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Overview:

Charged with helping guard the nation from terrorist nuclear attack, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is responsible for developing high-tech screening systems that can detect a nuclear weapon or “dirty bomb” entering the US through a port, airport or border crossing. DNDO does not manufacture such equipment but instead funds research-and-development and tests and evaluates radiation detection equipment that can be employed by customs officials, border guards and Coast Guard sailors. DNDO’s testing and evaluation of contractor-produced technology has come under fire from government watchdogs and members of Congress for failing to objectively assess expensive detection equipment.

more
History:
The break up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s produced a new concern for US arms controls officials after decades of worrying about a nuclear strike by Russia. Instead of intercontinental ballistic missiles delivering nuclear warheads to American soil, the specter of smuggled weapons or nuclear fuel being slipped into the US by terrorists became a paramount concern. As former Soviet Republics broke away and became independent states, American officials reached out to Russian military and political leaders in an effort to reduce the likelihood of Russian strategic weapons falling into the wrong hands.
 
American security experts began to conclude within a few short years that non-proliferation programs in the former Soviet Union would not be enough to protect the US from a potential terrorist attack employing nuclear weapons or radioactive material. In 1997, the Defense Science Board argued in a report (PDF) that new technology needed to be developed that could detect radioactive material traveling through American ports of entry or border stations. This call for action went unheeded.
 
The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, renewed, with greater urgency, concerns over the vulnerability of US territory to a terrorist nuclear attack. Soon after the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the administration of George W. Bush ordered increased security measures at American harbors, airports and border crossings. The Defense Science Board, through a special task force, again examined the problem of clandestine nuclear attack (PDF) in 2001, and again no action was taken as a result of the board’s conclusions. Meanwhile, the public began hearing about concerns not only of possible nuclear detonations on American soil by terrorists but also so-called “dirty bomb” attacks in which a conventional explosive triggered the release of radioactive material in a crowded urban environment.
 
In 2005, President Bush and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff jointly issued orders to address the problem of terrorists trying to attack the US with a nuclear-oriented weapon of mass destruction. National Security Presidential Directive NSPD-43 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive HSPD-14 provided a framework for creating a domestic nuclear detection system that would guarantee the safety of Americans from clandestine attack. To establish such a system, Department of Homeland Security Officials determined it was necessary to organize a new office whose mission was to work with key federal agencies and private contractors to forge new technologies that could be used by border guards and customs officials to consistently and effectively detect any smuggled nuclear device entering the US. Thus, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) was born in April 2005.
 
Creating DNDO proved easier than funding it, at first. President Bush asked Congress to appropriate $227 million in DNDO’s first year of operation. Some on Capitol Hill found the request excessive and trimmed it by $100 million, arguing the office lacked a clear sense of direction. Other members of Congress, such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, criticized Chertoff for placing the detection office within the secretary’s office rather than in DHS’s science and technology (S&T) division, arguing the move would duplicate research efforts.
 
“The administration has provided insufficient justification for a second research and development organization to coordinate, direct, and fund research and development related to radiological and nuclear detection and has not demonstrated that the existing offices of the S&T cannot continue to perform these tasks,” wrote Lieberman in a letter to Chertoff.
 

Congress slows Bush effort on nuclear detection office

(by Greta Wodele, Government Executive)

 

more
What it Does:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is responsible for developing high-tech screening methods, or “architecture” as DNDO calls it, that can detect a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb entering the US through a seaport, airport or border crossing. DNDO does not manufacture such equipment. Instead, the office finances the creation of radiation detection equipment and tests its effectiveness before providing it to customs officials, border guards and Coast Guard sailors.
 
DNDO is a joint operation made up of DHS personnel plus officials from the departments of Defense, Energy and State, the FBI, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Safety Administration and the US Coast Guard. As of 2007, 32% of DNDO’s personnel (48) were from other agencies and 47% (70) were contractors, according to a report by the DHS Inspector General.
 
