This year’s NCT CBRNe Europe event in Leipzig was not only a reflection of developing CBRN threat environments along the European continent, but also of ground-breaking transformations in CBRN defense. The event brought together outstanding research projects and everlasting challenges: European standardization, fragmented SOPs and the question of enhanced B2C cooperation.

New CBRN Threat Environments in Europe: Agenda Setting for the NCT CBRNe Europe 2014

In 2014, the security environment for the NCT CBRNe Europe event could not have been more distressing and at the same time more appealing for enhanced cooperation and exchange of information in the field of CBRN defense. From NATO to EU member states, security and defense concepts in Europe currently seem to go through a complete overhaul. From Libya in turmoil to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, the threat of a Sunni-extremist caliphate in the Levante region and NATO mind games concerning the potential threat of a reestablished Russian ‘Noworossija’, European defense commands are challenged at practically every brink of the continent. All these current developments raise questions whether European CBRN Defense Commands are well positioned and organized for the case of an emergency and whether the international community is equipped to confront new problems concerning non-proliferation of WMD. The very basic, yet most pressing questions to be answered in this context were and still are: how far is Europe when it comes to response standardization and preparedness? And what’s the role of the CBRN industry?

The NCT CBRNe Europe 2014 conference and exhibition took place in such a context on 2-3 September at the Westin in Leipzig, Germany. That’s why it was ever more interesting to have Colonel Henry Neumann, Commander of the recently transformed Bundeswehr CBRN Defence Command, opening the event together with Nikita Smidovich from the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and Sebastian-Meyer Plath, Managing Director of Bruker Daltonik GmbH, the Platinum Sponsor of the event. Interestingly enough, Germany can be seen as one of the primary examples already preparing for these new challenges for a few years now.

The Ground-breaking Transformation of the German Bundeswehr CBRN Defense Corps and Remaining Challenges

For example, the German CBRN Defense Command underwent a complete re-organization until 2013 with the German Joint CBRN Defense Command being one of the international leading examples on how to transform CBRN defense. The German Command does not only focus on recovery, but also on prevention of CBRN incidents and the protection of its own forces through procurement of state of the art equipment, training, and education. This enables the CBRN Defense Command to react to great changes in CBRN defense environments from the cold war to more diverse and abstract threats of today.
The importance of such a restructuring process of CBRN defense has been highlighted as well by Mr. Sebastian Meyer-Plath, praising again the German model. But what are the remaining challenges beyond national military preparedness and prevention efforts? When it comes to integrating industry in solution finding processes, he emphasized that meeting such requirements through procurement from an industry point of view is not only challenged by technical developments (increasing number of detectables and variety of platforms) to which solutions can and will be found, but also legal hurdles, price pressures and short delivery times. Also Dr. Heinz-Ulrich Glaeser from the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support highlighted that there’s a long way to go when it comes to different legal perceptions of requirements related to SOPs, equipment and training/education, especially in the framework of international operations. Therefore, the primary lesson learned is that: in the end, the main burden of responsibility remains with political decision makers reducing barriers for international capability building, B2C cooperation and standardized SOPs. That is also why Nikita Smidovich from UNODA added that eventually, it is the government’s and not the military’s main responsibility to respond to WMD threats and terrorism. Mr. Smidovich set the tone showing an impressive video of the United Nations raising awareness of the threat of WMD terrorism and challenges in non-proliferation. Against the background of UNSCR1540, the presentation urges that money should predominantly be spent on prevention and preparedness through capability building rather than on recovery.

