Posts Tagged: chemical weapons

Public Service Announcement: Engineering America’s Bioterrorism Defense

Another in Understanding Government’s “Public Service Announcement” series profiling the careers and challenges of notable government employees

By Norman Kelley

Einstein once remarked that it is more important to have an imagination than knowledge. In the case of Markham K. Smith, now a program manager with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), one led to the other.

As a child, Smith’s imagination was spurred by his mother’s admonishment not to lift the lid of the pot that was cooking rice, his favorite food.

“She would always say, “Don’t lift the lid off the pot! Do not touch the pot!’” he remembers.

Intrigued, Markham wondered why he could not lift the cover to see inside. “So, as a little kid I had the idea that I was going to invent see-through cookware so I could see what going on in that pot while that rice was cooking.”

Little did he know that his mother’s command was actually stirring the pot of his imagination, leading him years later to work for the Defense Dept., managing programs devised to thwart chemical or biological Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Working at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, Smith is one of the people protecting America’s armed service members from chemical and biological weapons, a job that could have important implications if the U.S. faces a terrorist or military attack.

DTRA was organized in 1998 as part of the U.S. Strategic Command to help face the threat of weapons of mass destruction. The agency’s brief includes detecting, stopping, and providing protection in the event of chemical and biological attacks on American military forces or the US public at large. DTRA’s mission is to think through possible threat scenarios and devise ways to neutralize them.

“We are the science and technology arm of the Chemical and Biological Defense program,” explains Smith. (more…)