Much of DNDO’s work on radiation detection equipment to date has focused on the development and use of radiation detection portal monitors, which are larger-scale devices that can screen vehicles, people and cargo entering the United States. Customs and Border Protection officials are already using portal monitors that DNDO tested and authorized in 2005. These portal monitors, made of polyvinyl toluene (plastic) and known as “PVTs,” detect the presence of radiation but cannot distinguish between benign, naturally occurring radiological materials, such as ceramic tile, and dangerous materials like highly-enriched uranium. DNDO is trying to develop the next generation of portal monitors, known as “Advanced Spectroscopic Portals” (ASP), to better detect and identify radiological and nuclear materials within even steel-hulled shipping containers.
 
  • Systems Architecture Directorate - Examines existing detection equipment to locate any gaps or vulnerabilities that might allow dangerous materials to slip by US officials. The directorate then recommends changes to improve equipment design or use.
  • Mission Management Directorate - Manages DNDO programs in key areas, such as ports of entry, airports and border crossings.
  • Product Acquisition & Deployment Directorate - Carries out the engineering development, production, developmental logistics procurement and deployment of current and next-generation nuclear detection systems.
  • Transformational & Applied Research Directorate - Focuses on long-term research for new detection equipment and systems.
  • Operations Support Directorate - Oversees the Joint Analysis Center consisting of personnel from DNDO, the Pentagon, Energy Department, DHS, FBI and NRC, which is on call 24/7 in the event a radiological device is detected at a US harbor, airport or border station. Operations support also provides training to federal, state and local law enforcement and emergency responders on how to handle events involving nuclear weapons or dirty bombs, and it coordinates exercises designed to test those personnel who use detection equipment.
  • Systems Engineering & Evaluation Directorate - Ensures that DNDO proposes sound technical solutions prior to deploying new technologies.
  • Red Teaming & Net Assessments - Independently assesses the operational performance of planned and deployed detection technologies, procedures and protocols.
  • National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center - Established in October 2006 and made up of officials from various federal agencies, this center is responsible for tracing the source of nuclear weapons or dirty bombs found in the US. This includes being able to determine where the radiological material of a bomb (exploded or unexploded) came from.

DNDO Overview

(PDF)

 

more
Where Does the Money Go:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DNDO relies heavily on defense and technology contractors to fulfill its mission of developing advanced detection systems that can sniff out terrorist attempts to smuggle nuclear weapons or dirty bombs into the US.
 
Two new systems that DNDO officials have high hopes for are the Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography System (CAARS) and Advanced Spectroscopic Portals (ASP). CAARS, an advanced x-ray capable of revealing the contents of shipping containers, including anything housing uranium or plutonium, is currently being developed by three companies - SAIC of San Diego, CA, American Science & Engineering of Billerica, MA, and L-3 Communications of Woburn, MA. In total, DNDO will pay the three contractors $1.35 billion to research, develop, test and build CAARS over a seven-year period.
 
To develop ASP, DNDO is paying $1.1 billion to one of the nation’s biggest defense contractors, Raytheon, along with Thermo Electron and Canberra Industries to build the panel-like scanner that can detect radioactive substances in containers or hidden on individuals. ASP is designed to replace current detection portals in use at ports and border stations that don’t always distinguish between dangerous and harmless materials (see Controversies).
 
In addition to CAARS and ASP, DNDO officials have agreed to pay Smiths Detection, a provider of explosives trace and X-ray detection systems, $222 million for a handheld and backpack Human Portable Radiation Detection System (HPRDS). The detection system will be used by emergency responders, border patrol and customs agents, Coast Guard officers and other law enforcement personnel.
 
DNDO regularly gives out smaller contracts to both private companies and research universities to conduct exploratory research in the field of nuclear detection. In March 2007, the office announced the awarding of 10 contract totaling $8.8 million to nine companies: Alliant Techsystems Inc.; Canberra; EIC Laboratories, Inc.; General Electric Global Research Center (two awards); Physical Optics Corp.; Radiation Monitoring Devices, Inc.; Rapiscan Systems Corp.; SAIC; and Westinghouse.
 
