WASHINGTON — A special Pentagon unit researching more effective ways to combat terrorism isn’t expected to get more money in the next budget, despite taking on more projects after the USS Cole bombing.
Also, research projects are being farmed out to security-challenged Energy Department laboratories, raising concerns about the secrecy of the classified applied technology being developed to thwart terrorist attacks.
Funding for the Defense Department’s Combating Terrorism Technology Support Office, or CTTS, totals some $63 million in fiscal year 2001, about the same as in fiscal 2000. And the fiscal 2002 budget is expected to stay around that amount.
“I am surprised our budget didn’t get bumped up after the Cole,” said a CTTS official. “We took on a number of additional projects.”
The anti-terrorism unit — the R&D arm of the interagency Technical Support Working Group formed in 1984 after the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut — turns over long-term projects to Energy’s research labs, which have suffered from a rash of classified leaks and computer-related security breaches after the Clinton administration loosened security there.
“I am wary of the DOE labs,” the Pentagon official told WorldNetDaily. “But we’ve made sure any work has gone into specially isolated compartments and to selected people.”
According to Inside the Pentagon, a weekly defense newsletter, CTTS recently has developed a number of counterterrorism tools, including:
An easy-to-use field kit and checklist to help the Navy inspect small boats to better protect warships in foreign ports. The Aegis-guided missile-destroyer Cole, knocked out by a boat carrying explosives in Aden, Yemen, was the victim of “asymmetric warfare” — the use by extremists of relatively low-tech weapons to strike American targets with devastating effects. The attack killed 17 sailors.
A high-strength fiber to reinforce walls and columns at U.S. buildings and minimize casualties from flying debris during bomb blasts. Most of the deaths in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were caused by exploding wall and window debris. The State Department is retrofitting buildings overseas with the state-of-the-art material. New methods to harden electronic components — used in U.S. assets such as computer systems and power plants — against microwave weapons.
Night vision goggles equipped with a special filter to block out blinding glare caused by bright lights, such as flares, which can help guards better protect U.S. assets from terrorist attacks at night.
Meanwhile, the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations last week held a hearing calling for improved countermeasures for terrorist threats.
“We need clearer priorities and a national strategy to breach bureaucratic barriers and focus the fight against terrorism,” said committee chairman Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn.
He singled out two House bills for praise.
One, the Preparedness Against Domestic Terrorism Act of 2001, would create a White House agency to coordinate anti-terrorism efforts. And the National Homeland Security Agency Act would band the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Coast Guard, Customs Service and Border Patrol in the fight against domestic terrorism.