BioNet is a cooperative program between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). The program seeks to improve the ability of a major urban area in the United States to manage the consequences of a biological attack on its population and critical infrastructure by integrating and enhancing currently disparate military and civilian detection and characterization capabilities.
Both the civilian and military sectors face significant challenges as they address the emerging threat of the use of a biological agent on a U.S. city. As a result, these communities are sponsoring a wide range of programs to enhance their capabilities for dealing with the threats and consequences of biological attacks. These programs address all phases of the challenge, ranging from prevention of the spread of bio-weapons to improved methods of clean-up and recovery.
Rapid and effective response based on an accurate assessment of events is essential for minimizing the impact of a bioattack. As a result, both military and civilian organizations have begun to deploy new systems and operating procedures to detect the release of biological agents near population centers and key assets. As the DHS-sponsored BioWatch program is expanded and the DoD Guardian program is implemented, it will be common for civilian and military biodefense programs to operate in close proximity.
To maximize the effectiveness and protection provided by these efforts, it will be essential to ensure that civilian and military activities and assets are coordinated. Military and civilian programs to detect and characterize biological events use similar technologies and techniques, but are rarely coordinated, even when the physical area being monitored is the same. Poor interoperability can lead to delayed, ineffective, and conflicting response plans, which can cost lives and prevent timely restoration and recovery.
Further, while cooperative arrangements between civilian and military agencies for dealing with emergencies and security are commonplace, both sectors recognize the need for improved coordination for responding to threats to human health and safety, including bioterrorism and natural disasters. Currently, actions taken in response to event indicators by civilian and military authorities are not integrated; lines of authority and communication often are confused, and specific procedures and processes are not coordinated.
The BioNet program will address these critical issues by improving military and civilian coordination for the detection and characterization phases of the biodefense challenge. The BioNet program has identified seven areas where improved civilian/military cooperation and near-term upgrades can significantly enhance event detection and characterization to improve consequence management capabilities. These areas are:
The BioNet program will also examine the cost and performance of alternative biodefense architectures.
The BioNet program has selected San Diego as the pilot city for developing and demonstrating enhanced consequence management capabilities. This is a location where both the civilian and military sectors have significantly addressed biodefense requirements, and it provides an appropriate test bed for developing joint concepts of operation. The BioNet program will generalize lessons learned from San Diego for application to other cities. BioNet program results will be "transitioned" through the creation of templates and tools for application to national programs, including BioWatch and Guardian. BioNet templates and tools will be made available to local and state-level sponsors to assist them as they weigh investments in bio-event detection technologies and as they design and implement systems.
The BioNet program plan is based on extensive discussions with civilian and military organizations in the San Diego area to identify the current conditions and to develop a broad understanding of the needs of the users and of capability shortfalls. Personnel at all levels of the existing - and quite extensive - security and emergency response infrastructure have been consulted to ensure that the BioNet program is based on a full and realistic picture of biodefense operational needs in a major metropolitan area. The goal of the BioNet program is to provide effective, sustainable systems to civilian and military communities, and their active and enthusiastic participation from the outset is essential for the success of these efforts.
BioNet will be a fast-paced effort that will provide operational enhancements within a one-year timeframe. This aggressive schedule will require the program to focus on systems and technologies that have been demonstrated to meet the performance and operational requirements of this effort.