That same year, DNDO distributed $3.1 million in Exploratory Research Cooperative Agreements to seven universities: California Institute of Technology, Florida Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, State University of New York at Stony Brook, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska at Lincoln and Washington University.
DHS awards $1.1B in contracts for nuclear detection (by Michael Arnone, Federal Computer Week)
 

Ongoing Research Projects

(PDF)

 

more
Controversies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DNDO Criticized Twice by GAO
Twice in 2007, a government watchdog agency came down hard on the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office for the way it was handling the development of new scanning technologies. A March 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) faulted DNDO’s cost-benefit analysis in purchasing new systems, saying it lacked a “sound analytical basis” in making important decisions. The revelation provoked outrage among some Congressional representatives, including Dan Lungren (R-CA) who told DNDO head Vayl Oxford, “You screwed up big time.”
 
Then, in September, GAO accused DNDO of fudging test results of the new Advanced Spectroscopic Portals (ASP) under development. The second report charged DNDO with using “biased test methods” to make the new ASP equipment look better in performance than it actually had during testing. DNDO was also faulted for not testing the full limits of the ASPs to see what exactly the machines were capable of. And to make matters even worst, DNDO conducted preliminary tests and then allowed the ASP contractors (Raytheon, Thermo Electron and Canberra Industries) access to the results, which they then used to adjust systems.
 
The ASP system was funded by DNDO to replace current scanners in use at ports and border crossings which have proven unreliable in distinguishing harmless commodities, such as kitty litter, from uranium-filled devices. DNDO has promised the ASP will be at least 95% reliable (while costing six times as much as current detection equipment in use). So far, however, ASPs have only reached the 50% threshold.

GAO: Combating Nuclear Smuggling, Additional Actions Needed September 2007

(PDF)

 

more

Comments

Leave a comment

Founded: 2005
Annual Budget: $561.9 million
Employees: 150
Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
McDonnell, Jim
Director

On June 20, 2017, President Donald Trump appointed James F. McDonnell III as the director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). Located in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), DNDO is responsible for funding research and development aimed at developing screening systems that can detect a nuclear weapon or “dirty bomb” entering the U.S. McDonnell has been an advisor at DHS since March 2017.

 

The son of James F. and Barbara McDonnell, he was born circa 1957. His father was a Navy veteran and the president of the J.J. McDonnell Coffee Company.

 

The younger McDonnell joined the Navy himself in 1975 and retired as an officer twenty years later. He served mainly as an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal)/Special Operations officer. He was posted to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; Barbers Point, Hawaii; Cecil Field, Florida; and finished up his career at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he served from 1992 to 1995. 

 

After leaving the Navy, McDonnell served as director of national security operations at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a consortium of American universities dedicated to advancing scientific research and education, from 1995 to 2001.

 

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he took a job with the U.S. Department of Energy as the founding director of the Office of Energy Assurance, which was responsible for protecting the nation’s energy infrastructure. In September 2002, McDonnell began working for the Homeland Security Transition Planning Office in the White House, helping to plan the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

 

At some point, McDonnell gained a B.S. from Regents College (now Excelsior College), a distance learning institution based in Albany, NewYork, that is popular with military personnel. He also earned an M.A. in American Studies at Georgetown University in 2002, where he wrote a thesis entitled, “Constitutional Issues in Federal Management of Domestic Terrorism Incidents,” later published as a short book.

 

In March 2003, he left both his Energy Department and White House jobs to be division director for critical infrastructure protection at DHS, staying until 2004. He got into a bit of trouble at DHS, however, and was investigated for loose contracting practices, specifically whether he and another DOE official “improperly influenced the decision to give $20 million to the [Oak Ridge National] laboratory since 2004 to help develop a list of the nation's top potential terrorist targets.” No charges were ever brought, although The Washington Post noted that as of October 2006 the list in question “remains incomplete and is of limited value.” 

 

Joining the private sector in June 2004, McDonnell became vice president, chief information & security officer at the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (now Centrus) a nuclear fuel supply company initially created by the Energy Policy Act of 1992. He worked there until December 2006, before briefly working for Amtrak as VP and chief risk officer, in 2007.

 

In 2005, he was chosen as a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.

 

McDonnell founded his own consulting firm, McDonnell Consulting Group in Mt. Vernon, Virginia, and was its president from 2004 to March 2017. As such, he provided advice in government relations and business development, as well as counterterrorism, corporate security, and business operations. For most of that time, he was also chairman and CEO of Trinity Applied Strategies Corporation, a commercial risk management company, from May 2006 to December 2015.

