. Results from the assessments support DNDO and Federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal stakeholders in enhancing the Nation’s capability to detect and report unauthorized attempts to import, possess, develop, transport, or use nuclear and other radioactive material.
The role of the Assessments Directorate is to support DNDO’s mission to prevent nuclear terrorism by assuring that detection equipment, systems, and procedures meet specific requirements and standards.
The Directorate primarily focuses on three different aspects of technology and system evaluation to accomplish its mission:
- Test, Evaluation & Analysis;
- Operational Readiness Assessments; and
- Studies and Infrastructure.
Test, Evaluation & Analysis
Radiation detection systems must be thoroughly tested before they are deployed for use by Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and first responders. DNDO ensures that fielded equipment effectively detects and identifies nuclear or radiological materials and operates adequately in challenging environments, without impeding legitimate commerce.
DNDO rigorously tests and evaluates commercially available and developmental detection systems against national and international standards and operational requirements. Radiological and nuclear detection systems are tested under controlled conditions at National laboratories to evaluate system performance; and are evaluated in field settings using operational scenarios to evaluate suitability and mission effectiveness. These activities support the full acquisition life cycle process -research, development, procurement, and sustainment - by performing rigorous assessments of mission related technologies. Additionally, DNDO has expertise to respond quickly to technical and scientific questions using empirical data collected during previous tests, without the need to do full reassessments. Testing detection systems against special nuclear materials and in realistic configurations is key to ensuring effective systems are selected and deployed to keep the Nation safe and secure.
Operational Readiness Assessments
DNDO objectively evaluates deployed radiological and nuclear detection systems and operations, and their associated tactics, techniques and procedures, in as-close-to-realistic-environments as possible. The program conducts limited deployments of new operating concepts or emerging radiological and nuclear detection technologies in existing operational environments. Conversely, the program assesses existing operating concepts or technologies in new operational environments.
Pilots serve as a model for future development or deployment decisions. In conjunction with various user groups, DNDO evaluates the performance of detection technologies in operationally relevant and controlled environments, as well as during live events. Each pilot provides an assessment of the processes, equipment, and/or systems to support the radiological and nuclear detection mission objectives and stakeholder requirements. Additionally, pilots allow for limited deployments of new concepts of operation or emerging radiological and nuclear detection technologies in realistic environments.
Pilots inform decision makers with operational results prior to large procurements. Additionally, evaluated equipment may be left with the operators, creating a new operating capability.
DNDO has a unique red team capability to independently assess performance of planned and deployed capabilities, including technologies, procedures, and protocols. Red team evaluates deployed systems and operations, and their associated tactics, techniques, and procedures in as close to a realistic environment as possible. They emulate adversary tactics against Federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal radiological and nuclear detection and interdiction operations and test operators’ ability to detect radiation sources during daily operations. The Red Team conducts both overt and covert tests. Overt tests occur when operating personnel are made aware in advance. Covert tests occur without advance notice where personnel believe an actual threat event may be occurring.
Studies & Infrastructure
Standards and Conformity Testing
DNDO leads the development of national and international radiological and nuclear detection standards and performs the test and evaluation of radiation detection systems against these standards. DNDO facilitates joint testing with other government entities of various systems against established standards. DNDO participates on the national and international standards committees developing consensus standards (American National Standards Institute and International Electrotechnical Commission) as well as leading interagency teams developing threat-informed, government-unique technical capability standards in accordance with the SAFE Port Act of 2006.
DNDO also invests in facilities and equipment, including nuclear and other radioactive sources, for test and evaluation purposes.
Program assessments involve performing objective reviews of the effectiveness of detection programs and activities. DNDO programs, concepts of operation, protocols, policies and procedures, and training are reviewed through this process and result in recommendations for improvement. Program assessment reports provide valuable insights on what is successfully being accomplished and identify areas for improvement. With cooperation from Federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local operational partners, program assessments are part of an ongoing strategy to improve the overall probability of success in the radiological and nuclear detection mission by:
- Providing unbiased, objective observations and recommendations;
- Establishing a baseline to provide a historic perspective for future endeavors; and
- Assisting in the identification of possible gaps or vulnerabilities in detection capabilities and supporting programs.