Innovation from the inside out

ECBC biologist Crystal Harris works in the Environmental Monitoring Lab, a full-service laboratory for processing a high volume of samples, including soil, liquid, air, wipes, biological tissues and food for chemical or biological warfare material.

ECBC biologist Crystal Harris works in the Environmental Monitoring Lab, a full-service laboratory for processing a high volume of samples, including soil, liquid, air, wipes, biological tissues and food for chemical or biological warfare material. (U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

Critical mission inspire teamwork, collaboration

ECBC Communications

For nearly 100 years, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center has served the warfighter with latest protection, detection and decontamination technology and equipment. The evolution of the center, from developing the nation’s first protective mask to producing the technology set to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile in the coming months, has enabled ECBC to become the premier resource for research, engineering and operations solutions.

In December 2013, ECBC put the future first by investing in applied science proposals through its 219 Innovative Project Program. The program provides a platform for ideas that generates increased business from external customers and create a transition to the warfighter. In fiscal year 2013, the ECBC workforce submitted 34 proposals, nine of which were funded for the first Innovative Project Program.

“I am so proud that we are able to provide the means to host this type of program,” said Dr. Joseph Corriveau, ECBC Research and Technology Directorate director. “It’s a unique opportunity for our researchers and engineers to collaborate across the center and combine their creativity, skills and ECBC facilities to address a chemical and biological defense gap. There has not been a similar program at the center before.”

The opportunity is made possible through Section 219 funding, which provides mechanism for DoD laboratories to invest in infrastructure, training or research and development. Section 219 funding originated from the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009, enabling military and government research laboratories to generate revenue as an indirect fee to help finance the overall cost of a given project.

Many teams that participated in the program began their work in early 2013, and several of them have generated interests from industry and partners, resulting in continued research for their projects.

“The 219 program allowed us to utilize unique center-wide assets in an innovative way that otherwise would not have been explored. Reaching across the center to tap into the many distinct and diverse capabilities was a win for us,” said Deborah Menking, Fiscal 2013 Rapid-Detect-Identify Decontamination Kit team leader.

The project was designed for the decontamination of suspected areas where spore-forming bacteria may be present inside a military or commercial aircraft. The kit contains hand-held detector assays, personnel protective gear and decontamination materials. ECBC used its resources to test the effectiveness of the kit, including test beds and biological decontamination methodologies, C-130 cargo aircraft and barcoded spore technology. Conceptual model design and animation was also used for the kit prototype, which offers a developing solution for the hazard mitigation arena.

“It was exciting to experience the vitality and creativity generated as talented scientists and engineers came to the table energized by a common goal. We brainstormed and fed off each others ideas to make a better product in the end,” she said.

This kind of internal teamwork across ECBC directorates pays dividends on the latest projects seeking funding from outside organizations. Many of the technologies developed result in partnerships with industry, academia or other government agencies.

ECBC received the George Linsteadt Technology Transfer Achievement Award Dec. 3, 2013, for demonstrating significant accomplishments to the DoD Technology Transfer Program.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the Department of Defense for our efforts in technology transfer, said ECBC Technical Director Joseph D. Wienand. “During a time of declining federal budgets, technology transfer is more important than ever, allowing ECBC to capitalize on our vast research and development infrastructure to establish mutually beneficial partnerships that stimulate the economy and further our mission in chemical and biological defense.”

ECBC has accomplished this by consistently leveraging the speed and agility of industry to transition Army-developed technology directly to the warfighter and first responders. The 2013 George Linsteadt Award recognizes ECBC’s outstanding contributions made to the T2 process, which resulted in mutually beneficial partnerships with federal and state agencies, private industry and academia. A record-breaking 105 agreements were executed in fiscal 2012, of which 65 were new cooperative research and development agreements and technology support agreements.

The Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, known as FDHS, is one of the latest innovative technologies to benefit from ECBC’s technology transfer program. The weapons of mass destruction-elimination technology designed to neutralize bulk amounts of chemical warfare agents and their precursors at a 99.9 percent destruction efficiency rate was transferred to the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense June 27, 2013. This agreement signified transition for advanced development and future integration into the Chemical Biological Defense Program Project Manager for Elimination, formerly known as the Chemical Materials Activity, which greatly enhanced the in-house capabilities required to produce an operational model of the new transportable elimination technology. This collaborative effort across multiple government organizations has enabled the DoD to outfit the FDHS with proven hydrolysis processed that has been used for decades in U.S. chemical demilitarization operations. As a result, the DoD addressed a transportable CW capability gap while also capitalizing on an opportunity to prepare for emerging threats around the world.

“The process was a rare opportunity for CBARR to work collaboratively with a large number of organizations within and outside of ECBC. Once lesson learned from this project is that ECBC can greatly enhance its capabilities by working collaboratively with other organizations that have complementary skill sets,” Baker said.

There are currently two FDHS units installed on the MV Cape Ray, which is set to depart for international waters to support a joint mission between the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and United Nations in destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. ECBC and JPEO-CBD personnel will be conducting the technical operations during several months of deployment.

ECBC has also partnered with JPM-E to develop a new personnel decontamination training course for technicians who participate in chemical demilitarization operations such as the FDHS mission and are required to wear Level C personnel protective equipment.

“The training program is very comprehensive and uses the standard operating procedures from ECBC and the 20th Support Command’s subordinate element, the Remediation Activity,” said Chris Wilson, an industrial equipment mechanic, ECBC CBARR.

“Wearing gear like the mask and equipment is something that you get used to over time. There are many people who have trouble getting acclimated to the weight of the suit,” he said. “The new training program is great, especially for newcomers because the hands-on exercises require you to don the full PPE gear. It gives you the actual feeling of being in the suit and mask as you simulate the entire 45-minute decon process.”

In 2012, JPM-E identified a number of courses that chemical workers are required to take on an annually retain their qualifications. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, operators must learn new techniques and methodologies for reacting to hazards. The training course got a recent upgrade after a partnership with JPM-E turned the annual required training into a robust three-day program of classroom instruction, hands-on exercises and scenario-based simulations.

The ECBC CBARR Business Unit supports numerous government agencies and field operations, including the upcoming FDHS mission, demolition of former chemical and biological process facilities, the remediation of formerly used defense sites, non­proliferation activities and environmental investigations. These missions have an element of risk and danger associated with them, making safety not only the number on priority for all personnel, but a necessary component that ensures the project mission is successful.

In addition to training and chemical disposal operations, ECBC provides expertise in mission-critical food inspection efforts. A team of ECBC researchers recently received the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary’s Honor Award at the 65th Annual Secretary Honor Awards Ceremony in December 2013. The team was recognized for partnering with the USDA to conduct critical chemical threat agent research to ensure the nation’s food supply remains safe and reliable for consumption.

Led by principal investigators Dr. Sue Bae and Dr. Mark Winemiller of the Agent Chemistry Branch, the ECBC team made significant contributions to meeting a USDA goal to protect public health and ensure food safety, a goal set by the USDA to identify and ensure it can respond to new and emerging sources of food contamination. Through a partnership with ECBC, whose expertise and infrastructure provided the USDA with capabilities and state-of-the-art facilities, the team gained valuable insight regarding the concentrations of chemical threat agents that have the potential to result in adverse health effects. The research contributed to the USDA’s ability to determine what food source is safe and to make sure the supply chain is available to feed Americans and nations around the world. Through its memorandum of agreement with the USDA, ECBC will continue to provide support in the event of an international food contamination crisis involving chemical threat agents.

ECBC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

ECBC chemists Jennifer Exelby and Chris Druyor work in the Chemical Transfer Facility, which was designated as the United States’ only single small-scale facility under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

ECBC chemists Jennifer Exelby and Chris Druyor work in the Chemical Transfer Facility, which was designated as the United States’ only single small-scale facility under the Chemical Weapons Convention. (U.S. Army photo by Tom Faulkner)