 

Also during those years (October 2014 to December 2016), McDonnell was CEO of I'm Safe Apps, in Fairfax County, Virginia, which sold smartphone and web based security systems that are designed to make average citizens feel safer and more aware of security risks.

 

Jim McDonnell is married to Deirdre McDonnell.

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

LinkedIn Profile

DHS Reviews Claims Of Contract Conflicts (by Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post)

more
Gowadia, Huban
Previous Director

President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Huban A. Gowadia as director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) on September 20, 2013, and she was sworn in on December 13. In that role, Gowadia leads the agency responsible for detecting nuclear materials, finding gaps in the nation’s system of detecting nuclear materials and developing technology to detect nuclear materials.

 

Gowadia was born in 1969 in Mumbai, India. She graduated from the University of Alabama in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Pennsylvania State in 2000. She specialized in fluid mechanics and heat and mass transfer. Her dissertation research dealt with “the scientific background for an explosives detection portal for personnel screening.”

 

She worked for the Federal Aviation Administration’s aviation security laboratory from 2000 to 2001 as part of the explosives and weapons detection team. The September 11, 2001, attacks had a profound effect on Gowadia. After being appointed DNDO director, she told Crimson White, the University of Alabama campus newspaper, “I would have to say the most impactful and shaping event of my life was Sept. 11. Right then and there learning curves were steepened at an incredible pace.…I realized the words of good mentors at the time, and teammates, because we had to do very difficult things in very short periods of time.”

 

Shortly after the attacks, Gowadia moved to the Transportation Security Administration, where she worked until 2003 as checkpoint program manager. She then managed Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Countermeasures Test Beds until 2005, when she joined DNDO.

 

Gowadia moved quickly up the ladder in that agency, starting as assistant director for assessments. In 2007, she became assistant director of the mission management directorate before becoming deputy director of DNDO in 2010. She took over as acting director of the agency in 2012 before being formally appointed as director in 2013.

-Steve Straehley

 

Official Biography

The Natural Sampling of Airborne Trace Signals from Explosives Concealed upon the Human

 Body (by Huban A. Gowadia and Gary S. Settles (Pennsylvania State University) (pdf)

more
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

Charged with helping guard the nation from terrorist nuclear attack, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is responsible for developing high-tech screening systems that can detect a nuclear weapon or “dirty bomb” entering the US through a port, airport or border crossing. DNDO does not manufacture such equipment but instead funds research-and-development and tests and evaluates radiation detection equipment that can be employed by customs officials, border guards and Coast Guard sailors. DNDO’s testing and evaluation of contractor-produced technology has come under fire from government watchdogs and members of Congress for failing to objectively assess expensive detection equipment.

more
History:
The break up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s produced a new concern for US arms controls officials after decades of worrying about a nuclear strike by Russia. Instead of intercontinental ballistic missiles delivering nuclear warheads to American soil, the specter of smuggled weapons or nuclear fuel being slipped into the US by terrorists became a paramount concern. As former Soviet Republics broke away and became independent states, American officials reached out to Russian military and political leaders in an effort to reduce the likelihood of Russian strategic weapons falling into the wrong hands.
 
American security experts began to conclude within a few short years that non-proliferation programs in the former Soviet Union would not be enough to protect the US from a potential terrorist attack employing nuclear weapons or radioactive material. In 1997, the Defense Science Board argued in a report (PDF) that new technology needed to be developed that could detect radioactive material traveling through American ports of entry or border stations. This call for action went unheeded.
 
The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, renewed, with greater urgency, concerns over the vulnerability of US territory to a terrorist nuclear attack. Soon after the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the administration of George W. Bush ordered increased security measures at American harbors, airports and border crossings. The Defense Science Board, through a special task force, again examined the problem of clandestine nuclear attack (PDF) in 2001, and again no action was taken as a result of the board’s conclusions. Meanwhile, the public began hearing about concerns not only of possible nuclear detonations on American soil by terrorists but also so-called “dirty bomb” attacks in which a conventional explosive triggered the release of radioactive material in a crowded urban environment.
 
