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Scientific Response and Analysis

Scientific Response and Analysis Unit (SRAU)

Mission

The mission of the Scientific Response and Analysis Unit (SRAU) is to provide scientific, technical, and forensic support to FBI criminal and intelligence investigations involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials (CBRN), including their actual or threatened use as weapons. This is accomplished by developing, maintaining, and executing the FBI’s ability to evaluate, collect, examine, and analyze CBRN materials and related evidence.

The Team

The SRAU consists of two elements: Response and Analysis. Each has chemical, biological, and radiological/nuclear subject matter experts supported by operations research analysts, quality assurance specialists, management and program analysts, and a logistics management specialist.

The Work

The SRAU provides end-to-end case support, from initial assessment of investigative or intelligence information, “hot zone” capable scientists, crime scene processing and collections, evidence examination, and courtroom testimony regarding:

  • Chemical threats, including chemical warfare agents (CWAs), such as nerve, blood, or blister agents; this can also include other chemical hazards, such as toxic industrial chemicals (TICs) and toxic industrial materials (TIMs), that can be used as weapons.
  • Biological threats, including, but not limited to, toxins and microbial agents, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can cause disease in humans, animals, and plants. Bioinformatic data can also be analyzed to detect and characterize engineered or modified biological functions.
  • Radiological/nuclear threats, addressing radiological and nuclear materials and associated devices, both intact and post detonation/dispersion.
  • Specialty examinations, such as:
    • Carbon-14 age dating of human remains
    • Plant, animal, insect, and seed identification
    • Genetically modified organisms

The SRAU administers the FBI’s Hazardous Evidence Analysis Team (HEAT) program. The HEAT program provides traditional and computer-related forensic examinations on evidence contaminated with CBRN materials; no other forensic laboratory offers this unique scientific and technological capability. The HEAT program is composed of experienced, highly specialized, trained forensic examiners who are deployed to conduct their analyses in CBRN containment laboratories. The SRAU maintains and operates HEAT in accordance with the quality management system of the FBI Laboratory.

Partners

The SRAU maintains formalized contractual partnerships with key laboratories, called partner laboratories. These laboratories, within the U.S. Government, academia, and the private sector, provide critical scientific capabilities, secure facilities, and experts to support examinations involving hazardous materials. Working with its partner laboratories, the SRAU reviews and exercises existing protocols for hazardous materials, participates in the research and the development of new technologies to address capability gaps, and collaborates with CBRN experts in defining best practices for the collection and forensic analyses of CBRN materials.

The SRAU is committed to the training and education of internal and external counterparts. The unit provides specialized training related to hazardous materials and CBRN threats to those who are involved in the response to such events, including federal, state, and local entities. The unit also promotes the continuing education and training of its staff to enhance and broaden SRAU capabilities and expertise.