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U.S. bioterrorism detection program unreliable: GAO

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DHS’s BioWatch program aims to provide early indication of an aerosolized biological weapon attack. Until April 2014, DHSpursued a next-generation autonomous detection technology (Gen-3), which aimed to enable collection and analysis of air samples in less than six hours, unlike the current system (Gen-2), which requires manual intervention and can take up to thirty-six hours to detect the presence of biological pathogens. A GAOreport found that DHS lacks reliable information about BioWatch Gen-2’s technical capabilities to detect a biological attack, and therefore lacks the basis for informed cost-benefit decisions about upgrades to the system.

DHS’s BioWatch program aims to provide early indication of an aerosolized biological weapon attack. Until April 2014, DHS pursued a next-generation autonomous detection technology (Gen-3), which aimed to enable collection and analysis of air samples in less than six hours, unlike the current system (Gen-2), which requires manual intervention and can take up to thirty-six hours to detect the presence of biological pathogens.

DHS is taking steps to address the capability gap which resulted from the April 2014 cancellation of Gen-3 by exploring other technology upgrades and improvements to the Gen-2 system.

A Government Accountability office (GAO) was asked to review the technical capabilities of the currently deployed BioWatch system (Gen-2); the Gen-3 testing effort; and the characteristics of autonomous detection as a possible option to replace the current BioWatch system.

GAO says it analyzed key program documents, including test plans, test results, and modeling studies. GAO assessed Gen-3 testing against best practices, reviewed relevant literature, and discussed the BioWatch program and testing efforts with key agency officials and national laboratories staff.

BioWatch Gen-2: Unreliable information
A Government Accountability office (GAO) report found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lacks reliable information about BioWatch Gen-2’s technical capabilities to detect a biological attack, and therefore lacks the basis for informed cost-benefit decisions about upgrades to the system.

DHS commissioned several tests of the technical performance characteristics of the current BioWatch Gen-2 system, but the department has not developed performance requirements which would enable it to interpret the test results and draw conclusions about the system’s ability to detect attacks. GAO notes that although DHS officials said that the system can detect catastrophic attacks, which they define as attacks large enough to cause 10,000 casualties, they have not specified the performance requirements necessary to reliably meet this operational objective.

In the absence of performance requirements, DHS officials said computer modeling and simulation studies support their assertion, but none of these studies were designed to incorporate test results from the Gen-2 system and comprehensively assess the system against the stated operational objective. Additionally, the GAO report says, DHS has not prepared an analysis that combines the modeling and simulation studies with the specific Gen-2 test results to assess the system’s capabilities to detect attacks.

Finally, GAO found limitations and uncertainties in the four key tests of the Gen-2 system’s performance. Because it is not possible to test the BioWatch system directly by releasing live biothreat agents into the air in operational environments, DHS relied on chamber testing and the use of simulated biothreat agents, which limit the applicability of the results.

“These limitations underscore the need for a full accounting of statistical and other uncertainties, without which decision makers lack a full understanding of the Gen-2 system’s capability to detect attacks of defined types and sizes and cannot make informed decisions about the value of proposed upgrades,” the report says.

GAO notes that the actions and decisions DHS made regarding the acquisition and testing of a proposed next generation of BioWatch (Gen-3) partially aligned with best practices GAO previously identified for developmental testing of threat detection systems. For example, best practices indicate that resilience testing, or testing for vulnerabilities, can help uncover problems early. DHS took steps to help build resilience into the Gen-3 testing, but the report says that future testing could be improved by using more rigorous methods to help predict performance in different operational environments.

DHS canceled the Gen-3 acquisition in April 2014, but GAO identified lessonsDHS could learn by applying these best practices to the proposed Gen-2 upgrades.

According to experts and practitioners, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which detects genetic signatures of biothreat agents, is the most mature technology to use for an autonomous detection system. DHS is considering autonomous detection as an upgrade to Gen-2, because according to DHS, it may provide benefits such as reduction in casualties or clean-up costs. But the extent of these benefits, GAO says, is uncertain because of several assumptions, such as the speed of response after a detection, whih are largely outside of DHS’s control. As a result, the effectiveness of the response and the number of lives that could be saved is uncertain. Further, an autonomous detection system must address several likely challenges, including minimizing possible false positive readings, meeting sensitivity requirements, and securing information technology networks.

GAO recommends that DHS not pursue upgrades or enhancements for Gen-2 until DHS reliably establishes the system’s current capabilities. GAO also recommends DHS incorporate best practices for testing in conducting any system upgrades.

DHS has generally concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

— Read more in Biosurveillance: DHS Should Not Pursue BioWatch Upgrades or Enhancements Until System Capabilities Are Established, GAO-16-99 (23 November 2015)

 

The World’s Best Personal Protective Experts

Rypul Threat Assessments was founded in 2012 and since its inception has concentrated its efforts on building a threat assessment company that is known for delivering a quality product at a moment’s notice to clients that are spread all around the world, in situations that vary from little or no risk to those that fall under the heading of extremely volatile and high risk. The service that we provide, as you have no doubt gathered from our name, is the highest levels of protective and threat assessment of which the primary purpose is to prevent targeted violence.

