Army Major General discusses evolving role of CBRN corps

U.S. Army Major General Thomas Spoehr, Director of Force Development for the U.S. Army, discussed the ever-evolving role of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear corps in a recent interview with

Spoehr said the Army is now seeing a shift lately with an emphasis on counter-insurgency.

“Along with our other domains, such as intelligence, we have moved CBRN defense into the area of counter-insurgency and threats to stability,” Spoehr told “So, although it has to keep a foot in offense and defense, it has moved into stability and civil support.”

Spoehr also discussed how his background in CBRN operations has helped him. He also noted the importance of flexibility in the modern-day CBRN army soldier.

“I tell folks that CBRN people are used to operating in other types of units – even though we have CBRN units, we don’t spend much time in them,” Spoehr told “We get to see the other branches of the Army operate, and we get a lot of joint experience which means we don’t come in with preconceptions of what Army functions might need more attention or resources. It gives you an ability to rise above it all and see where the Army should focus their efforts impartially. I tell folks that CBRN officers are some of the most versatile – and I am not suggesting that I am that way – but it gives them the ability to rise above it all and look across.”

Spoehr also discussed the role that technology will play in the life of CBRN soldiers, noting that one of the biggest changes over the next five years will deal with increased funding to connect soldiers to the “digital backbone”.

“This will allow squad leaders, and maybe even fire team leaders, to be equipped with a networking radio, a computer, a heads-up display and the ability to make calculations and see a lot of things they were not able to see in the past,” Spoehr told “I can see huge application for that in the CBRN world: they can pull up reference tables, overlays of contamination, get warnings a lot more precise than we could in the past.

Advanced protective suits, Spoehr noted, are still at least five years away.

“I am sure there are good people working on it, but we are just now being able to field the next-generation mask – the M50," Spoehr said. "I have heard there are efforts underway on the suit, but I don’t see us going into some advanced protective technology in the next five to seven years.”