Report Finds Inconclusive Answers To Radiation Detector Test
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tests of new radiation detection machines last year did not show whether the costly devices performed well enough to be used as planned at ports and borders to protect the country against nuclear attacks or dirty bombs, according to a new report about the process.
The performance tests were organized by the department’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, which has been trying to deploy the machines along the borders and at ports in a $1.2 billion project. Reports from government auditors have alleged that the office misled Congress about their effectiveness and later conducted flawed tests to show they worked well.
According to the Washington Post, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the development and purchase of the machines was a “vital priority” for the department. Officials from the nuclear detection office had asserted the tests — mandated by Congress before the project was allowed to move forward — showed they worked well.
But Chertoff called for an independent team to review the program last summer after a Washington Post article spelled out questions about the project. Last fall, Chertoff put the project on hold, conceding that the machines were not ready for wide use.
In the new report, the review team concluded that the testing last year was not able to show whether the machines, known as advanced spectroscopic portal radiation monitors, or ASPs, could “detect and identify actual objects that might be smuggled” into the country, according to portions of the report released by Congress.
“Even after collecting all available test results, it was difficult to form conclusions about operational effectiveness,” the report says.