Dr. Jay Davis, Director Defense Threat Reduction Agency
I truly appreciate the opportunity to give the keynote address at this workshop because this is a very, very important and vital subject for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and we are pleased to sponsor this event. We are involved in all aspects of blast mitigation and the protection of people and buildings, both as a matter of professional pride but, regrettably, also as a matter of professional necessity.
As a result of the Khobar Towers bombing several years ago, the joint staff directed us to conduct security assessments of U.S. military facilities, both domestically and overseas. We put together teams to do assessments of terrorist opportunity for each base commander, including vulnerabilities of particular buildings and infrastructure, and mitigation measures that could be put in place. We would leave the commander with a fairly detailed study with suggestions of cost-effective things that could be done to begin to improve the security of the installation.
As you will hear, we have a very large experimental program both for making structures safer and for developing and understanding forensic techniques. The experiments that will be described are done partly to understand how to protect buildings and the people they shelter but also to understand how to work with the FBI and the other agencies if, after an event, we have to come in and provide some understanding of the weapon, the choice of employment, and perhaps even assist in identifying the perpetrators.
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Protecting People and Buildings from Terrorism: Technology Transfer for Blast-effects Mitigation C Workshop Keynote Address DoD/DTRA Role in Blast Mitigation Design Dr. Jay Davis, Director Defense Threat Reduction Agency I truly appreciate the opportunity to give the keynote address at this workshop because this is a very, very important and vital subject for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and we are pleased to sponsor this event. We are involved in all aspects of blast mitigation and the protection of people and buildings, both as a matter of professional pride but, regrettably, also as a matter of professional necessity. As a result of the Khobar Towers bombing several years ago, the joint staff directed us to conduct security assessments of U.S. military facilities, both domestically and overseas. We put together teams to do assessments of terrorist opportunity for each base commander, including vulnerabilities of particular buildings and infrastructure, and mitigation measures that could be put in place. We would leave the commander with a fairly detailed study with suggestions of cost-effective things that could be done to begin to improve the security of the installation. As you will hear, we have a very large experimental program both for making structures safer and for developing and understanding forensic techniques. The experiments that will be described are done partly to understand how to protect buildings and the people they shelter but also to understand how to work with the FBI and the other agencies if, after an event, we have to come in and provide some understanding of the weapon, the choice of employment, and perhaps even assist in identifying the perpetrators. NOTE: Dr. Davis is currently working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
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Protecting People and Buildings from Terrorism: Technology Transfer for Blast-effects Mitigation I also have a personal perspective, which might explain how I got started in this field. I would like a show of hands of those who have had their buildings bombed by a terrorist. Mine goes up, too, but I think I may have had the first experience. Thirty years ago I was a senior postdoctoral fellow in nuclear physics at the University of Wisconsin. In the furor of the Vietnam War, four high school dropouts in Madison stole a van, mixed 2000 pounds of ANFO [ammonium nitrate and fuel oil], parked it in the loading dock of my building, and set if off at 4 o’clock in the morning. So, I personally have worked the full spectrum of a terrorist bombing. I have had the experience of crawling through my own building at 4 a.m., looking for friends, shutting down equipment, and spending days with the FBI with a sledgehammer slowly breaking up the three floors that fell into the basement, trying to understand what might have been the explosive material and its means of implantation. The building was rebuilt around us during the reconstruction of the laboratory and wasn’t completed for 6 months, but we had our accelerator back up and running in 4 months and we were pretty proud of that. As a consequence of terrorism, I have both lost friends and seen the change in friends’ lives that these events produce. So, that may be one of the reasons why 30 years later a nuclear physicist stands in front of you running a defense agency that plays a fairly large role in counter terrorism and consequence management. This is a subject I care very greatly about. Interestingly, during my years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, I was an accelerator building and facility builder and am familiar with the sort of compromises you make between how much concrete is necessary, how the building looks, and what are the cost and effectiveness of different approaches. I had the useful experience of building in earthquake country, and so many of the design tradeoffs you make for blast mitigation, I have had to do as a designer and as an emergency manager in earthquake country. Finally, as an inspector in Iraq in the summer of 1991, I have had the interesting experience of looking at buildings on the other side that we put a fair amount of effort into damaging. So, for a physicist, I have both some practical experience and some pretty strong intuitive feelings about this business. Those of you who are designers, builders, and operators have to deal with an immensely difficult subject. You have to work on the knee of one of the hardest curves I know, understanding how to make the proper investment for mitigation of low-probability but high-consequence events. When I came into this job at DTRA 2-1/2 years ago, I described the whole counter terrorism business as being on that peculiar knee on the curve where if nothing ever happens, you obviously wasted the money. If it does happen you hope you have done the best job possible of coping with the situation because you cannot afford to do the perfect job.
