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Advancing National Security Through Science

Executive message from Jonathan G. Herrmann, P.E., BCEE
Director, National Homeland Security Research Center
EPA Office of Research and Development

Assistant Administrator Paul Anastas

It has been ten years since the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  When the World Trade Center collapsed,  Flight 93 crashed and the Pentagon was attacked, thousands of people were lost and the entire nation was shaken to its core. Later in 2001, an act of bioterrorism – the amerithrax (or, “anthrax”) incident – killed five people, contaminated at least 17 buildings with anthrax spores, and required an immense characterization and cleanup effort by EPA and others.

Short-term, we were faced with a set of unprecedented tragedies that required the U.S. Government— at all levels— to do what was necessary to respond and recover. Today, we are still actively engaged in important work to protect the American people and prevent the same kind of devastation from occurring again.

In 2001, EPA employees were deeply involved in responding to both the 9/11 and anthrax incidents. Today, they remain dedicated to meeting the Agency’s homeland security responsibilities. While no chemical, biological or radiological-based terrorism has succeeded in the United States since 2001, EPA exercises continued vigilance and plays a critical role in ensuring the United States remain as prepared as possible to protect our homeland from the threat of terrorism.

Following the 2001 anthrax incident, there were significant scientific gaps related to sampling, decontaminating, and setting cleanup levels for anthrax and other chemical, biological, and radiological agents. To fill these scientific and technical gaps, the EPA’s Homeland Security Research Program (HSRP) was created.

HSRP is based in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. It is built upon systems-based approaches—involving aspects from preparation through recovery efforts—to address chemical, biological, and radiological threats and attacks. Its work is directly linked to EPA’s legislated responsibilities and is interwoven with Agency priorities.

Directed by laws, Presidential Directives, the National Response Framework, and consistent with President Obama’s 2010 National Security Strategy, EPA researchers provide guidance, tools and technical support to communities to ensure they are both sustainable and resilient. They also help enhance our national capability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from both man-made and natural disasters.

Events like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (2010), and, more recently, the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan (2011) tested our capabilities like never before.  Along with Agency peers and colleagues from across the federal government, EPA scientists and researchers stepped up to these extraordinary challenges with their expertise, skills, time, energy, and dedication.

This special edition of SCIENCE MATTERS highlights many of the important accomplishments EPA researchers and their partners have made over the past decade in homeland security research.  We have made advances in many areas including:  setting Provisional Advisory Levels for recovering from a chemical accident or incident, working with water utilities to protect water systems from attacks and other disasters, and developing innovative tools and technologies for cleaning up indoor and outdoor areas and water infrastructure.

I am proud of EPA’s homeland security research efforts and the contributions our team has made in ensuring the nation’s security. Our work will continue to address questions about chemical, biological, and radiological contamination; disaster recovery, and response. These efforts strengthen and sustain the nation; they help build resiliency and advance our mission of protecting the American people.

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