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ASTM Committee E54 on Homeland Security

by Kathleen M. Higgins

What does it take to defend against a no-holds-barred enemy who is bent on mass destruction and moves and attacks in secrecy? It is a question being asked in more and more countries around the world as it becomes clearer that we are all potential targets. Homeland security may be a term coined in the United States, but it is a global issue and requires a global response.

The last time the world battled enemies as ruthless and far-reaching as today’s terrorists was the 1940s. Back then, industry and government banded together to meet the challenge head-on, achieving record-shattering industrial productivity and triggering a wave of scientific and technical advances that still reverberates today. Needless to say, standards played a crucial role in all aspects of the war effort. Standards were essential to the construction of new manufacturing facilities and the quality of war materiel, and ASTM committees issued “emergency standards” for highly sensitive materials such as aviation fuels and “emergency modifications” of existing standards — and even entirely new standards — to compensate for wartime shortages of critical materials like tin. It was all done to win a war fought largely overseas, but which everyone knew had to be won.

Today’s war, too, must be won. It is a challenge that requires the kind of heroic partnership that carried the day 60 years ago, and once again ASTM International is stepping up to do its part, with the formation of ASTM Committee E54 on Homeland Security.

ASTM and Homeland Security

Committee E54 is ASTM’s first committee dedicated to homeland security, but it is not the organization’s first homeland security effort. Since March 2003, when the Department of Homeland Security was officially launched, ASTM has assisted DHS staff in identifying relevant existing standards and crucial areas where standards are lacking, and has provided the agency with a compendium of ASTM’s own standards that might be relevant to security. ASTM also holds a seat on the steering committee of the Homeland Security Standards Panel, which was founded by the American National Standards Institute and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to facilitate development of security-related consensus standards.

It was ASTM Committee F33 on Detention and Correctional Facilities that led the effort to establish an ASTM Homeland Security committee. At an executive subcommittee meeting in January 2002, Committee F33 members whose business is security technologies discussed ways to contribute their knowledge and experience to the security effort. Several members contacted colleagues at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshal Service, and the Departments of Defense and State to assess the government’s needs for security-related standards. From these soundings grew the decision to hold a planning session, and at that session in January 2003, in Charlotte, N.C., a broad representation of manufacturers, end users and federal agencies unanimously agreed to create a new activity within ASTM.
An organizational meeting was held in July 2003. More than 65 participants, representing dozens of industries and ASTM committees, voted to establish Committee E54 on Homeland Security to focus the organization’s considerable resources on the challenge. Since then, committee membership has grown to 230 members.

Committee E54 Mission and Structure

The organizational meeting created a template for what promises to be one of ASTM’s most diverse committees. E54’s mission is to develop standards and guidance materials for homeland security applications in four areas:

• Protecting borders, ports and national transportation systems;
• Harnessing science and technology for homeland security applications;
• Preparing for and responding to national emergencies; and
• Shielding critical infrastructure from attack.

To meet that mission, seven subcommittees have been established.

E54.01 on CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive) Sensors and Detectors, chaired by J. Graham Rankin of Marshall University — This subcommittee is developing standards for equipment to detect chemical agents and toxic industrial chemicals, radiological materials and nuclear weapons, and conventional explosives. Of special concern is the need for separate standards for different applications. Detecting biological agents concealed in cargo containers, for example, requires equipment and procedures — and standards — quite different from those needed to screen letters and parcels or to alert first responders to biological agents in a building or sports stadium.

E54.02 on Emergency Preparedness Training and Procedures, chaired by Bob Stenner, Battelle Northwest — Emergency preparedness at federal, state and local levels is crucial, and this team is charged with designing a general EP program template, acceptance testing and exercise methods for EP programs, and guidance on EP training and management resources. It is also building a “lessons learned” Web site that will give everyone from equipment manufacturers to first responders a source of reliable information and best practices.

E54.03 on Decontamination, chaired by George DeTore of Construction and Consulting Associates Inc. — This group’s focus is containing, controlling, handling, decontaminating and disposing of chemical and biological agents as well as radiological and petroleum contaminants and contaminants generated by fire and incomplete combustion. Under study are procedures for decontaminating everything from buildings and public utility facilities to attack victims, emergency personnel and emergency equipment used in hot zones.

