The global defense and homeland security community seeks affordable, adaptable systems for the detection of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) agents.
Is the need for CBRNE agent detection growing?
Things ebb and flow. Over the past 15 years, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has certainly taken the CBRNE business much more seriously. There were a lot of events in the world going back to the first Gulf War in the mid-90s that made the U.S. DOD stand up and take a lot more notice of not only chem-bio, but CBRNE as a whole.
How are the CBRNE detection needs of the military changing?
It used to be mounted reconnaissance: You'd send soldiers out in a Stryker vehicle with some chem-bio electronics mounted on the vehicle. In the new program, the dismounted reconnaissance world, soldiers are more likely to run across a threat, such as a lab or a weapons cache. Their question is: 'Are they filled with some sort of chemical or biological weapon, and how do I neutralize it?' It's more about coming across unidentified things and wanting to understand what they are. That's going on in parallel with the more historic threat of being under attack.
How does this change affect end users' needs?
The dismounted reconnaissance community is looking for technologies and systems that are more flexible than they used to be. Instead of buying systems that counter a specific threat list, they are looking for systems that are more adaptable and broader because the nature of the threat and of the enemy is hard to put your finger on. Who is the enemy? Well, it's sort of nebulous. The nature of the threat that goes with that is a little nebulous, too, so the countermeasure systems you put in place need to be more flexible.
What will the future hold for CBRNE threat detection?
There are still a lot of really tough problems to solve. One of our focuses is to help with the budgetary piece. There are things we can do as a technology development company, a provider of these technologies, to make systems more affordable.
We as a country need to remain diligent from a threat perspective, and we as providers of products and technologies need to be cognizant that budgetary pressures really matter. Providing the best next- generation products is not enough. They need to be put in the right context and to be affordable, and companies need to work very collaboratively with customers.
There are lots of challenges to meet; but, the challenges and the problems that are out there are an absolutely great playing field for innovative, smart companies like FLIR to come in and solve those problems. I'm enthusiastic about it.
It's easy to get discouraged because of budgetary pressures, but it's a lot more fun to see the challenge and provide the right solutions in a way that fits within the context they need to fit from a budgetary perspective.
NAME: David W. Cullin, Ph.D.
TITLE: Chief Technology Officer
CO.: FLIR Government Systems
ROLE: FLIR GS designs, manufactures, and markets thermal imaging and radar surveillance systems, chemical and explosive detection products, and integrated sensor solutions to governmental entities.