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Science for security

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, national security has become a priority mission of the Department of Energy. This mission, which in addition to public safety focuses on the protection of America's economic and energy security assets, is supported by an increasingly robust program of technological innovation. The vigilance required to deter future attacks, including the development of an ever-increasing number of breakthrough technologies, is a core motivation for the National Security Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Such vigilance takes a variety of forms. An internal business assessment, conducted before UT-Battelle was awarded the management contract for ORNL in April 2000, convinced the Laboratory's new leadership that, outside the Department of Energy, the greatest potential for research and development growth resided in the area of national security technologies. Over the following months the Laboratory gradually aligned its resources to capitalize on the opportunity, taking steps that included creating a new directorate, hiring an Associate Laboratory Director committed to national security, and conceiving a new $43 million facility dedicated to the directorate's mission. The reorganization was validated 18 months later when terrorists attacked the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. In the days and months that followed, ORNL was positioned to respond quickly to a range of new and complex national security challenges.

Today the largest program associated with ORNL's National Security Directorate is the Nuclear Nonproliferation Programs Office. The program assists the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration in the daunting task of preventing nuclear-related materials and technologies from falling into the hands of America's adversaries, with much of the effort executed in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union. The challenge involves identifying, categorizing, accounting for, and verifying that nuclear materials and technologies, quite simply, are where they are supposed to be. ORNL also plays a significant role in addressing and verifying the commitments of the U.S. and other signatories to various nuclear treaty obligations. As part of this role, ORNL conducts research on extending the capability of existing nuclear material detection devices and is developing new, more sensitive materials to be used in the next generation of detectors.

Over the past five years, Nuclear Nonproliferation Programs have been joined by four National Security Directorate program activities that together provide a broad suite of capabilities. These programs are, respectively, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Advanced Technologies, and Technology Development and Deployment. They are dedicated in part to matching unique technologies available at ORNL with distinct customer needs.

Department of Defense activities provide technologies and expertise to the military services and other related organizations such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Similarly, ORNL's homeland security research activities focus on the needs of the federal government's newest agency to find affordable ways to reduce America's vulnerabilities, identify rapidly the right response in the event of an attack or, as in recent months, provide critical emergency assets in response to a natural disaster.

The directorate's Advanced Technologies Programs provide classified assistance to specialized organizations within the U.S. Government, while the newest activity, Technology Development and Deployment, is developing the expertise required to manage selected high-potential technologies that can be matched against an evolving range of national security needs.

With challenges that are at times sophisticated and unfamiliar, the war on terrorism demands that the United States draw upon all of its assets, not the least of which is a vast inventory of technologies in the national laboratories. This issue of the ORNL Review is dedicated to a portion of those technologies at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and to the men and women dedicated to using those technologies in creative new ways to sustain our nation's security and our freedom.



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