The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) — a defense and combat support agency of the U.S. Department of Defense — recently played an integral role in the successful repatriation of two Cobalt-60 radioactive sources. In close partnership with Guatemala’s Ministry of Energy and Mines and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE-NNSA), DTRA facilitated logistical efforts for the safe removal of the sources from the National League Against Cancer/Institute of Cancerology (LIGA/INCAN) in Guatemala City, Guatemala, in April 2023.
This mission represented the agency’s first-ever Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) activity in U.S. Southern Command. DTRA assumed the leadership role in logistics planning, which included establishing funding mechanisms to expedite military airlift assets used in the mission. In less than a month, DTRA arranged transportation of container and packing material needed to safely and securely transport the radioactive material from LIGA/INCAN. Without DTRA intervention, these radioactive sources could be weaponized to cause serious damage to people and the environment. Robert Bridges, program manager for DTRA’s nuclear transportation and disposition efforts remarked, “We are especially grateful to our partners at the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines and the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. Without their support, the crucial mission could not have happened.”
In a parallel effort, the two U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command flights required for the Cobalt-60 removal used vacant cargo space to deliver eight pallets of backlogged humanitarian aid to Guatemala. The humanitarian delivery was coordinated through the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Denton Program, a transportation initiative moving cargo donated by U.S. nongovernmental organizations to developing nations. “Mission of Love,” the international humanitarian organization responsible for organized the aid, anticipated that approximately 20,000 people — primarily indigenous Maya — will directly benefit from this shipment. The aid will go to orphanages, schools for students with disabilities, and children’s hospitals.
As the premier DoD agency for preventing, eliminating, and reducing chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, DTRA’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program serves as a key developer of capabilities to counter weapons of mass destruction threats around the globe. Through interagency cooperation and international partnership, DTRA’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program will continue to secure global proliferation threats and make the world more secure.