A campaign to measure the amount of trace explosive residues in an operational military environment was conducted on May 27?31, 2007, at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, CA, USA. The objectives of this campaign were to develop the methods needed to collect and analyze samples from tactical military settings, to use the data obtained to determine what the trace explosive signatures suggest about the potential capabilities of chemical-based means to detect IEDs, and, finally, to present a framework whereby a sound understanding of the signature science can be used to guide development of new sensing technologies and sensor concepts of operation. Through our use of combined background and threat signature data, we have performed statistical analyses to estimate upper limits of notional sensor performance that is limited only by the spatial correlation of the signature chemicals to the threats of interest.