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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An interagency exercise of the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Ground Collections Task Force was successfully executed at the Nevada National Security Site on February 20-27, 2015. DHS served as a lead planner and coordinator. This Prominent Hunt 15-1 exercise demonstrated the proficiency of the task force to perform its mission of collecting debris samples in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation for nuclear forensics analysis. Nuclear forensics is a key component of attribution, which fuses law enforcement, intelligence, and nuclear forensics information, to identify the source of the device and the persons or groups responsible for its use in acts of terrorism.
The Prominent Hunt 15-1 exercise was based on a hypothetical scenario involving a detonation of a terrorist improvised nuclear device. Upon notification of the simulated detonation, the task force members from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Army’s 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives Command, and the Air Force Technical Applications Center collected, processed, and prepared the ground samples for transportation and timely delivery to a designated analytical laboratory. The task force is comprised of approximately 70 soldiers, scientists and radiological evidence collection personnel. Representatives from the U.S. Department of State and the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment observed the exercise.
During the exercise, the task force integrated operational capabilities of the Department of Energy (DOE) Aerial Measuring System (AMS) Team. The DOE AMS detector system was deployed on fixed wing aircraft to provide real-time information to the task force on the levels and extent of radiological contamination in the area of the simulated nuclear detonation. In a real event, this information would help keep the task force safe and ensure the best samples for analysis are collected.
DNDO is mandated under the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-140) to provide centralized planning, exercises, improvement, and integration for all federal nuclear forensics activities. Nuclear forensics is a keystone of the U.S. Government commitment to hold fully accountable any state, terrorist group, or other non-state actor that supports or enables terrorist efforts to obtain or use nuclear weapons.