Road to response: CBRN conference stresses collaboration

By Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher | NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | November 21, 2012

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- NORAD and USNORTHCOM held a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear strategic assessment and refinement conference at the commands’ headquarters last week.

The conference, facilitated by Army Lt. Col. Kevin Pace, was a culmination of a series of planning events for the CBRN response enterprise to look at refinements and efficiencies that can be made to the way USNORTHCOM responds to CBRN incidents.

“After three years of implementation and finally getting it to where it’s 100 percent in place and ready to go should the nation call upon it, now is the time to look back with lessons learned from implementation and say, ‘okay, we have this about right. What kind of refinements need to be made? What kind of efficiencies can we get?’” said CBRN Response Program Manager Steve Cichocki.

More than 250 members of the CBRN community, including people from the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, and the joint staff, attended the conference.

The current CBRN concept has been in place since October 2011. The conference looked at refinements that would put in place in Fiscal Year 2015. For example, talking to force providers, USNORTHCOM CBRN officials realized that by changing the mission assumption date for rotational forces to June rather than October, it aligns better with the individual services and makes it easier for them to meet USNORTHCOM’s requirements.

Attendees also looked at ways to align training requirements for military units participating in the CBRN enterprise so that they match the qualifications required by federal organizations like FEMA.

“The CBRN response mission and a lot of the things these forces do are not a part of their warfighting mission exactly,” Cichocki said. “For instance, technical search and rescue. They source engineers to do that, but they’re not FEMA certified to do search and rescue, so they go to the FEMA school to get qualified just like the FEMA guys are. So how does the service do that other than sending them to a FEMA school? Is this something the services would like to do themselves? So the services are looking at ways to institutionalize some of this in their schools so that they can do this entirely in house.”

Cichocki said the key to success in the CBRN world is collaboration and strengthening critical partnerships.

“The reason why our implementation over the last three years was such a success was that we collaborate frequently with all of the stakeholders,” he said. “So this was another opportunity where we all got together to solve some tough problems, and it was the variety and the breadth of the group that really made it successful.”

Cichocki said the next step is to build an implementation plan to direct actions for all the recommendations made at the conference.