Radiation Detection Machine Tests Inconclusive, Report Says

By Matthew Harwood

The Washington Post reports that tests of radiation detection machines performed by the Department of Homeland Security were inconclusive on whether the devices could adequately identify nuclear materials at the nation's ports and border-crossings.

In the new report [from DHS' Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO)], 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 said.

Today, the House Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing discussing the report.

Previously, DNDO championed the radiation detection machines, telling Congress that they performed well. This word of approval led to the announcement in July 2006 that as many as 1,400 ASPs—at a price tag of $377,000 each—were to be purchased.

But only a month later, Government Accountability Office auditors said, according to the Post, "the nuclear detection office greatly exaggerated the machine's capabilities in a report that spurred congressional approval of the project."

The GAO's criticism led to another round of tests last year, which the watchdog again criticized, because the NDO allowed contractors to set up "dress rehearsals" and "calibrate" the machines before the tests.

The DNDO responded by saying their tests were not biased.



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