Recommendation 4.8: Agencies with experience in robotics, such as DARPA, should support research on all elements of robotic systems—including sensors, networks, and data communication and analysis. The aim would be to develop robots to assist in chemical (and biological or radiological) defense, thereby reducing hazards to humans and increasing the capabilities of defensive systems.
The chemical industry and the government have been making substantial efforts since September 11 to increase security preparedness. Industry is carrying out joint assessments with the FBI, EPA, Coast Guard, FEMA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and the Office of Homeland Security. Aspects under examination include security checks of personnel, controlling access to sensitive areas and materials, increasing surveillance, reviewing and changing distribution routes, and reducing quantities of hazardous materials in storage and transit. The experience of large companies in preventing and responding to accidental releases of chemicals is relevant to defense against chemical terrorism; these companies are highly regulated with respect to the reporting and inspection of processes, products, record keeping, shipments, storage, and use, and they have much of the infrastructure required. But smaller companies lack such broad infrastructure for increased security and response; mechanisms by which the government or larger companies could provide expertise and advice might therefore be helpful.
The cast of players is even larger. In the past, security issues were primarily the purview of those who produced hazardous materials; now, transporters and users (including private and government laboratories and educational institutions) must be included in the security chain. This means that industries dependent on hazardous materials (such as mining, construction, electronics, manufacturing, food processing, agriculture, the medical industry, and transportation) will need to pay attention to security concerns as well.
The best defense against misuse of chemical, explosive, and flammable materials is adequate security around the facilities that handle them and in the transportation systems that distribute them. Heightened surveillance and improved techniques for detection and identification of leaks or illegitimate use will help prevent hazardous materials from being acquired, released, or rerouted. But progress beyond the immediate tightening of security will require systematic assessment of vulnerabilities in the complex systems by which we produce, store, and transport chemicals.