Simulations and Tabletop Exercises
The Steadfast Resolve exercise was planned to address the concern that poorly designed government response to the next terrorist attack could disrupt America’s economy and society as much or more than the attack itself. This concern is particularly relevant in the context of an attack that may be harmful, but not catastrophic.
In the event of a next attack, government officials will be under enormous pressure to respond swiftly, more than likely with limited information about the status of the attack or what to expect next. In today’s news cycle, the public – and the situation – will demand a swift and decisive response perhaps before exactly what is happening becomes clear. Confusion, indecision, or false starts at government’s highest levels will be magnified and may have long-lasting ramifications. Getting it wrong will be easier than getting it right. As the Hurricane Katrina experience has demonstrated, a lack of situational awareness, understanding of current plans, and an absence of effective decisionmaking tools can lead to disaster.
Dark Winter: Bioterrorism Simulation Exercise
In the summer of 2001, a group of senior-level officials, including Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma, David Gergen, and James Woolsey, participated in an executive level simulation. Dark Winter simulated a U.S. National Security Council meeting at which senior officials were confronted with a smallpox attack on the United States. The exercise illustrated the issues to be addressed in the event of a bioterrorism crisis, including the challenges facing state and local governments, the role and responsiveness of the federal government, and the likely friction spots between federal- and state-level responders and responses.
Coming as it did before the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks, Dark Winter generated an enormous amount of interest in both the public policy community and the media. CSIS briefed Vice President Dick Cheney, then National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, then FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh, over 80 members of Congress, senior government officials and leaders, including approximately 20 ambassadors to the United States, and senior government officials from Asia, Latin America, and Europe. Besides raising public awareness of the bioterrorism threat, these briefings contributed to the Bush administration's decision to manufacture 300 million doses of the smallpox vaccine.
Silent Vector: A Critical Energy Infrastructure Simulation Exercise
The events of September 11 and additional intelligence on al Qaeda demonstrate the potential for an attack against the infrastructure of the United States. To face this challenge, CSIS developed an executive-level simulation focusing on U.S. critical energy infrastructure. The exercise took place in October 2002 and employed a simulated National Security Council of senior policymakers with former senator Sam Nunn, now chairman of CSIS’s Board of Trustees, serving as scenario president.
Silent Vector was designed to simulate possible U.S. reaction to a credible threat of terrorist attack when there is not sufficient information for effective protection. The overall purpose of the exercise was to assist the administration and Congress in their attempts to improve the effectiveness of response during the pre-attack phase of a major terrorist incident. Silent Vector challenged current and former senior government leaders to respond to increasingly credible and specific intelligence indicating the possibility of a large-scale attack against critical energy and energy-related infrastructure on the East Coast of the United States.
Black Dawn: A Scenario-Based Exercise on Catastrophic Terrorism
Organized under the auspices of the Strengthening the Global Partnership project by CSIS and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Black Dawn gathered approximately 55 current and former senior officials and experts from the European Council, the European Commission, NATO, 15 member states, and various international organizations to grapple with the challenges associated with preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by terrorists.
The exercise aimed to develop a set of actionable recommendations for the EU, NATO and individual European governments to prevent terrorists from acquiring and using WMD. The exercise was designed to energize discussion and debate as various European countries and institutions entered into their policy and budget deliberations. The central question animating the exercise was this: In hindsight, what could we have done to prevent terrorists from acquiring WMD and conducting such an attack? And what more can and should we do now?
The exercise concluded with several lessons learned: the threat of WMD terrorism is real; it could happen in Europe; prevention is the best option; we can take concrete steps to significantly reduce the risk of terrorists acquiring nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; Europe has a leadership role to play; and we need to act now.