2003 Safety, Security and International Affairs

Catherine Montie

Developed detecting systems to reduce the threat of terrorist attack or the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Should another catastrophic terrorist attack take place on American soil, the nation’s leaders would literally take a page out of Catherine Montie’s playbook to find out how they should respond.

As chief of the Nuclear Stockpile Division at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), Montie created a “playbook” that spells out for senior government officials how best to respond to a terrorist attack so they could effectively protect the American public. Her strategies—which incorporate lessons learned from the September 11, 2001, attacks—are now being provided to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for interagency use.

Montie has helped reduce the threats of our nation’s enemies in other unseen but no less critical ways. Following the events of September 11, she led a 14-month effort to create the Unconventional Nuclear Warfare Defense (UNWD) program to detect unauthorized radiological material at four U.S. military installations across the nation. “She had a very challenging project that involved many people,” said DTRA Director Stephen Younger. “It was a smashing success.”

The program has resulted in the placement of radiological and high explosive sensors, cameras, perimeter surveillance, and computerized networks that can track suspicious targets.

We live in a world where terrorists might successfully detonate a weapon of mass destruction. Should the unthinkable happen, Montie has devised a way to find out who was responsible. She led the development of the Domestic Nuclear Event Attribution (DNEA) program which would determine who detonated a nuclear device if an attack occurs by collecting “hot” samples, testing and analyzing the materials at national labs, and comparing that data to information in a database. The findings would eventually be sent to the President.

Brigadier General Richard Casey, Montie’s supervisor, says all three of her innovations would play a critical role in any attempted unconventional nuclear attack. If a terrorist was transporting a nuclear device, UNWD technology would find it before it could be detonated. In the event that a terrorist does detonate a device, the “playbook” would dictate the appropriate response for government officials. Finally, DNEA teams would focus resources on determining who was responsible and report their findings to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and ultimately to the White House.

Catherine Montie works tirelessly to help the nation’s leaders know how to best respond to events we all hope never happen. But, if they do, our nation will be in a stronger position to respond quickly and effectively because of her work—and lives might be saved. It takes a remarkable public servant to take on that responsibility. “Catherine reflects well on the government service,” said a colleague. “She is the type of person Americans should know about.