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.
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On July 21-24, 2014, DHS’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) served as the lead planner for exercise Prominent Hunt 14-2 in Indiana to help ensure and enhance the Nation’s preparedness for a potential terrorist attack with an improvised nuclear device. In such a scenario, the National Technical Nuclear Forensics (NTNF) Ground Collection Task Force (GCTF) would be sent to the detonation site to collect samples for forensic analysis, a crucial step in the process of determining those responsible for the attack. By supporting the GCTF, DNDO helps ensure the Nation’s nuclear forensics capability is prepared to respond to a radiological or nuclear event.
This exercise included GCTF members from the Department of Defense (DoD) Air Force Technical Applications Center and 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives Command, the Department of Energy (DOE)/National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Department of Justice (DOJ)/Federal Bureau of Investigation. The scenario began with an initial notification of a possible attack, followed by a simulated nuclear detonation and the deployment of the GCTF for the collection of ground samples, and concluded with the transportation of the samples to a designated laboratory for nuclear forensics analysis. The GCTF is part of the U.S. Government NTNF program which includes the Department of State and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in addition to DHS, DoD, DOE, and DOJ. This exercise demonstrated the operational readiness of the GCTF to respond and successfully execute its mission.
During the exercise, DHS coordinated with GCTF operational component planners, federal, state and local law enforcement and emergency management assets. The ability to integrate and work with partner agencies was a major focus of the Prominent Hunt 14-2 exercise, which will be critical in an actual event. Prominent Hunt 14-2 was conducted as part of Vibrant Response 14—a larger DoD response and consequence management exercise.
DNDO is mandated under the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act of 2010 to provide centralized planning, exercises, improvement, and integration for all federal nuclear forensics activities. Nuclear forensics helps the U.S. Government to hold fully accountable any state, terrorist group, or other non-state actor that either supports or enables terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction.