TAMU System gets $285.6M contract for center to combat terrorism

22 06 2012

From the Texas Government Insider, published Friday, June 22, 2012:

An economic impact of more than $1.3 billion in Texas is expected from the announcement that the Texas A&M University System has been awarded a $285.6 million contract to develop a center whose goal will be to enhance the United States’ ability to counter biological and pandemic threats. The Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing will represent one of the largest research grants to come to Texas since NASA, said TAMU System Chancellor John Sharp.

Of the total contract, $176 million will come from the federal government, with the remainder from academic and commercial partners and the state. The facility is expected to be operational by December 2015.

Sharp said the center will allow the United States to counter biological and pandemic threats with vaccines manufactured in this country. He said <!– –>the need for this capability was identified following a comprehensive review of federal public health emergency medical countermeasures called for by President Barack Obama in his 2010 State of the Union address. The Department of Health and Human Services issued a request for proposals on March 30, 2011 and TAMU was among the applicants. The contract was awarded following a year-long competitive nationwide process.

“The Texas A&M System is the prime contractor for a team of world-class academic, commercial and non-profit institutions. This highly integrated R&D team will utilize state-of-the-art processes for development and testing of new vaccines and therapies,” said Sharp in a written statement.

Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives Brett Giroir noted that securing the project would mean “hundreds of millions of dollars in up front federal investment, and a 25-year potential commitment.”The center will be located on a site of nearly 150 acres owned by the city of Bryan. Upwards of 1,000 jobs are expected to be created by the addition of the center.





Risk of small-scale attacks by al-Qaeda and its allies is rising, officials say

1 10 2010

Article by Peter Finn, The Washington Post, September 22, 2010:

Al-Qaeda and its allies are likely to attempt small-scale, less sophisticated terrorist attacks in the United States, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday, noting that it’s extremely difficult to detect such threats in advance.

“Unlike large-scale, coordinated, catastrophic attacks, executing smaller-scale attacks requires less planning and fewer pre-operational steps,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Accordingly, there are fewer opportunities to detect such an attack before it occurs.”

Terrorism experts have puzzled over al-Qaeda’s apparent unwillingness after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to use car bombs, improvised explosives and small arms to conduct assaults in the United States. The group appeared fixated on orchestrating another dramatic mass-casualty event, such as the simultaneous downing of several commercial airliners.

Indeed, attacks inspired by al-Qaeda in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 involved multiple, coordinated bombings targeting mass-transit systems.

But the risk of a single-target bombing or an attack by a lone gunman has increased, officials say, with the rise of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in the tribal areas of Pakistan, in Yemen and in Somalia, and with the emergence of radicalized Americans inspired by the ideology of violent jihad.

“The impact of the attempted attacks during the past year suggests al-Qaeda, and its affiliates and allies, will attempt to conduct smaller-scale attacks targeting the homeland but with greater frequency,” said Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, pointing to plots against the subway system in New York, the attempt to down a commercial airliner approaching Detroit and the failed car bombing in Times Square.

Leiter said in his testimony that “al-Qaeda in Pakistan is at one of its weakest points organizationally,” but he noted that “regional affiliates and allies can compensate for the potentially decreased willingness of al-Qaeda in Pakistan – the deadliest supplier of such training and guidance – to accept and train new recruits.”

Officials in the United States and Europe have expressed concern about some of their citizens and residents turning to the Taliban in Pakistan; al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; and al-Shabab, a militant group in Somalia, for inspiration and training.

“The spike in homegrown violent extremist activity during the past year is indicative of a common cause that rallies independent extremists to want to attack the homeland,” said Leiter.

“Key to this trend has been the development of a U.S.-specific narrative that motivates individuals to violence. This narrative – a blend of al-Qaeda inspiration, perceived victimization and glorification of past plotting – has become increasingly accessible through the Internet, and English-language Web sites are tailored to address the unique concerns of U.S.-based extremists.”

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said it is troubling, and a challenge for investigators, that homegrown extremists have increasingly diverse backgrounds.

“During the past year, the threat from radicalization has evolved,” he said. “A number of disruptions occurred involving extremists from a diverse set of backgrounds, geographic locations, life experiences and motivating factors that propelled them along their separate radicalization pathways.

“Beyond the sheer number of disruptions and arrests that have come to light, homegrown extremists are increasingly more savvy, harder to detect and able to connect with other extremists overseas.”





Terrorism: Understanding More about Threat Awareness and Detection

30 12 2009

The recent act of terrorism attempted on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 provides another reminder that all citizens need to be aware of their surroundings and be vigilant for activities and behaviors that do not appear normal.  This is true when one goes flying, but it is also true as we move around our County on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, it appears that acts of terrorism are here to stay and all of us need to be concerned and ready to react.