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Protecting People and Buildings from Terrorism: Technology Transfer for Blast-effects Mitigation Unfortunately, this is likely to be a growth area and the community concerned with these issues will be busy for some time to come. Of course, if you are clever, the investment you make in blast mitigation can provide dividends in other areas as well. Structurally, I think this is obvious if you live in earthquake or tornado country because those events can load a building in a manner that, at first glance, can look like the effects of explosives. Another example, one that is not the business of this conference, is that if you think about the active defense of buildings against chemical and biological agents, you can begin to rationalize some pretty active and sophisticated air-handling systems to work against these threats if you also assess them in terms of the operational benefits they could provide against allergies and irritant avoidance, or simply in terms of improved building energy efficiency. Now, the further you go down that road, the harder it becomes to substantiate the cost investment tradeoff, but I have done it. The steps from safety, to environmental protection, to health protection get to be harder to prove, but I think you must be sensitive to these ancillary benefits when you talk to the larger audience that isn’t as familiar with the issues confronting the defensive design community. Your solutions are certainly going to have to address possible benefits in areas other than just blast mitigation, and you are going to have to find a way to express some of these other benefits. I think that is important. You continue to face the general dilemma that we all do in the counter terrorism business and this is not a simple one—the threat is real but the threat is also ambiguous. The terrorist gets to pick the place, the time, and the means, and if they don’t like what they see they can back away and wait for another day. You, on the other hand, get to design the building once, build it once, and then operate it from that day forward. Until you come back in and change the building, whatever you have put in place sits there static, and can, in fact, be studied if someone on the other side wants to take a run at you. You are constrained by cost, by policy, and by the very hard realities of existing structures and building placements. This recognition of existing locational constraints is what led me to relocate DTRA to inside Fort Belvoir. I came to DTRA 2-1/2 years ago to build the defense agency and consolidate it at Dulles Airport. Two months after I started we hit the Bin Laden camps and I realized I had a combat support agency sitting in large glass boxes at the Dulles Airport and designed in such a way that anyone could have driven a car-bomb into the lobby. I had to go back to the Pentagon and say, “Folks, I am not particularly fearful, but if somebody ever makes a good run at us we will be laughed out of this business. You know, the agency that dare not say its name. If you are the Defense Threat
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Protecting People and Buildings from Terrorism: Technology Transfer for Blast-effects Mitigation Reduction Agency and somebody car-bombs you, it is going to be real hard to hold your head up.” We are in the midst of a migration into Fort Belvoir, partly just to get a perimeter that we can control. At Dulles we were in commercial buildings on a site we did not control, under aesthetic constraints we had no vote in. So, we had to move—not easily done, but we have done it. The blast-mitigating activities are part of what’s occurring on a much larger base and the cost/benefit analyses for new construction reflect this. There is compromise in almost any situation but I think you all realize you cannot afford the fiscal or political costs of retreating into bunkers. This is just not acceptable for public buildings in the United States. If you think back to the late 1960s and early 1970s you may remember that the public face of the Bank of America changed in about 18 months. At that time, all banks had large glass windows, and for reasons I have forgotten, trashing Bank of America branches got to be a recreational activity of antiwar protestors. In the space of just a few years, Bank of America branches turned from glass-front buildings to basically brick fronts with one or two small rows of glass bricks that look sort of like vent slits. The federal government cannot afford to take that approach. Bank of America backed away from it eventually, but I remember a very shocking transition when the bank simply felt it was driven into bunker mode. The U.S. government cannot do that with its public buildings, and those of you who operate private buildings cannot do it either. Although I have an approach that is simple to state, it is not at all simple to execute. This is my message to you for this conference. You have to strive for appropriate and effective solutions that mitigate the credible risk. Unfortunately, defining the credible risk is a very, very hard part of your job. At the end of the day you cannot do everything. You are not going to be allowed to do everything and you cannot afford to do everything. The question you have to answer is a very hard one: Have you done enough? Not necessarily all that you can or could do, but you as the designers, the builders, the owners, and the operators of buildings have to live with your own answer to that question: Have you done enough to appropriately mitigate the dangers to the people who live in your structures? Before we close, I think a very good question to consider is, What is the domestic obligation of the Department of Defense in these matters? This is a very tricky constitutional question in the United States because inside the boundaries of the country, DoD is, by and large, invisible, and for good reasons. Unique among the big democracies, we don’t have a national police force. For that reason, counter terrorism is a little awkward for us because we properly delegate the police authority and the command authority very, very far down in our governmental system. The phrase we use very guardedly and carefully in the Pentagon is that
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Protecting People and Buildings from Terrorism: Technology Transfer for Blast-effects Mitigation it is our obligation to appropriately extract every bit of information we can from DoD programs for the benefit of civil activities. We look very carefully for parallel activities or synergistic activities with other agencies. A very politically charged aspect of counter terrorism is in the chemical and biological defense program. Here the Department of Defense spends some $850 million a year on a program focused on defense of the war fighter but we very carefully seek to coordinate the research activities we fund in that program with the more civilly focused ones of DARPA and the Department of Energy. I think my answer here is a fairly expansive one. We should show you what we are doing to implement our mission and our charter. The civil community should look at it for small modifications. For example, can you jump in free; can you add 5 cents to a $1 experiment and get something different from it? I think most of our data is readily available. The issue of availability of data comes up, but I think we would be looking for a statement from you about how can we make sure we try to meet as many of your needs as we can with the Blast Mitigation for Structures Program. John Hamre, the former Deputy Secretary of Defense, really characterizes it very nicely. He says that if something bad happens domestically and the Department of Defense the next day is shown to have been irrelevant to civil disaster prevention even though it was working in those areas, we won’t look very good and technically, we won’t survive. We are conducting a program focused on the needs of the Department of Defense. Although I cannot fund a civil research program, it will be scandalous if we don’t expand that program to deal with any possible civil questions that we can. My charge to you is that the civil design and building community needs to understand what we do in such a way that you can help us find some of those synergies, because we won’t find them all.