US Counterterrorism R&D Program

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6 January 1998

Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Statement before the Research and Development Subcommittee
of the House Committee on National Security
Washington, DC, February 28, 1997

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation. In my capacity as Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the Department of State, I oversee a number of interagency sub-working groups, including the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG).

The TSWG coordinates and manages the National Counterterrorism Research and Development Program. That program, in turn, plays an important part in the U.S. Government's efforts to counter the threat from terrorists using more sophisticated and destructive weapons, including weapons of mass destruction (WMD).


The TSWG was established in the early 1980s to better coordinate information about counterterrorism technology. In 1986, the group expanded its role to develop counterterrorism technology. It was clear by then that a more coordinated interagency focus was required for counterterrorism technology development by the U.S. Government. Congress provided $10 million in seed money to the Department to launch this effort.

The TSWG conducts research, development, and rapid prototyping of antiterrorism and counterterrorism technologies. We focus on requirements for equipment which can be used by many agencies. In this way, we can better cooperate to share information, experiences, and leverage funds.

Most recently, the TSWG expanded its scope to cooperate with Canada, the United Kingdom, and Israel. Together with these partners, we develop counterterrorism equipment and technologies of mutual benefit to our nations.

The TSWG Organization

Today, the TSWG has members from eight federal departments and over 50 agencies. As Coordinator for Counterterrorism, I provide overall policy guidance for the program.

Ambassador Holmes' office oversees the execution of the program and the Navy's Office of Special Technology executes the program. The TSWG Executive Committee ensures that policy and program objectives are met. There is multiagency participation in each of the seven functional subgroups of the TSWG.

TSWG Program Management Strategy and Guidance

Because of the TSWG's limited budget and to avoid duplicating R&D by individual agencies, we recognized early on the need to set priorities for our areas of interest in order to make the best investment of our resources.

We establish priority areas for TSWG R&D activity based on certain specific criteria which include:

-- An intelligence community assessment of terrorist threats and technical capabilities.
-- User requirements and related feasibility assessments.
-- Results of specific studies on security problems or deficiencies where technology can assist.
-- An assessment that TSWG involvement will advance a counterterrorist capability significantly beyond present means.

TSWG Major Thrust Areas

This process has led us to focus TSWG expertise and resources toward the following areas for the FY 1996-98 timeframe:

-- Stand-off detection of explosives
-- Large vehicle bomb countermeasures
-- Blast mitigation
-- WMD (chemical/biological) countermeasures
-- Advanced surveillance technologies
-- Sensor detection and defeat
-- Infrastructure protection

As you can see, research and development to enhance our capability to respond to WMD terrorism -- especially terrorism caused by chemical or biological materials -- is high in the TSWG priority list. Accordingly, approximately 20% of the funds provided for the TSWG program in FY 1997 are allocated toward projects in this critical area. We are also monitoring a number of efforts executed by other organizations for application and eventual transition to the counterterrorism user community.

This high priority reflects the national policy concerns set forth in PDD-39 on the importance of enhancing U.S. capabilities and readiness to respond to this type of threat.

I should also stress that because of the importance of this issue, we also have actively worked with our foreign partners in counterterrorism R&D in seeking better technical solutions to the vexing problems posed by terrorist use of WMD.

By cooperatively approaching these matters, we are able to take advantage of both our resources and capabilities and those of some of our closest allies as well. A number of project successes already achieved in this field, and additional cooperative projects currently underway, demonstrate the advisability of leveraging national and international resources and expertise whenever possible.

TSWG Funding Profile

Funding for the TSWG over the years has been spartan. I have attached a chart outlining the program's funding profile over the past 10 years.

In the early years, funding for the TSWG program was provided solely through the State Department's budget. In FY 1990 and 1991, following Congressional direction that an alternate funding source for the main portion of the program be identified, we began extensive consultations with various Federal agencies.

Following a recommendation from the National Security Advisor in 1991, the Department of Defense (DOD) offered to assume responsibility for funding the lion's share of the program beginning in FY 1992. Our successes in recent years and our ability to broaden the scope of the program are directly attributable to enhanced DOD funding and support.

I understand that DOD is planning a significant funding increase for the program beginning in FY 1998. That decision is gratifying and demonstrates the confidence agencies have in the program's effectiveness.

As a result, we will obviously look to broaden the scope of the program's activities as we seek to address the critical areas previously identified, including equipment and countermeasures for weapons of mass destruction.

The additional funds will also permit us to consider further enhancing our existing cooperative programs with foreign governments, and to possibly broaden the number of nations with whom we cooperate in this endeavor, if we identify others who can materially contribute to mutually developed goals.


The TSWG program has yielded a wide variety of equipment to combat terrorism for DOD and other federal, state, and local agencies. More recently, the production of the first prototype equipment derived from our work with selected foreign nations has also occurred.

We believe the TSWG program has been successful, and we are convinced that with continuing sound judgment and additional resources invested in the program, we will obtain even larger dividends for U.S. technology capabilities to combat terrorism. This program is a good investment.

I thank you for your interest in the TSWG program and welcome Congressional support for our activities.

[end of document]