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As experts in risk management, personals security, loss mitigation, school campus assessments and law enforcement active shooter training, we have provided our services to several international governments, small and large business owners with interests in a wide variety of markets, school systems and private individuals the world over. RyPul Threat Assessments is structured to evaluate the physical risk to you, your residence, school campus or commercial site whether local or international.

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Each threat assessment is compiled individually according to a threat matrix developed by the Secret Serviceand it is this discipline in which each member of our staff is primarily trained. With over 25 years of experience as personal security contractors who have been employed by the US State Department, several NGO’s and the US Department of Defense we have of course developed our own unique threat assessment processes to suit the situations we have come across while deployed in several different countries including Iraq, Kuwait and even Korea.

This combination of a tried and tested discipline tempered by our own experience means that we are able to provide one of the most advanced threat assessment methods in the world. Our proven track record of success has led to Rypul Threat Assessments being trusted with the protection of US Ambassadors, business interests of some of the largest global companies and countless government organizations is areas that are classified as having the highest overall threat levels at the time.
Our team of professionals will conduct in-depth threat assessments, develop the plans and processes that you will be able to use to improve your ability to survive in the event of an attack on you or your facilities and assist in the implementation of this strategy.
Contact us today and take advantage of our expertise in assessing a specific situation and the degree of potential risk as it pertains to an attack on you or your facilities.

Iran claims successful test flight of replica US drone

Iran said Monday that a copy of an American drone downed over its territory in 2011 had successfully completed its first test flight, promising to release footage of the experiment.

Tehran captured the US RQ-170 Sentinel in December 2011 while it was in its airspace, apparently on a mission to spy on the country’s nuclear sites, media in the United States reported.

Iran said it had taken control of the ultra hi-tech drone and forced it down in the desert where it was recovered nearly intact.

Washington says the drone crashed after experiencing a technical glitch.

In May, a military official said Iranian engineers had successfully built a replica of the American drone and that it would soon take a test flight.

Images broadcast by state television at the time appeared to show two near-identical drones.

“As promised, we have conducted the flight and a film of it will be broadcast shortly,” General Amir-Ali Hadjizadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards air wing, was quoted as saying by the corps’ own website.

Apart from a fast-moving ballistic weapons program, Iran has been producing drones since 2010 which the defence ministry says are capable of firing missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers (more than 600 miles).

Tehran says its weapons programs are purely for defensive purposes, but the United States whose Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain across the Gulf has often voiced concerns.

Read more: http://www.defencetalk.com/iran-claims-successful-test-flight-of-replica-us-drone-60984/#ixzz3IyFYFAjb

Wanted: Ideas for Transform Planes into “Aircraft Carriers in the Sky”

By on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
Military air operations typically rely on large, manned, robust aircraft, but such missions put these expensive assets-and their pilots-at risk. While small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can reduce or eliminate such risks, they lack the speed, range and endurance of larger aircraft.

These complementary traits suggest potential benefits in a blended approach-one in which larger aircraft would carry, launch and recover multiple small UAS. Such an approach could greatly extend the range of UAS operations, enhance overall safety, and cost-effectively enable groundbreaking capabilities for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other missions.

To explore and expedite the possible development of these potential benefits, DARPA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (http://go.usa.gov/AWpm) seeking technical, security and business insights addressing the feasibility and potential value of an ability to launch and recover multiple small unmanned air systems from one or more types of existing large manned aircraft, such as C-130 transport planes.

“We want to find ways to make smaller aircraft more effective, and one promising idea is enabling existing large aircraft, with minimal modification, to become ‘aircraft carriers in the sky’,” said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. “We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new UAS designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies.”

The new RFI invites short (8 pages or less) responses that must address three primary areas:

  • System-level technologies and concepts that would enable low-cost reusable small UAS platforms and airborne launch and recovery systems that would require minimal modification of existing large aircraft types. This area includes modeling and simulation as well as feasibility analysis, including substantiating preliminary data if available.
  • Potentially high-payoff operational concepts and mission applications for distributed airborne capabilities and architectures, as well as relative capability and affordability compared to conventional approaches (e.g., monolithic aircraft and payloads or missile-based approaches). DARPA hopes to leverage significant investments in the area of precision relative navigation, which seeks to enable extremely coordinated flight activities among aircraft, as well as recent and ongoing development of small payloads (100 pounds or less).
  • Proposed plans for achieving full-system flight demonstrations within four years, to assist in planning for a potential future DARPA program. DARPA is interested not only in what system functionality such plans could reasonably achieve within that timeframe, but also how to best demonstrate this functionality to potential users and transition partners. These notional plans should include rough order-of-magnitude (ROM) cost and schedule information, as well as interim risk reduction and demonstration events to evaluate program progress and validate system feasibility and interim capabilities.

Technology development beyond these three areas will be considered so long as it supports the RFI’s goals. DARPA is particularly interested in engaging nontraditional contributors to help develop leap-ahead technologies in the focus areas above, as well as other technologies that could potentially improve both the survivability and effectiveness of future manned and unmanned air systems.

Responses are due November 26, 2014 to DARPA-SN-15-06@darpa.mil by 4:00 PM Eastern Time. All technical and administrative correspondence and questions regarding this announcement and how to respond should be sent to DARPA-SN-15-06@darpa.mil.

Read more: http://www.defencetalk.com/wanted-ideas-for-transform-planes-into-aircraft-carriers-in-the-sky-60986/#ixzz3IyEW6ZDb

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