The Department of Homeland Security currently hopes to begin soliciting bids in fiscal year 2022 for a next-generation system to detect biological threats in major urban areas of the U.S. with the potential to field the Biological Detection for the 21st Century (BD21) system-of-systems as early as FY ’25, program officials said earlier this month.

The BD21 program is conducting experimental technology demonstrations and is focused on developing an acquisition strategy, requirements and assessing technology, according to information presented at a March 18 virtual industry day hosted by the Department of Homeland Security Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office. A slide presentation from the industry day was made available this week on the federal government’s business opportunities website,

A notional schedule included in the presentation shows that Requests for Proposals (RFPs) could go out around the second quarter of FY ’22 and be followed by contracts during the fourth quarter. Low-rate initial production would begin during FY ’24.

Other important upcoming steps in the program include algorithm testing in FY ’22, developmental testing in FY ’23, operational testing in a real-world environment in FY ’24, and, if all goes well, the start of operational deployments in FY ’25.

BD21 will replace the current BioWatch biodetection system deployed in more than 30 urban centers around the U.S. in indoor and outdoor locations. BioWatch stood up in April 2003 in response to a series of anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001.

BioWatch relies on air monitoring collectors deployed around cities that continuously sample the air. Filters in the collectors are retrieved manually each day for analysis by a local laboratory.

The goal of BD21 is to provide real-time alerts to authorities and reduce the time from threat detection to initial response to about two hours versus the 12 to 36 hours under BioWatch. The system will also give federal, state and local authorities a common operating picture around a biological event.

The faster detection and response time envisioned under BioWatch will also enable the FBI to begin an investigation into an attack sooner, CWMD officials said.

DHS said previously that initially BD21 will be deployed to indoor environments. Currently, the program is conducting technology demonstrations in the New York-New Jersey region for data collection. An initial anomaly detection algorithm has been developed and in January development of a new version of the algorithm began.

The key technologies in BD21 are the sensor, anomaly detection algorithm, collector, field screening device, and the control module.