Participation in military operations is accompanied by the threat of exposure to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) agents. Historically, focus has been on the acute health effects of exposure to chemical weapons, and the specter of the use of biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. From WWI till today impressive research and development efforts have been devoted to passive defense against CBRN agents comprising relevant elements such as threat analysis, various means of detection and identification, diagnosis, protection (both physical and medical), decontamination, and medical countermeasures. In recent years the awareness of the importance of health hazards resulting from exposure of other toxic materials encountered during military operations has grown steadily. Whereas the end of the Cold War may have lowered the threat of large-scale attacks of classical CBRN weapons, the new era brings new types of operations, mostly out-of-area in a wide range of environments, where attacks can be isolated with predominantly local effects. Attacks could be unexpected, uncertain or initially unrecognized as a result of intended and unintended releases of classical, new and improvised agents, toxic industrial materials (TIMs) including the likelihood of CBRN terrorism.
Focus will therefore be more along the lines of consequence management versus general battlefield readiness. Doctrine is changing from “fighting dirty” to relocate, isolate the area and restore operations. The changing threat requires dual-use and integrated solutions rather than unique dedicated CBRN defense capabilities. Finally, casualty acceptance under these circumstances will be far less than when all-out CBRN warfare was anticipated during the Cold War. Nowadays, civilian occupational health regulations and standards will play a more predominant role.
Past HFM panel and its predecessors have focused on the toxicology as well as the medical counter measures against first chemical warfare agents (HFM041), the operational toxicology of military relevant toxic hazards in general (HFM057), later the broader spectrum of chemical toxic agents (ET078) and also medical counter measures against biological agents (ET091). Other elements of the so-called CBRN passive defense chain such as threat analysis, detection, reconnaissance, physical protection (either individual or collective) as well as decontamination of people and materiel have not been given the research and technology attention in the same manner.
If doctrine and operational practice need to change as a result of the changing general picture shown above, the capabilities of current and emerging technologies should be made known to the proper communities in NATO (ACT, ACO, and CBRN-WG). In the materiel community (NAAG/JCG-CBRN and its sub-groups as well as DAT) much attention is given to equipment requirements, but scientific support to all this is lacking throughout NATO (except for some) with limited attention given by the RTO SET and RTO AVT panels.
It is therefore recommended that the issues listed above be addressed in a single activity, enabling a more integrated approach to CBRN protection.
Justification for the activity is apparent from the statement that an increased level of protection of military personnel under operational conditions will improve combat readiness and effectiveness, and therefore the probability of successful mission completion.
Task Group will address integrated CBRN protection strategies. These will focus on lowering the burden on the individual by using a layered approach consisting of contamination avoidance, physical protection, hazard mitigation response, containment and recovery.
The specific goal of Task Group is to facilitate the communication and coordination of research on CBRN protection among the participating nations. This goal will be realized by regular meetings of the Task Group, a Specialist Meeting half term and preferably a Symposium at the end of its lifetime. More specifically, the Task Group will address the following topics:
• Define current and emerging systems for integrated protection.
• Explore, describe and assess existing operational concepts and determine key contributing technologies.
• Assess value and maturity of emerging enabling technologies.
• Facilitate dialogue with operational and technical communities.
• Facilitate technical cooperation and data sharing.
• Contamination avoidance e.g. sensor technologies, sampling and analytical techniques, decision support tools
• Physical protection e.g. human performance, novel materials and technical concepts
• Hazard mitigation e.g. novel (self)decontamination technical concepts, decon assurance
• Response, containment and recovery e.g. discussion of end-states (how clean is enough), specialized solutions
• Supporting topics
o Toxicological and threat-related issues
o Testing and evaluation methodologies
o Modeling and simulation
o Systems integration