Greg Herrema, Thermo Electron

That first wave, like so many things, began on Sept. 11, 2001.

“If you take a look at the needs at thattime, I think that the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] and theother agencies had a real need to balance speed of deployment withoff-the-shelf products and technology,” reflected Herrema. Agenciesneeded to get something working immediately—so they bought the firstproducts available, especially in chemical, biological, radiologicaland explosives detection.

Today, with a bit of breathing room and someexperience, the agencies are looking for solutions that meet their moremature requirements. It’s a second wave of investment, and one thatThermo Electron is riding well.

The company

Based in Waltham, Mass., Thermo ElectronCorp., with revenues of $2.2 billion, 10,000 employees and locations in30 countries, produces analytical instruments, scientific equipment andsoftware. Roughly 70 percent of the company’s products are for lifesciences, pharmaceutical, environmental and industrial laboratories. Ameasurement and control business produces analytical instruments formanufacturing and field applications.

It was the analytical instruments side of thebusiness that was in a position to provide detection products to firstresponders and homeland security officials in the days right after 9/11.

“Thermo Electron was very fortunate to be abeneficiary of that wave of investment, because we had within our coreproducts and technologies a number of products that were very wellsuited for serving that first wave of requirements,” recalled Herrema.“So we participated quite well in that.”

Those immediate needs included instrumentsfor explosives trace detection and radiation detection, and everythingfrom large fixed systems to small, handheld portable products.

Other companies in the detection marketplace,Herrema pointed out, lacked the full range of necessary capabilitiesand went on acquisition sprees to make up for their shortcomings. Onthe other hand, he said proudly, “Thermo has not had to acquire asingle company.”

Future trends

The chief challenge to Thermo Electron inthose days, and in the years since, has been to adapt instrumentsdesigned for laboratory environments to field use. Among other things,that means making them easier to use and more accessible. “We need tomake use very straightforward,” said Herrema. The first responder oranyone using the instrument has to be able to pick it up and put itright to work in hazardous situations, preferably without specialtraining or elaborate instructions.

Thermo Electron researchers are also workingon integrating their devices so that they can seamlessly shareinformation, providing users with a meaningful picture of thesituations they’re encountering.

And Thermo Electron is working to improve thedevices it sold in the first wave of homeland security purchasing. Inmany cases, this merely requires a software upgrade to the originaldevice.

But the field is never still. “The terroristsare learning,” Herrema observed. Security forces and the industry thatsupports them must continually adapt and invent to stay ahead of thethreat.


When Herrema joined Thermo Electron inJanuary 2002 after a 15-year career at General Electric, he gotdirectly involved in homeland security products. The holder of amaster’s degree in business administration from Harvard BusinessSchool, he had advanced through a variety of sales, marketing andgeneral management roles in GE’s plastics and transportation systemsdivisions.

As with so many people, Herrema made theacquaintance of homeland security—or the lack of it—on 9/11. Althoughhe was at home in Kansas City, Mo., his parents were on their way tocatch a European flight from New York City. Though they arrived at theairport after the attacks and were able to return home, it was notuntil this past summer that they finally made the trip.

“I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d be incharge of a portfolio of products that would help prevent similarevents in the future,” he reflected. But now he’s pleased to be in theforefront of industry’s protection of the public. “Thermo Electronbrings the science behind security,” he said, proudly. HST

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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