Integrated Early CBRN Warning


Interview at Aberdeen Proving Ground

With Mr. Andrew Murphy, Joint Product Lead for CBRN Integrated Early Warning, JPEO-CBRND, USA

On the sidelines of NCT USA 2022, we met Mr. Drew Murphy, who is the Joint Product Lead for CBRN Integrated Early Warning at JPEO-CBRND at the Aberdeen Proving Ground facilities in Edgewood (Maryland). We gathered with him for some minutes to ask him about the efforts of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) to improve its CBRN monitoring capacity and early warning mechanisms, both on a domestic and international level. For instance, through the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), investments in therapeutics for biological threats, and military drills with allied forces. Mr. Murphy underlined the importance of information sharing among different organizational levels, as well as the need for tailoring information to decision makers.

Mr. Murphy, what is the JPEO-CBRND doing to improve existing early warning systems for CBRN threats?

We have a couple of efforts going on in parallel, with one of the key efforts being integrating our sensors onto networks. Greater than just creating a CBRN network, what we are aiming at is to push that information all the way up across the tactical, operational, and strategic level. This is all part of the JADC2 effort, the Joint All-Domain Command and Control. On top of that, we have a dedicated program shop to look at how to make our sensors interoperable and integrated, and we are focusing on getting at the lowest level possible to look at moving data elements and information across the edge, all in support of integrated layered CBRN defense.

In terms of monitoring and out of all the different CBRN threats, is there any particular area of the CBRN domain where the US is best prepared for?

I think we are well prepared for all the CBRN threats out there. Where we have put a lot of focus and a lot of energy on, because of real world events obviously, is naturally occurring diseases and surveillance. We are coming out from Covid-19 and even before Covid we were a huge proponent of the Ebola response, investing efforts into that area, the medical realm, and the therapeutics to treat it. On top of that, we are making strides in genomics and proteomics to get after that detailed threat understanding.

What is in your opinion the best way authorities can monitor and prevent the widespread use of CBRN weapons by non-state actors? Is online surveillance enough to prevent it from happening?

Online surveillance is a critical element of it. I think additionally we need to be reaching out to what we call in the US our “local partners”, that is to say, our Department of Homeland Security, our local law enforcement, and the folks that are on the ground that are getting information and store it somewhere that we do not necessarily have real time access to it. We need to be able to leverage that that relevant information, looking at it as a layered response across local and defense forces.

Are there any geographical differences regarding the protocol to prevent any potential CBRN attacks? Is there anything these other regions can learn from the US and vice versa?

For the geographical differences, it is the capacity of our allied partners. We invested a lot of money into these areas, and we work with our allied partners to build their capacity. One of the key elements of all of this is to make sure that we are exercising CBRN defense and being prepared. We have demonstrated our CBRN detection and early warning capability at exercises like RIMPAC (across the Rim of the Pacific) as well as exercises in EUCOM like Brave Beduin. Making sure that we have a key focus exercise for CBRN with our partners can really identify areas where we need to improve as well as where our strengths are. Where we are today, I think everyone kind of has as a level footing by adopting the NATO ATP-45 standard (Allied Technical Publication 45 – Warning and Reporting and Hazard Prediction of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Incidents (Operators Manual), the standard for reporting on a CBRN incident). The critical piece there is sharing information when we get it. Let’s not hold it, let’s share it and make it relevant because we will miss windows of opportunity otherwise.

What is the biggest challenge that you envisage in the near future when developing effective early warning mechanisms?

Sharing information is key as well as making sure that it is available, because often times data just sits there. One of the other problems that we see in an operational context is the relevancy of the information, making sure that decision makers have the information at the right time. That means making sure the information is available, transmitted and that decision makers can make sense of it. There are ways to accelerate that, for instance by using AI and machine learning, which are some of the things we are investing in at the JPEO right now, these decision support tools really pull that thread and accelerate decisions to increase the operating envelope for the force.

Author: Bio

Mr. Andrew “Drew” Murphy is the Joint Product Lead for CBRN Integrated Early Warning (IEW). He is responsible for execution of JWARN, JEM, CBRN-IS, and CBRN Support to Command and Control (CSC2) programs.

In this role, Mr. Murphy is responsible for the development of an interoperable and integrated CBRN capability set to enhance situational awareness and understanding in support of CBRN integrated layer defense and JADC2.

Mr. Murphy has served in a variety of CBRN Acquisition Research and Development efforts throughout his career, most notably as the technical manager of the JUPITR ATD, program manager for the CBRN IEW efforts. Mr. Murphy entered civilian service in 2009 and holds degrees in biology and chemistry from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County.

He is also member of the Army Acquisition Corps and is certified in DAWIA Program Management and Engineering career fields. His civilian awards and decorations include the Meritorious Civilian Service Award and Commander’s Award for Civilian Service.

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