Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 12, 2006

DOD consolidates its nuclear detection efforts

Filed under: Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Christian Beckner on January 12, 2006

Inside the Pentagon reports today (by subscription only) about efforts within DOD to consolidate its nuclear detection capabilities under the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), moving many of its key experts from positions in the service branches and elsewhere at DOD in support of this mission. The article notes that this move is intended to facilitate DOD’s contributions to the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office:

The Defense Department is planning to place the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in charge of the military piece of a wider government effort to detect attempts to smuggle nuclear weapons into the United States.

In a Dec. 28 budget document, Pentagon Comptroller Tina Jonas approved a move to consolidate 15 civilian and military nuclear experts from six defense agencies under DTRA beginning in fiscal year 2007. Collectively, these experts will represent the Defense Department’s contribution to the fledgling Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), a component of the Department of Homeland Security that was established last year by presidential directive.

This is a positive signal by DOD that it is taking the creation of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office seriously: a critical prerequisite for this new and very important office’s success. The only mixed signal in the story is the fact that DOD intends to seek reimbursement from DHS for its contributions to the DNDO, which conflicts with my original understanding in NSPD-43/HSPD-14 that the office was intended to be driven by the principle of multiagency burden-sharing among the key players (DOD, DOE, DHS), rather than the idea of holding out a tin can and seeking reimbursement from DHS. But no public documents that I’ve seen provide a clear answer to this question, so perhaps this is the intended modus operandi.

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Comment by J.

January 13, 2006 @ 12:55 pm

DTRA doesn’t do anything for free. If they got the mission, the next step is to ask for more money. They’re a sponge – lots of money in, not too much coming out.


Comment by William R. Cumming

January 23, 2006 @ 3:52 am

It is very important to note in general DOD bureacratic responses to the actions of the federal civil departments and agencies. DTRA and Northcom are two examples. Internal delegations in DOD constantly evolve and even a full-time staff in the civil agencies would make it difficult to monitor DOD initiatives. DOD always assumes it will be assisting and an assitance to the civil agencies in domestic response. Note the supplying of dosimetry and STU-II units by FEMA to DOD in the first Gulf War. Very little gets done in DOD without contractor involvement so that all bureaucratic reorganizations in DOD should discuss impacts on contractors and budget resources so that the implications of the organizational change can be fully understood by Congress, within DOD itself, or the implications of the change on the civil agencies. Note that the original Nunn-Lugar Weapons of Mass Destruction Act that became law in 1996 was premised in part on DOD having adequate defensive and force protection sytems in existence to transfer technology and training to the civil agencies and state and local government. A decade later this premise based in part on DOD epresentations to Congress appears to have been somewhat optimistic.

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