Buying Next Year’s Chem-Bio Gear

Following up yesterday’s post on the new budget, let’s see what chem-bio defense equipment the Defense Department is planning to buy. The top line items include (unsurprisingly) CB detection gear, individual protection equipment, and vaccines. About 36 percent of procurement dollars are going to buy specialized CB defense vehicles for the Army and CB detectors for the services. Nearly 24 percent is going to individual protective equipment – mostly masks and suits. The rest is seven percent for collective protection systems, five percent for decon systems, less than three percent for information systems, and nine percent for biological vaccines. Last, 16 percent for installation protection equipment, largely paying for hazmat gear and exercises.


The CB Defense Program (CBDP) is buying 28 M31E2 Biological Integrated Detection System (BIDS) for the Army next year, each costing about $3.4 million. These feature the Joint Biological Point Detection System (JBPDS) as the heart of the system. Most of these BIDS platoons were justified as homeland security capabilities, and we’re going to be buying them for several more years. The Navy’s getting eleven JBPDS for their ships, for about $330,000 each. DOD will be buying 25,000 biological assay tickets at $50 a pop as the first phase of its Joint CBR Agent Water Monitor.  All the rest of biodetection funds is in R&D (tomorrow).

On the chemical side, the Army will get 13 Strykers modified with point and standoff chemical detectors (the Joint Service Lightweight Standoff Chemical Agent Detector) and other equipment (the vehicle designated as the NBC Recon Vehicle). Each one cost $7-8 million each, over twice what the older M93A1 NBCRS "Fox" cost (which it is replacing). We’re buying nearly 7000 Joint Chemical Agent Detectors, and more each year through the POM at about $4000 each. The CBDP spent years and more than $100 million developing BAE’s ChemSentry to be the JCAD before they gave up and went to Smith Detection’s Lightweight Chemical Detector as the candidate. Finally, the Joint "Light" NBC Recon System (it’s actually very heavy) is finally rolling out after a four-year delay. Seven Heavy HMMWVs and six LAVs will have the new equipment. Yes, it’s duplicative of the Stryker NBCRV but the Strykers can get built faster.

In individual protective equipment, lots of masks – 7122 Joint Service Aircrew Masks (JSAM) costing about $3000 each, and 18,248 disposable Joint Service Chemical Environment Survivability Mask (JSCESM)costing $130 each. The JSAM are for all fixed wing pilots, while the Air Force decided that the program needed to buy them a second mask (instead of using O&M funds as it should). The main program buy is 176,007 Joint Service General Purpose Masks (JSGPM), which will replace both the M40 and the older MCU2/P masks at a cost of $170 each. Overall, there isn’t a large improvement in capability, but it is slightly better than the two predecessor masks and it will offer one standard mask for all ground combatants.

Now the CBDP isn’t supposed to buy consumable items, but the services bullied OSD into ignoring the public law and buying them lots of JSLIST protective suits, boots and gloves ($39 million worth) and Joint Protective Aircrew Ensembles (JPACE). The ground suits cost about $250 a pop, while the aviator version cost twice that. That’s because aviators have to look good in protective suits, and they need pockets for their pens and sunglasses. In the vaccine area, the CBDP is procuring 1.43 million anthrax vaccine doses at about $26 each and 1.25 million smallpox vaccine doses at about $4 each. In a few years, DoD will be buying plague vaccine as well. It’s starting to get really expensive to buy these doses for the total force every year, and some are suggesting DOD procure vaccine doses for military dependents as well.

In the information systems, there are three products – Joint Effects Model (hazard prediction), Joint Warning and Reporting Network (the communication backbone), and Joint Operational Effects Federation (for data management). Most of the procurement funds are going to make CDs to send the first products out to the field. It’s amazingly small amounts of money ($14 million across all three products) for a "network-centric" military. Bottom line, the old-time CBDP people still focus on detectors and protective suits as the favored children over hazard prediction models.

The CBDP is continuing to buy Karcher decon systems as its Joint Service Transportable Decon System (Small Scale) – 338 systems at $24,ooo each, plus DF200 decontaminants. After the Army’s government-produced system M21/M22 Modular Decon System wasn’t accepted (and not deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom), it turned to industry for the solution. Again. In 2009, we might see the first buys of the Joint Service Sensitive Equipment Decon System – 52 systems at $80,000 a pop. These systems are way, way overdue, but critical if we’re ever to clean up after a CB warfare event.

The medics wanted collective protection for their field hospitals and forward aid stations, so they’re getting the Chemical Protective Deployable Medical System (CP DEPMEDS) for about $1.5 million each. The CB Protective System (CBPS), which is installed in medical HMMWVs, costs about $1.2 million each – we’re getting 21 systems in 2008. The Navy convinced OSD to give it money back in the late 1990s to install collective protection systems in its amphibious ships and hospital ships. Next year, the USS Makin Island will get its collective protection for only $10.5 million. The Navy keeps getting money for this purpose (for which it ought to be paying for itself) through FY 2009. No one else seems to value collective protection for fixed and semi-permenant sites, strangely enough.

I’m going on too long, but let me just note the PM Guardian’s fine efforts for installation protection. For the past year (and this year going through next year), the program’s been buying gear for the installation response teams. Each base gets eight DFU-200 air samplers, two chemical point detectors, three chemical agent monitors, six radiation detectors, and assorted other gear. In 2006, 50 bases received this gear. In 2007 they plan to drop this at 17 sites, and in 2008, at 15 sites more. So in 2008, we’re going to see 15 sites get a limited amount of CB defense gear, some comm connectivity, and exercises for $86.4 million. Read the description in the P-forms, and you’d never know what an insufficient capability is actually being provided. This isn’t a protection effort, it’s augmenting the response capability.

Hell of a program. But no one said that passive defense was at the top of any priority lists. "Combating WMD" means air and missile defense, special operations, and interdiction missions. My personal observation – field grade officers are making poor procurement decisions to which the general/flag officers pay little attention, because it benefits their respective services to do so (and I include the Army in this). They’re not going to change until there’s an actual attack and people die from CB weapons, and that’s the real shame of it all.

Jason Sigger, crossposted at Armchair Generalist

4 Comments on "Buying Next Year’s Chem-Bio Gear"

  1. stephen russell | January 18, 2008 at 9:20 am | Reply

    Place under 1 budget for Chem Biowarfare.
    Cobine budget for alone in DoD.
    Save money & lives.
    Do this.

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