U.S. Army RDECOM Commander Major General Cedric Wins presents ECBC Director Joseph Corriveau, Ph.D. with an RDECOM coin map as a parting gift.
Director Joseph Corriveau, Ph.D., bid a heartfelt farewell to his Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) colleagues at a ceremony and open house held in his honor at the ECBC Conference Center on May 4. U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s (RDECOM) commanding general, Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins, described Corriveau’s tenure as ECBC director as having made ECBC, RDECOM, and the Department of Defense better for his having been here, most recently through his central role in working with allied nations to keep coalition Soldiers safe from the ISIS chemical weapons threat.
May 4 was Corriveau’s final day at ECBC before leaving to become the director of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H. The laboratory’s mission is to provide support to the armed services and federal agencies conducting operations in arctic regions.
In his remarks, Corriveau addressed the ECBC employees in attendance directly, “One of the wonderful things about our mission is its tremendous purpose. Our nation, our Soldiers, really need us. The world is a dangerous place, you are making it a safer place. Take care of one another and stay safe.” He noted that 2017 is ECBC’s 100th anniversary year and added, “ECBC has a culture of innovation that will ensure even greater accomplishments in its future.”
Also in attendance were D. Christian Hassell, Ph.D., deputy assistant secretary of defense for chemical and biological defense; Richard Schoske, Ph.D., chief of detection and diagnosis for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency; and Doug Bryce, joint program executive officer for chemical and biological defense, who attended remotely by video. Byrce added levity to the occasion by including a cartoon sequence depicting Corriveau as an arctic super hero at his new post in New Hampshire.
Corriveau first arrived at ECBC in June 2003 to serve as the deputy director of Research and Technology. He moved up to Research and Technology director in December 2007. He began serving as ECBC’s overall technical director in October 2014. Earlier in his career, Corriveau served as a senior analyst with the U.S. Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center, and in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics as the chief scientist for the Department of Defense Chemical Biological Defense Program.
Corriveau will be temporarily replaced by ECBC Research and Technology Director Eric Moore, Ph.D., while RDECOM searches for a permanent replacement.
Corriveau Reflects on 14-Year Tenure at Nation’s Premier Chemical Biological Defense Laboratory.
In June of 2003, as the United States was still recovering from the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center two years earlier, an Army biologist working on the development of new chemical and biological defense capabilities in the Pentagon was hired as the deputy director for research and technology at ECBC.
ECBC Director Joseph Corriveau, Ph.D., recalled his early days with the organization he would eventually lead during an interview in the Advanced Chemistry Laboratory on the Edgewood Campus of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
In addition to being responsible for oversight of chemical and biological surety operations in his directorate, one of Corriveau’s first assignments involved developing a strategic science and technology plan that could be adopted by the Department of Defense Chemical Biological Defense Program (CBDP) to address emerging threats. “I collaborated with other Army and Department of Defense organizations to position the Army and the DoD to respond to new threats that could come our way.” The plan developed under Corriveau’s leadership was eventually adopted by the CBDP.
Corriveau entered the Senior Executive Service in December 2007, when he was selected to lead ECBC’s Research and Technology Directorate. As he assumed his new duties, ECBC’s main concerns were both legacy and emerging chemical and biological threats – not only to warfighters on the battlefield but to all American citizens.
“We worked on, and continue to work on, a multitude of products and services to give our warfighters and our domestic first responders new tools and new knowledge to counter chemical and biological threats,” Corriveau said. “We work with the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and with the civil support teams in the National Guard, to make sure our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, and our nation’s first responders, are ready for whatever chemical or biological threats come their way.”
Corriveau noted that ECBC works with numerous federal agencies.
“We worked with the United States Postal Service to help them place biodetectors in mail sorting centers to make sure the mail is free of biological agents in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks via the U.S. mail. We’ve worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on technologies to help ensure that our food supply is safe,” Corriveau said. “We’ve been providing a multitude of solutions to many different challenges facing our nation. So while we are an Army organization, we serve the entire nation.”
Corriveau said that national changes that were set in motion as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have continued to shape ECBC throughout his 14 years with the organization.
“For example, prior to 9/11 there was no Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Today, we have the DHS Chemical Security Analysis Center co-located with us at Edgewood. We also have a very close relationship with the FBI. A unique facility built at Edgewood is the Sample Receipt Facility (SRF), which is designed for receiving and safely analyzing chemical, biological and radiologically configured improvised devises. The SRF was built with funding from the Army, DHS, and the FBI.”
While Corriveau came to ECBC to direct research, he found that ECBC’s mission involves much more.
“I didn’t fully appreciate that ECBC has a such a diverse population of subject matter experts, to include scientists, engineers and operators. For example, ECBC has a team of professionals who are trained and equipped to go into the field and safely destroy recovered chemical munitions.”
Corriveau noted other aspects of ECBC, such as the center’s rapid prototyping and testing capabilities, far exceeded his expectations when he came on board. “The depth and breadth of expertise here is astonishing,” he said.
Corriveau said the center’s capabilities continue to evolve as the world continues to change. Even as ECBC continues to deal with legacy threats, advances in genetic engineering (e.g., gene editing) raise concerns regarding the possible inappropriate use of this technology. ECBC’s culture of innovation and agility makes it possible for the center to respond to such potential emerging threats.
“We have been working for years to develop a culture where the scientists and engineers can shift their focus if necessary,” he explained. “We’ve made progress in creating an environment where scientists and engineers are willing to depart from their comfort zone and take a risk. Those risks have resulted in new “omics” capabilities like our proteomics center, and our rapid genomic sequencing center. As we monitor the needs of our nation, we have the demonstrated agility to develop new core competencies that will be leveraged to keep our Soldiers and nation safe from chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.”
Corriveau became the director of ECBC on Oct. 6, 2014, responsible for a workforce of about 1,400 government and contract scientists, engineers, technicians, and support personnel. He said the employees of ECBC have made him a better person.
“They have brought the best out of me, and helped me identify areas where I can be a better person,” he said. “I am proud to lead them. I’ve seen a number of our junior people grow and develop into tremendous professionals of character that display the Army Values and contribute much to our national security. They’re patriots. Many of them are doing very dangerous work on a regular basis. I don’t think our nation fully understands and appreciates what some of our folks are doing here to protect us from these terrible weapons of mass destruction.”
Corriveau met with the ECBC workforce in late April in his last town hall meeting as ECBC director, thanking them for their support and sharing with them his reasons for accepting the position as director of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, New Hampshire. The New Hampshire native said a combination of factors led to his decision, including the opportunity to undertake a new and strategically important mission in his home state.
In his new role, Corriveau will lead a U.S. Army research and engineering laboratory with the mission of providing support to the armed services and federal agencies conducting operations in arctic regions.
Corriveau shared a few final thoughts for the team that he’s been a part of for 14 years. “What the ECBC workforce does has tremendous purpose,” he said. “They protect people. They have the opportunity to make the world a safer place. What a tremendous mission.
“We live in a world that’s very complicated, and I believe that the unique expertise of ECBC will continue to be called upon. Also, I know that I’m leaving ECBC in very good hands. I have complete confidence in the leadership team, and I have great confidence in our very talented workforce.”