E54.04 on Personal Protective Equipment, chaired by Thomas Neal of Neal Associates, Ltd. — This subcommittee is developing a matrix of existing PPE standards to help identify where gaps exist, and compiling a comprehensive guide to help users locate and properly apply available standards. From there the subcommittee will coordinate with other SDOs to develop any new PPE standards that security and public safety agencies require.

E54.05 on Building and Infrastructure Protection, chaired by Curt Betts, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — The focus here is standards for protecting buildings and other physical structures. Included are standards for active vehicle barriers, bomb and blast protection, locking systems, fencing and barriers against electronic eavesdropping, as well as standards for security inspections.

E54.06 on Security Controls Subcommittee, chaired by Douglas Hall, Smithsonian Institution and Rick White, Ingersoll Rand — This group is establishing standards that can be used by both private-sector contractors and government agencies to ensure the operational security of public buildings and critical facilities. Included are standards for secure credentials, biometric identification and verification systems, access control, closed-circuit television, intrusion prevention and integrated operational systems.

E54.07 on Threat and Vulnerability Assessment, chaired by Allen Patrick, DMJM Design — This subcommittee is working to define basic terms such as vulnerability and risk to determine what constitutes reasonable standards for assessing these factors. It is also developing guidelines and methodologies for assessing, analyzing and mitigating the vulnerability of, among other things, buildings, infrastructure components, IT networks, transportation assets, supplies of food and other disposables and people.

Outreach: A Crucial First Step

As broad as the scope and membership of Committee E54 is, it is not enough to do the job at hand. To build a reliable homeland security infrastructure we have to discover new approaches and refine old ones, integrate known technologies and explore largely unknown ones, and make it all work seamlessly. It is a monumental undertaking, bristling with uncertainties. We need on deck as many experienced hands and minds as possible, and we need them now. For this reason, Committee E54’s first effort is a two-pronged outreach initiative.

The first prong aims at getting the word out and inviting the widest possible participation from government, industry and the military. Part of this effort will be an industry-wide promotional campaign explaining our objectives and inviting everyone to get involved. The second prong is establishing formal liaisons with other ASTM committees working in areas of particular relevance to homeland security and agencies and organizations outside ASTM, such as the Department of Homeland Security, ANSI’s Homeland Security Standards Panel, and key industry stakeholders.

Because of the urgency of homeland security, this outreach initiative has been under way almost since the Committee E54 organizational meeting, when several of our subcommittees began preparing lists of organizations and agencies crucial to their efforts, among them the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Atomic Energy Commission, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Interagency Board for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability. Having these organizations formally onboard — and dozens more, in both the public and private sectors — will mean the difference between success and failure.

Committee E54’s role in this liaison network is also twofold: to serve as ASTM’s “single face to the world” in matters related to homeland security and, within ASTM, to serve as both a homeland security forum and a facilitator, directing incoming requests for homeland security standards to the appropriate ASTM committees.

The Long Road Ahead

Homeland security is here to stay. There is no known way to ever completely eradicate the terrorist threat. There will always be someone in the world with the anger and the means to mount devastating attacks, and the Pandora’s box of CBRNE weapons can never be resealed. From now on, homeland security — the ability to prevent attacks and respond effectively in case of attack — must be part of every nation’s infrastructure.

Building such an infrastructure is a challenge as immense as the development and construction of railroads, power production and distribution systems, interstate highways, communications systems, and the Internet. And though it is propelled by greater urgency than any previous task of its size, our drive for homeland security cannot ignore standards. Standards must be our starting point, because only through the development of standards can we truly learn what it takes to defend against a no-holds-barred enemy who is bent on mass destruction and moves and attacks in secrecy. //

Copyright 2004, ASTM International

Kathleen M. Higgins is director, Office of Law Enforcement Standards, and assistant to the director for homeland security at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md. Under Higgins’ leadership, OLES has grown from a handful of programs with a budget of $1.1M to more than 50 active projects and a budget of nearly $40 million. In 2001, the Department of Commerce awarded her its Silver Medal for Outstanding Achievement.

To participate in the work of Committee E54 on Homeland Security Applications, please contact Pat Picariello, ASTM (phone: 610/832-9720).