In 2005, President Bush and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff jointly issued orders to address the problem of terrorists trying to attack the US with a nuclear-oriented weapon of mass destruction. National Security Presidential Directive NSPD-43 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive HSPD-14 provided a framework for creating a domestic nuclear detection system that would guarantee the safety of Americans from clandestine attack. To establish such a system, Department of Homeland Security Officials determined it was necessary to organize a new office whose mission was to work with key federal agencies and private contractors to forge new technologies that could be used by border guards and customs officials to consistently and effectively detect any smuggled nuclear device entering the US. Thus, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) was born in April 2005.
 
Creating DNDO proved easier than funding it, at first. President Bush asked Congress to appropriate $227 million in DNDO’s first year of operation. Some on Capitol Hill found the request excessive and trimmed it by $100 million, arguing the office lacked a clear sense of direction. Other members of Congress, such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, criticized Chertoff for placing the detection office within the secretary’s office rather than in DHS’s science and technology (S&T) division, arguing the move would duplicate research efforts.
 
“The administration has provided insufficient justification for a second research and development organization to coordinate, direct, and fund research and development related to radiological and nuclear detection and has not demonstrated that the existing offices of the S&T cannot continue to perform these tasks,” wrote Lieberman in a letter to Chertoff.
 

Congress slows Bush effort on nuclear detection office

(by Greta Wodele, Government Executive)

 

more
What it Does:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is responsible for developing high-tech screening methods, or “architecture” as DNDO calls it, that can detect a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb entering the US through a seaport, airport or border crossing. DNDO does not manufacture such equipment. Instead, the office finances the creation of radiation detection equipment and tests its effectiveness before providing it to customs officials, border guards and Coast Guard sailors.
 
DNDO is a joint operation made up of DHS personnel plus officials from the departments of Defense, Energy and State, the FBI, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Safety Administration and the US Coast Guard. As of 2007, 32% of DNDO’s personnel (48) were from other agencies and 47% (70) were contractors, according to a report by the DHS Inspector General.
 
Much of DNDO’s work on radiation detection equipment to date has focused on the development and use of radiation detection portal monitors, which are larger-scale devices that can screen vehicles, people and cargo entering the United States. Customs and Border Protection officials are already using portal monitors that DNDO tested and authorized in 2005. These portal monitors, made of polyvinyl toluene (plastic) and known as “PVTs,” detect the presence of radiation but cannot distinguish between benign, naturally occurring radiological materials, such as ceramic tile, and dangerous materials like highly-enriched uranium. DNDO is trying to develop the next generation of portal monitors, known as “Advanced Spectroscopic Portals” (ASP), to better detect and identify radiological and nuclear materials within even steel-hulled shipping containers.
 
  • Systems Architecture Directorate - Examines existing detection equipment to locate any gaps or vulnerabilities that might allow dangerous materials to slip by US officials. The directorate then recommends changes to improve equipment design or use.
  • Mission Management Directorate - Manages DNDO programs in key areas, such as ports of entry, airports and border crossings.
  • Product Acquisition & Deployment Directorate - Carries out the engineering development, production, developmental logistics procurement and deployment of current and next-generation nuclear detection systems.
  • Transformational & Applied Research Directorate - Focuses on long-term research for new detection equipment and systems.
  • Operations Support Directorate - Oversees the Joint Analysis Center consisting of personnel from DNDO, the Pentagon, Energy Department, DHS, FBI and NRC, which is on call 24/7 in the event a radiological device is detected at a US harbor, airport or border station. Operations support also provides training to federal, state and local law enforcement and emergency responders on how to handle events involving nuclear weapons or dirty bombs, and it coordinates exercises designed to test those personnel who use detection equipment.
  • Systems Engineering & Evaluation Directorate - Ensures that DNDO proposes sound technical solutions prior to deploying new technologies.
  • Red Teaming & Net Assessments - Independently assesses the operational performance of planned and deployed detection technologies, procedures and protocols.
  • National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center - Established in October 2006 and made up of officials from various federal agencies, this center is responsible for tracing the source of nuclear weapons or dirty bombs found in the US. This includes being able to determine where the radiological material of a bomb (exploded or unexploded) came from.

DNDO Overview

(PDF)

 

more
Where Does the Money Go:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DNDO relies heavily on defense and technology contractors to fulfill its mission of developing advanced detection systems that can sniff out terrorist attempts to smuggle nuclear weapons or dirty bombs into the US.
 
