Agencies pool resources for national security
The worst of situations brought out the best in collaborative research efforts for a group of agencies dedicated to making our nation safer. Since 2004, Sandia National Laboratories and the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) have collaborated on projects for several federal agencies including the United States Department of Energy, Technical Support Working Group (a consortium of federal agencies), the United States Department of State, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Most recently, TTI and Sandia Labs have teamed up to successfully test security barriers aimed at securing our nation’s borders.
In 2004, a vehicle barrier was being considered for deployment at one of the national laboratory sites. The manufacturer hoped that the barrier would stop a heavy-weight, high-speed vehicle. This claim had not been verified by testing, however “That’s when we initially came into contact with TTI. We did a nationwide search of groups that were qualified to do the level of testing that we required,” says Mark McAllaster, principal member of the technical staff at Sandia Labs. “That work needed to be done quickly, economically, and with a high level of confidence in the testing data.”
Since that initial test, TTI has conducted all five of the high-weight, high-speed vehicle barrier tests completed in the U.S. Currently working alongside DHS, Boeing and Sandia National Labs in an effort to further secure the nation’s border, TTI is helping to conduct a series of crash tests at its Riverside facility on various types of vehicle barriers and fencing for potential placement along miles of high-traffic, high-risk border areas.
“During an eight-week period, six commercial barriers and three government selected barriers were to be identified, built, tested, and the data reported,” says McAllaster. “It’s a very aggressive schedule.”
TTI Research Engineer Roger Bligh and TTI Assistant Agency Director Dean Alberson are co-principal investigators on this project. Alberson is spearheading the effort to draft uniform standards for fences through ASTM International (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials).
The results of the crash tests will help determine which types of fences will be used at diverse locations along the Mexico-U.S. border. “TTI has a stellar reputation for crash testing,” says Richard Young, the Fence Lab project manager for DHS. “The Institute has the facility and the know-how to accomplish this very important work.”
“This has been an excellent, cooperative relationship,” adds McAllaster. “The agencies have a very effective and efficient relationship. It has been a high performing and successful testing program.”