State of the Art Civil Defense and Fragmented SOPs

Speaking of fragmented SOPs: while having a remarkably equipped and prepared Bundeswehr CBRN Defense Command, CBRN response within Germany is officially the job of civil first responders when it comes to civil defense. This has been an issue that was repeatedly discussed during the conference against the background of European standardization and optimized SOPs. For this reason, the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) built up the Analytical Task Force, equipping fire departments extensively with state of the art CBRN detection technology in order to react within maximum two hours to CBRN incidents all over Germany. With one of Europe’s leading research organizations, Fraunhofer IOSB, the Head of the Analytical Task Force of the Mannheim Fire Department, Mario Koenig, gave an introduction in exactly one of those state of the art solutions, namely the SENEKA project – a sensor network with mobile robots for disaster management developed by Fraunhofer and companies such as the German OWR GmbH. A prime example of B2C cooperation.
When it comes to CBRN threat perceptions, especially RN related incidents and potential scenarios are very high on the German agenda. Therefore, Dr. Horst Miska, Chairman of the Civil Protection Commission of the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, gave an introduction into SOPs in Germany in the case of RN incidents as well as respective lessons learned from Fukushima. Following him, Prof. Iossif Bogdevitch from the Belarussian Research Institute for Soil Science and Agrochemistry gave a presentation on consequences of the Chernobyl incident for soil decontamination in his country. He presented insights that are of high relevance to all European countries, and especially to Germany where skepticism against nuclear energy and fear of RN incidents reached new heights after the Fukushima Daiichi incident in 2011, resulting in the decommission of all German nuclear power plants by 2022 at the latest. On the other hand, there are novel solutions out there providing preventive measures for these cases: one approach for a more efficient response in case of RN incidents has been presented by Alexander Heyl from the Heyltex Corporation, discussing the matter of medical stockpiling and respective industry services in CBRN defense.

European Standardization

The other very controversial topic of the conference was European standardization in CBRN response regarding its practical implementation and conflicting national interests, especially when it comes to privilege national producers and service providers. These issues as well as different approaches and SOPs in CBRN response have been highlighted by Dr. Matteo Bonfanti from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa, who conducted a comparative analysis and on-site exercises on this topic. In addition, Ursula Oestreicher from the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection gave a highly interesting introduction in a European standardization project regarding response measures to RN incidents. More precisely, she shed light on European efforts to realize the European Network of Biological Dosimetry RENEB in order to enhance cross-border preparedness for RN mass casualty incidents. Another major initiative on standardized CBRN crisis management, architecture, technologies and operational procedures called the FP7 CATO research project, was presented by Chaim Rafalowski, Head of EU and Disaster Management at the Israeli Magen David Adom. This major project is aiming to resolve issues related to fragmented preparedness and response to CBRN incidents.

Capability Building in Chemical and Biological Defense: Turkey, Poland and Hungary

Successful capability building measures in the fields of Chemical and Biological Defense have been presented by Turkey, Poland and Hungary. When it comes to Chemical Defense, Colonel Ayhan Batur, former Commander of the Turkish Armed Forces CBRN School, has provided highly interesting insights in respective Turkish capability building as well as respective existing responsibilities and SOPs for the case of an emergency. Given the current respective threat scenario Turkey is faced with, the country can serve as a primary example of reacting to new threat environments. Furthermore, Major Aleksandr Michalski from the Biological Threats Identification and Countermeasure Center of the Polish Armed Forces, as well as Major Peter Balazs, Commander of the Hungarian Defence Forces MBLC, offered highly interesting assessments of their biodefense capabilities and state of the art BLS-3 labs. These are capabilities that are often dearly missed in international CBRN Special Forces and are primary examples of how to develop efficient and quickly deployable and autonomous biodefense forces. The presentation of OWRs Thilo Schuppler on the application of the company’s decontamination systems in Monrovia against the Ebola outbreak added another dimension to the conference, once more vividly reminding everyone of the currently existing and highly urgent challenges in CBRN response and particular issues faced during an outbreak.

Live Demonstrations and Networking

In the end, NCT CBRNe Europe 2014 provided a very comprehensive overview of transformation and standardization programs in civil and military CBRN response as well as respective research and capability building plans. Additionally, a demonstration of OWRs decontamination systems for personnel and casualties of CBRN incidents, as well as a display of the Leipzig Fire Department’s capabilities in CBRN detection gave delegations a live example of state of the art detection solutions and SOPs regarding the decontamination of personnel and casualties.

And last, but definitely not least, the first day of the NCT CBRNe Europe 2014 ended in a festive and relaxed drinks reception at the Moritzbastei, providing a top-venue for an outstanding opportunity to visit a concert of Sundries, the Bruker Band, with a cool German beer at hand – the perfect environment for the European CBRN community to exchange views and solutions in a more informal manner.

NCT CBRNe Europe 2015

Having welcomed delegations from 18 different European countries (including over 60% attendees from military and civil end-users and/or government), it is the logical step to host the next CBRNe Europe event where it all comes together: Brussels. Stay tuned for the NCT CBRNe Europe 2015 event, February 12-13 and visit our website www.cbrneeurope.com