1998 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

Statement Submitted to the

House Committee on Transportation

Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Economic Development

Relative to

Technological Solutions to Federal Building Security


Mr. Kenneth Wood

President, Barringer Instruments

Thursday, June 4, 1998

Barringer Instruments, Inc., located in New Providence, New Jersey, is principally engaged in the development of analytical instruments for the high sensitivity detection of chemicals and other substances found in explosives. The IONSCAN, which is the latest and most advanced explosive detection device manufactured by Barringer, was developed in the late 1980's in response to growing demands for technological solutions to explosive detection requirements (the IONSCAN also can detect narcotics).

Significant advances in securing our airports, public buildings and military facilities have been made over the past few years as state-of-the-art explosives detection equipment has been successfully deployed at numerous high profile installations. There is no single technological solution to the terrorist's bomb, and the key to enhancing security is now clearly recognized to be the development of an integrated systems approach, implementing an array of technologies that, together, offer our best defense against a terrorist event.

The task today of detecting an explosive device primarily involves two approaches -- looking for large amounts of the explosive material ("bulk detection") or looking for very small amounts ("trace detection"). Visual imaging technologies using dual energy x-ray and computed tomography techniques are addressing the bulk detection requirements. The other very essential technological component of any security system is trace detection, which is the technology that allows the operator to detect minuscule amounts of explosive materials in physical samples taken directly from the suspected item.

Barringer Instruments has been engaged in the explosives detection instrumentation business for the past ten years, and today, there are more of our IONSCAN detectors deployed around the world than all other trace detectors combined (approximately 850 are now in the field). This is very stable and field proven technology, and virtually every federal law enforcement agency in this country, and their counterparts around the world, utilize the IONSCAN to assist in their daily operations. For example, the FBI has deployed the IONSCAN since 1991, utilizing this instrument in a wide variety of drug interdiction missions, as well as for post-blast forensics analysis in the World Trade Center, Oklahoma City, Atlanta Olympics, and TWA incidents. Other United States users include the Coast Guard, DEA, National Guard, the Department of Defense, and the FAA. Of further interest is the fact that the IONSCAN has been used to perform all of the trace detection work at the Eurotunnel transportation hubs since it opened in 1993, and the fact that security agencies in numerous other countries also rely on this detection equipment. This technology is extensively deployed and is very clearly serving a critical role in anti-terrorist and law enforcement activities.

Trace detection technology works by taking advantage of the fact that microscopic amounts of a target substance, such as an explosive material, will typically be present on exterior surfaces of the particular packaging. These traces can be quickly collected and analyzed in a few seconds to provide the operator with real time information about the item sampled. For example, it is extremely difficult to manufacture a bomb inside a piece of electronics, such as a personal computer or a radio, without leaving explosive residue on the outside surfaces of the electrical apparatus. A simple wipe of the target item will collect the residue, followed by a very quick chemical analysis of the collected sample.

The IONSCAN utilizes a technology known as Ion Mobility Spectrometry (IMS) to perform a chemical analysis on the sample under test. In approximately six (6) seconds, the IONSCAN will look for the presence of six or more individual explosive substances. If a detection is made, the operator is alerted with an audio/visual alarm, and the specific explosive substance is identified. Operation is totally automatic, requiring no interpretation from the operator.

Barringer also has implemented a remote monitoring capability on each deployed IONSCAN that automatically provides statistical and parametric data on each instrument. This data is transmitted back to Barringer's facility each day and allows us to monitor the proper functioning of each instrument. Important information such as the number of samples run on each instrument, the number of alarms by explosive type, and calibration data are provided to us through this remote monitor. This capability maximizes instrument on-time, and provides powerful statistical data on equipment use and alarm rate data at each location. To date, almost three million IONSCAN samples have been run, with over 350,000 instrument on-time hours being logged. IONSCAN alarm rates are running at approximately .04% (four hundredths of one percent), clearly showing that false alarms are not occurring.

In addition to the installed base at our airports, which is increasing every day, Barringer's IONSCAN is being extensively used at our military bases overseas to prevent another disaster similar to that experienced in Saudi Arabia in 1996. This detector is used to screen vehicles and packages at a perimeter location before they are allowed near the actual military installation. Additionally, the new Ronald Reagan Building here in Washington used the IONSCAN at each entrance to the underground parking areas, where vehicles are quickly screened for explosive traces, to prevent another World Trade Center type of disaster. However, while these are isolated instances of increased security, our federal facilities both here and abroad remain largely unprotected, and at best, under-protected. Upon entering virtually any federal building in the country, the most you might see is a rather old x-ray machine and a metal detector. Neither are going to offer much detection capability against the terrorist bomb, which is likely to be constructed from easily available or easily fabricated plastic explosives, and is likely to be hidden in a piece of electronics, such as a personal computer or radio.

The IONSCAN is priced in the $47,000 range, and installs in a few hours. Operational training is straight-forward, and screening personnel are quick to pick up the sample collection and analysis process. Our discussions with dozens of screeners indicate that they are comfortable with the instrument, enjoy using advanced technology to assist with their responsibilities, and believe trace detection facilitates the proper performance of their job.

Along with others, Barringer has worked very hard in developing detection technology that meets the needs of the various user organizations. We are proud of the capability we have developed, and we are proud to see our equipment serving the security needs of the United States. We applaud and support the efforts of the Subcommittee to identify deficiencies in our federal building security systems and to enhance security through the deployment of trace detection technology -- with the right detection equipment, security can be provided to the American public effectively, efficiently, economically, and with minimal inconvenience.