Noted Army general visits Sequim lab site

SEQUIM — Research facilities and expertise developed in Sequim during the past four decades to look at environmental questions can now play a significant role in national security matters, a noted retired Army general said Monday.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a former Clinton administration adviser, visited the Marine Research Operations center on West Sequim Bay Road as part of a tour of Battelle’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory facilities.

He said projects under way at the lab could yield ways to detect biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in water and methods of tracking where the agents — known collectively as weapons of mass destruction — are going.

That knowledge could be particularly useful if there’s an attack on a target on or near the water, such as a bridge, dock or naval facility, he said.

To clean up afterward, crews would need to know what’s in the water and how to get it out — and how to tell that the work is complete.

“Those questions have not been asked in any substantial or meaningful way,” the general said in remarks to reporters Monday.

Battelle consultant

McCaffrey is a consultant for Battelle, which operates Pacific Northwest and four other national laboratories for the Department of Energy.

He also is a professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point military academy, served as head of the Office of Drug Control Policy under President Clinton for five years, and was the most-decorated four-star general in the U.S. Army when he retired.

He said he felt like “a kid in a candy store” during his Sequim tour Monday because of the equipment available and the research being pursued.

He noted, for example, that the lab has an area set up that can replicate almost every set of marine conditions occurring in the natural world.

Furthermore, the lab’s specialty — coastal environments — is a rare and valuable research niche.

“The capability here literally doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country,” he said.

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