Two new systems that DNDO officials have high hopes for are the Cargo Advanced Automated Radiography System (CAARS) and Advanced Spectroscopic Portals (ASP). CAARS, an advanced x-ray capable of revealing the contents of shipping containers, including anything housing uranium or plutonium, is currently being developed by three companies - SAIC of San Diego, CA, American Science & Engineering of Billerica, MA, and L-3 Communications of Woburn, MA. In total, DNDO will pay the three contractors $1.35 billion to research, develop, test and build CAARS over a seven-year period.
 
To develop ASP, DNDO is paying $1.1 billion to one of the nation’s biggest defense contractors, Raytheon, along with Thermo Electron and Canberra Industries to build the panel-like scanner that can detect radioactive substances in containers or hidden on individuals. ASP is designed to replace current detection portals in use at ports and border stations that don’t always distinguish between dangerous and harmless materials (see Controversies).
 
In addition to CAARS and ASP, DNDO officials have agreed to pay Smiths Detection, a provider of explosives trace and X-ray detection systems, $222 million for a handheld and backpack Human Portable Radiation Detection System (HPRDS). The detection system will be used by emergency responders, border patrol and customs agents, Coast Guard officers and other law enforcement personnel.
 
DNDO regularly gives out smaller contracts to both private companies and research universities to conduct exploratory research in the field of nuclear detection. In March 2007, the office announced the awarding of 10 contract totaling $8.8 million to nine companies: Alliant Techsystems Inc.; Canberra; EIC Laboratories, Inc.; General Electric Global Research Center (two awards); Physical Optics Corp.; Radiation Monitoring Devices, Inc.; Rapiscan Systems Corp.; SAIC; and Westinghouse.
 
That same year, DNDO distributed $3.1 million in Exploratory Research Cooperative Agreements to seven universities: California Institute of Technology, Florida Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, State University of New York at Stony Brook, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska at Lincoln and Washington University.
DHS awards $1.1B in contracts for nuclear detection (by Michael Arnone, Federal Computer Week)
 

Ongoing Research Projects

(PDF)

 

more
Controversies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DNDO Criticized Twice by GAO
Twice in 2007, a government watchdog agency came down hard on the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office for the way it was handling the development of new scanning technologies. A March 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) faulted DNDO’s cost-benefit analysis in purchasing new systems, saying it lacked a “sound analytical basis” in making important decisions. The revelation provoked outrage among some Congressional representatives, including Dan Lungren (R-CA) who told DNDO head Vayl Oxford, “You screwed up big time.”
 
Then, in September, GAO accused DNDO of fudging test results of the new Advanced Spectroscopic Portals (ASP) under development. The second report charged DNDO with using “biased test methods” to make the new ASP equipment look better in performance than it actually had during testing. DNDO was also faulted for not testing the full limits of the ASPs to see what exactly the machines were capable of. And to make matters even worst, DNDO conducted preliminary tests and then allowed the ASP contractors (Raytheon, Thermo Electron and Canberra Industries) access to the results, which they then used to adjust systems.
 
The ASP system was funded by DNDO to replace current scanners in use at ports and border crossings which have proven unreliable in distinguishing harmless commodities, such as kitty litter, from uranium-filled devices. DNDO has promised the ASP will be at least 95% reliable (while costing six times as much as current detection equipment in use). So far, however, ASPs have only reached the 50% threshold.

GAO: Combating Nuclear Smuggling, Additional Actions Needed September 2007

(PDF)

 

more

Comments

Leave a comment

Founded: 2005
Annual Budget: $561.9 million
Employees: 150
Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
McDonnell, Jim
Director

On June 20, 2017, President Donald Trump appointed James F. McDonnell III as the director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). Located in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), DNDO is responsible for funding research and development aimed at developing screening systems that can detect a nuclear weapon or “dirty bomb” entering the U.S. McDonnell has been an advisor at DHS since March 2017.

 

The son of James F. and Barbara McDonnell, he was born circa 1957. His father was a Navy veteran and the president of the J.J. McDonnell Coffee Company.

 

The younger McDonnell joined the Navy himself in 1975 and retired as an officer twenty years later. He served mainly as an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal)/Special Operations officer. He was posted to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; Barbers Point, Hawaii; Cecil Field, Florida; and finished up his career at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he served from 1992 to 1995. 

