General: Take advantage of technology

Columbia public safety officials hear of ways to use military gadgetry
for homeland security.
Friday, February 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:35 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Technology used on the battlefield in Iraq is slowly making its way into the hands of officials who oversee U.S. homeland security, an Army general said Thursday.

Maj. Gen. John Doesburg, commander of the Army’s research and development engineering command, was in Columbia to discuss how police and firefighters can take advantage of military technology.

“A lot of what we do has tremendous dual-use potential,” said Doesburg, who spoke to about 200 people at Jesse Wrench Auditorium.

Doesburg said that while his program’s main goal is to put technology in the hands of soldiers quicker, it is trying to adapt battlefield technology to domestic concerns.

Members of the Columbia Fire Department attended the lecture to see if the technology can be used to make Columbia safer.

The department has not worked with the Army in the past, but it does work with other organizations that use innovative military technology.

“We have an ongoing interest to provide the best service possible to our customers,” Fire Chief William Markgraf said.

Doesburg said the Omni-Directional Inspection System, originally designed to automatically detect fuel leaks in military vehicles, is being used by a number of police forces. Police are using the technology to more efficiently look for bombs or other hazardous material in cars.

Doesburg said the use of homemade explosives in Iraq has made improvised explosives a big issue for Army research and development.

In addition to soldiers in Iraq, he is concerned about the possibility of similar explosives being used in the United States.

Doesburg has spent much of his career planning for a possible attack that utilized weapons of mass destruction.

On Sept. 11, 2001, he said that threat became much more imminent.

“It wasn’t if but when,” he said.

The research and development engineering command has an annual budget of more than $3.5 billion.

“What troubles me most about my budget is that it’s not my money,” Doesburg said. “And I don’t want to waste it.”

The speech was part of the H.O. Croft Lecture series. Every year, the MU School of Engineering invites a notable figure to come and speak on campus.

Past topics have included the role of the university in economic development and a discussion of engineering work done across language barriers.

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