Experts in homeland security and protection of critical infrastructure are very much concerned about the safety of “soft targets.”  What is a “soft target?”  In general, a hard target would be a military installation or a chemical plant which is a well defended installation.  On the other hand, a soft target is one that is most likely an undefended civilian location which could easily be attacked by terrorists.  Shopping malls, like Katy Mills or First Colony, could be a soft target for terrorists.  A football stadium, be it Reliant or Mercer, is a soft target.  Even a Little League baseball field full of kids and families on a Saturday afternoon is defined as a soft target.

So what is a citizen to do?  Experts from the Emergency Management and Response Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) recommend that all citizens 1) Recognize the threat from suspicious behavior or activities; 2) Report the threat to appropriate personnel; and 3) React to the threat by knowing what to do.

The Soft Target Awareness: Threat Awareness and Detection for Retail and Shopping Center Staff training video was developed by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Bombing Prevention and Commercial Facilities Sector to provide information for retail staff to understand how to identify and report unusual activities and threats in a timely manner.  This training tool uses case studies and best practices to explain suspicious behavior and items, how to reduce vulnerability of an active shooter threat to a soft target, and the appropriate actions to take if employees notice suspicious activities.  Though the video is directed toward retail staff, the information provided in the video is good information for all citizens.

The link below takes you to a self-initiating video, requiring Adobe Acrobat software.  It is self-paced and can be played for individual use or any size group.  The video is 23 minutes in length.  If you would like somebody from the Office of Emergency Management to make a presentation on this topic to a group or organization you belong to, please just respond to this blog posting and let me know.  We will get something scheduled for you.

Link:   https://connect.hsin.gov/p21849699/





Photos of the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 Bomb

29 12 2009

More about terrorism and the recent incident on Flight 253 can be found at the following link:

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/northwest-airlines-bomb-photos/story?id=9436297





Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP)

28 12 2009

A colleague has indicated to me that Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) is another type of explosive that should be considered as a high threat, like PETN.  It is my understanding that TATP can be manufactured from commonly available materials.  This explosive has been used in the Middle East, especially by suicide bombers in Israel.  TATP is one of the most sensitive explosives known, being extremely sensitive to impact, temperature change and friction.

TATP can be easily prepared in a basement lab using commercially available starting materials obtained from, e.g., hardware stores, pharmacies, and stores selling cosmetics.  TATP is a fairly easy explosive to make, as far as explosives manufacturing goes.  It is my understanding that all it takes is acetone, hydrogen peroxide (3% medicinal peroxide is not concentrated enough), and a strong acid like hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.

Notable terrorism incidents utilizing TATP include Richard Reid who targeted American Airlines Flight 63 with a bomb concealed in his shoe with a TATP detonator, along with PETN.   The explosive may have been used as the explosive in the July 2005 London bombings.   On September 4, 2007, homemade TATP was found during the arrest of eight suspected Al-Qaeda collaborators in Denmark.

The apparent ease of making the explosive is demonstrated by a report (contained in wikipedia) which indicates a 13-year-old student in Hong Kong was injured on March 28, 2009 when he tried to light some TATP powder provided by another 14-year-old boy. Police found six more bottles of TATP from his apartment. Police believe those bottles of TATP were homemade by the 14-year-old boy for curiosity’s sake. Including the injured boy, 3 teenagers were later arrested on explosives possession charges.  Of course, this is also a good example of how unstable and sensitive the explosive is when handled.





Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN)

28 12 2009

Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) is the powerful high explosive that was in the news over the holiday weekend; allegedly, PETN was found in the possession of the Nigerian terrorist who, according to reports, attempted to detonate an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.  This flight originated in Amsterdam, and was arriving in Detroit on December 25, 2009, when the individual attempted to detonate the explosive.  The terrorist had sewn the PETN into his underwear to avoid detection by authorities

PETN was introduced as an explosive after World War I.  It is used by itself in detonators and detonating fuses (Primacord) and in a mixture, called pentolite, with an equal amount of trinitrotoluene (TNT) in grenades and projectiles.

PETN is a colourless, crystalline material that is generally stored and shipped as a mixture with water. It is less sensitive than nitroglycerin but is easily detonated. Valued for its shattering force and efficiency, PETN is the least stable of the common military explosives but retains its properties in storage for longer periods than nitroglycerin or cellulose nitrate (nitrocellulose) does. PETN is also used in medicine as a heart stimulant.

In December 2001, PETN was the explosive used by Richard Reid in his unsuccessful attempt to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami.  In August 2009, PETN was used in an attempt to murder the Saudi Arabian Deputy Minister of Interior by a Saudi suicide-bomber linked to an al Qaeda cell based in Yemen. The target survived.  The bomber died in the blast.  The PETN was sewn into his underwear.








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