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NEWS | July 9, 2018

NSWC Dahlgren Division Biologist Receives 2017 Dr. Delores M. Etter Award

By NSWC Dahlgren Division Corporate Communications

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) biologist was honored with the Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers Award during a Pentagon ceremony, June 29.


Dr. Tony Buhr was recognized for developing a new and highly reliable testing regimen for evaluating effectiveness in biological defenses, increasing the confidence level of those defenses up to 95 percent.


After accepting the individual award as the leader in this innovative technology, the senior biologist credited his test team and collaborators.


"Over time, a mission-oriented test team was grown at Dahlgren and many collaborators have joined in to support high-confidence standardization as opposed to low-confidence test standards - or no test standards," Buhr said after the ceremony. "The benefits of economies-of-scale production and cross-disciplinary training will be realized if the test methods, and the products validated by these standards can be implemented into an enterprise-wide system of detection and decontamination including first responder, medical, food and water sanitation, interior ship cleaning to mitigate norovirus, exterior ship cleaning to clean ship hulls and ship waste treatment rather than focusing exclusively in the chemical-biological swim lane."


Etter - a former assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN RD&A) - joined James Geurts, the current ASN RD&A, to present the awards to nine individual and five groups.


"Today, we recognize the scientists and engineers that envision the capabilities that give our military a technical edge," said Etter. "A strong military requires many things. It requires courageous men and women willing to make sacrifices, it requires training programs, and it requires capabilities that give our military the technological edge to deter or defeat."


Secretary Geurts highlighted the great accomplishment of the individuals during his remarks and the supporting team and families around them.


"The innovative talent in our nation is not only at Google or Facebook, the talent is sitting right here and at all the Navy's warfare centers and labs," said Geurts. "Today is a reflection of the top percent that is an incredible and important workforce for the Navy and one that will allow us to compete and win at a global scale. The citations and awards presented today is a great example of the solid foundation in our Navy to take on tomorrow's challenges."


The annual ASN RD&A Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers Awards program was established in 2006 to recognize the excellence of the Department of the Navy's highest performing scientists and engineers who have made significant contributions in their fields, to the department and to Sailors, Marines and the future Fleet.


"Continuous iterative improvements over 15 years resulted in standardized spore - biological agent and surrogate - preparations and decontamination test methods that generate reproducible test data with high practical and statistical confidence," said Buhr, regarding his innovation. "Constant communication within Naval Surface Warfare Center's test team and across innumerable DoD and interagency collaborators as well as our international partners and industry, have led to ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards."


ASTM is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services.


"The ongoing communication has also led to defensible data as we transitioned 'Dahlgren Decon' to industry," said Buhr, who serves as the principal investigator for numerous Chemical, Biological, and Radiological (CBR) Defense projects. "It also led to the transition of hot, humid air decontamination for aircraft to a program of record and the use of standardized agents to calibrate detectors."


Buhr was one of many contributors to Dahlgren Decon - a decontamination solution developed to defend warfighters against CBR agents. The new decontamination solution - protected under several patents by the Navy - neutralizes a wide range of substances, from toxic industrial chemicals and materials to chemical warfare and biological agents. It has a moderate pH and does not generate toxic byproducts.


Moreover, it's proven to be the most effective decontamination technology against opioids and fentanyls. Dahlgren Decon is currently being purchased by many first responders to decontaminate fentanyl contamination after overdoses and drug busts. With a neutralization and kill time of just a few minutes, Dahlgren Decon is now the fastest reacting decontamination agent when compared to other commercial products on the market or in development.


Both civilian and military scientists and engineers in the Department of Navy were eligible for these annual awards; they were nominated by their respective commands and all nominations were reviewed and scored by an executive panel. Fourteen awards were presented in the categories of Emergent Engineers (10 years of service), Emergent Scientists, Individual Engineers, Individual Scientists, and Engineers and Scientists working in a Group.