 

After leaving the Navy, McDonnell served as director of national security operations at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a consortium of American universities dedicated to advancing scientific research and education, from 1995 to 2001.

 

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he took a job with the U.S. Department of Energy as the founding director of the Office of Energy Assurance, which was responsible for protecting the nation’s energy infrastructure. In September 2002, McDonnell began working for the Homeland Security Transition Planning Office in the White House, helping to plan the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

 

At some point, McDonnell gained a B.S. from Regents College (now Excelsior College), a distance learning institution based in Albany, NewYork, that is popular with military personnel. He also earned an M.A. in American Studies at Georgetown University in 2002, where he wrote a thesis entitled, “Constitutional Issues in Federal Management of Domestic Terrorism Incidents,” later published as a short book.

 

In March 2003, he left both his Energy Department and White House jobs to be division director for critical infrastructure protection at DHS, staying until 2004. He got into a bit of trouble at DHS, however, and was investigated for loose contracting practices, specifically whether he and another DOE official “improperly influenced the decision to give $20 million to the [Oak Ridge National] laboratory since 2004 to help develop a list of the nation's top potential terrorist targets.” No charges were ever brought, although The Washington Post noted that as of October 2006 the list in question “remains incomplete and is of limited value.” 

 

Joining the private sector in June 2004, McDonnell became vice president, chief information & security officer at the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (now Centrus) a nuclear fuel supply company initially created by the Energy Policy Act of 1992. He worked there until December 2006, before briefly working for Amtrak as VP and chief risk officer, in 2007.

 

In 2005, he was chosen as a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.

 

McDonnell founded his own consulting firm, McDonnell Consulting Group in Mt. Vernon, Virginia, and was its president from 2004 to March 2017. As such, he provided advice in government relations and business development, as well as counterterrorism, corporate security, and business operations. For most of that time, he was also chairman and CEO of Trinity Applied Strategies Corporation, a commercial risk management company, from May 2006 to December 2015.

 

Also during those years (October 2014 to December 2016), McDonnell was CEO of I'm Safe Apps, in Fairfax County, Virginia, which sold smartphone and web based security systems that are designed to make average citizens feel safer and more aware of security risks.

 

Jim McDonnell is married to Deirdre McDonnell.

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

LinkedIn Profile

DHS Reviews Claims Of Contract Conflicts (by Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post)

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Gowadia, Huban
Previous Director

President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Huban A. Gowadia as director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) on September 20, 2013, and she was sworn in on December 13. In that role, Gowadia leads the agency responsible for detecting nuclear materials, finding gaps in the nation’s system of detecting nuclear materials and developing technology to detect nuclear materials.

 

Gowadia was born in 1969 in Mumbai, India. She graduated from the University of Alabama in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Pennsylvania State in 2000. She specialized in fluid mechanics and heat and mass transfer. Her dissertation research dealt with “the scientific background for an explosives detection portal for personnel screening.”

 

She worked for the Federal Aviation Administration’s aviation security laboratory from 2000 to 2001 as part of the explosives and weapons detection team. The September 11, 2001, attacks had a profound effect on Gowadia. After being appointed DNDO director, she told Crimson White, the University of Alabama campus newspaper, “I would have to say the most impactful and shaping event of my life was Sept. 11. Right then and there learning curves were steepened at an incredible pace.…I realized the words of good mentors at the time, and teammates, because we had to do very difficult things in very short periods of time.”

 

Shortly after the attacks, Gowadia moved to the Transportation Security Administration, where she worked until 2003 as checkpoint program manager. She then managed Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Countermeasures Test Beds until 2005, when she joined DNDO.

 

Gowadia moved quickly up the ladder in that agency, starting as assistant director for assessments. In 2007, she became assistant director of the mission management directorate before becoming deputy director of DNDO in 2010. She took over as acting director of the agency in 2012 before being formally appointed as director in 2013.

-Steve Straehley

 

Official Biography

The Natural Sampling of Airborne Trace Signals from Explosives Concealed upon the Human

 Body (by Huban A. Gowadia and Gary S. Settles (Pennsylvania State University) (pdf)

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