Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS's Program to Procure and Deploy Advanced Radiation Detection Portal Monitors Is Likely to Exceed the Department's Previous Cost Estimates

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, combating terrorism has been one of the nation's highest priorities. As part of that effort, preventing nuclear and radioactive material from being smuggled into the United States--perhaps to be used by terrorists in a nuclear weapon or in a radiological dispersal device (a "dirty bomb")--has become a key national security objective. On April 15, 2005, the president directed the establishment, within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), whose duties include acquiring and supporting the ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. September 22, 2008.

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, combating terrorism has been one of the nation's highest priorities. As part of that effort, preventing nuclear and radioactive material from being smuggled into the United States--perhaps to be used by terrorists in a nuclear weapon or in a radiological dispersal device (a "dirty bomb")--has become a key national security objective. On April 15, 2005, the president directed the establishment, within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), whose duties include acquiring and supporting the deployment of radiation detection equipment. In October 2006, Congress enacted the SAFE Port Act, which made DNDO responsible for the development, testing, acquisition and deployment of a system to detect radiation at U.S. ports of entry. An important component of this system is the deployment of radiation portal monitors, large stationary detectors through which cargo containers and trucks pass as they enter the United States. Prior to DNDO's creation, another DHS agency--U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)--managed programs for deployment of radiation detection equipment. In 2002, CBP began the radiation portal monitor project, deploying radiation detection equipment at U.S. ports of entry. This program initially deployed portal monitors, known as polyvinyl toluene monitors (PVT), and handheld detection technologies, such as radioactive isotope identification devices (RIID). CBP also established a system of standard operating procedures to guide its officers in the use of this equipment. Current procedures include conducting primary inspections with PVTs to detect the presence of radioactivity, and secondary inspections with PVTs and RIIDs to confirm and identify the source and determine whether it constitutes a threat. After its creation, DNDO assumed responsibility for the development, testing, and deployment of radiation detection equipment, while CBP maintained its role of operating the equipment at U.S. ports of entry. Currently deployed PVTs are capable of detecting radiation, but they have an inherent limitation because they are unable to identify specific radioactive isotopes and therefore cannot distinguish between dangerous and benign materials. CBP officers also use RIIDs to identify different types of radioactive material. However, RIIDs are limited in their ability to identify nuclear material. DNDO believes that these deficiencies may delay legitimate commerce at ports of entry, and that CBP may use an inordinate amount of inspection resources for radiation detection at the expense of other missions, such as drug interdiction."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • September 22, 2008

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS's Program to Procure and Deploy Advanced Radiation Detection Portal Monitors Is Likely to Exceed the Department's Previous Cost Estimates, text, September 22, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc303178/: accessed June 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.