RC#29 National Security Exercises Need Change; TOPOFF meet TOPGUN – Maybe

New York Times, 16 February, 2009— 

The homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, is re-evaluating the largest federal program for testing the country’s ability to respond to terrorist attacks, one of several Bush administration initiatives she has ordered to come under review.

PWH Chapter 1 (Part 1 of 2) The Constant Gardner http://www.projectwhitehorse.com/pdfs/B[1].%20PWH_Chapter1(1of2).pdf

(From Page 11) … Studies clearly indicate that highly trained (i.e., prepared) personnel exposed to a sudden crisis whose nature falls outside the scope of prior preparation commit grave errors of judgment and procedure. Current training and drills are focused on availability of resources, both human and physical, necessary for the management of, or the consequences of, a specific disaster type. These mostly pre-scripted drills fail to address crisis development, eliminate the Observation and Orientation stages of the Observe Orient Decide Act (OODA) Loop by pre-determining their characteristics, eliminate uncertainty, and therefore, bypass the essential element of critical command thinking.

Result: Level of readiness defined as instantaneous ability to respond to a suddenly arising major crisis based on locally available, un-prepositioned and un-mobilized countermeasure resources is either unchanged or decreased due to current flaws built into current philosophy of drills.

In this high-end crisis, where orientation to the problem is so essential, where potential is very high for decisions that could save or cause to be lost the most number of lives – decision makers have NOT been exposed to and are not aware of ingrained decision making biases, nor trained, or exercised in complex decision making in chaotic, uncertain environments.

The transnational and “total warfare” aspect of 21st Century conflict and the always possibility of “Category 5” natural disasters dictates a need for changes in how we educate and train, including exercise design and evaluation processes. The chaotic intent of terrorism and the complexity of the required multilevel, multi-agency response dictate that learning opportunities in complex environments must be provided.

Please read in part below or the complete article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/us/politics/17terror.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1


By Eric Schmitt
16 February, 2009 The New York Times

In part:

WASHINGTON — The homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, is re-evaluating the largest federal program for testing the country’s ability to respond to terrorist attacks, one of several Bush administration initiatives she has ordered to come under review.

As governor of Arizona, Ms. Napolitano sent a searing two-page letter to her predecessor as secretary, Michael Chertoff, complaining that a $25 million national exercise in October 2007, which she and 23,000 other federal, state and local emergency workers participated in, was too expensive, too long in planning and “too removed from a real-world scenario.”

Now, in her first weeks as head of the Homeland Security Department, Ms. Napolitano has ordered a review of that program and several others, including cybersecurity, a strategy for protecting the border with Canada, and the vulnerability of power plants and other critical infrastructure.
The directives implicitly raise questions about how well the Bush administration prepared the nation’s defenses against a terrorist attack. But they also reflect what homeland security analysts say is Ms. Napolitano’s desire to apply her practical experiences as a border-state governor to several important homeland security policies.
Her pointed comments on the emergency preparedness exercise, which she repeated last month at her Senate confirmation hearing, offer a glimpse into how Ms. Napolitano may retool one the centerpieces of the Bush administration’s domestic security architecture.

“If we’re going to be doing these kinds of things, and they are valuable, the underlying philosophy is a good one, but they need to be in my view streamlined,” Ms. Napolitano told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs last month.

Ms. Napolitano’s frustration with the system in place for rehearsing responses to natural disasters and terrorist attacks has struck a chord among state and local emergency managers, many of whom have long complained that the Homeland Security Department and its crisis-response component, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have failed to consult fully with local communities in disaster planning.

… It will not take long to put Ms. Napolitano’s new thinking to the test. FEMA is completing plans for the next major exercise, scheduled for late July.

…The exercise this year, for the first time, focuses on preventing a potential attack, not just responding to a crisis, federal officials say.

Emergency planners say they have already taken Ms. Napolitano’s criticisms to heart, improving federal coordination with state and local partners in planning the disaster drill this summer, increasing the frequency of national exercises to every year from every two, cutting costs to encourage wider participation and providing feedback within 90 days to participants on what went well and what did not.
“Most of them were already on the radar scope in one way, shape or form,” said Steve Saunders, a retired Army National Guard major general who is an assistant FEMA administrator overseeing the national exercise division, “but her letter helped crystallize, I think, some of the things we needed to do.”

Mr. Saunders said he expected some changes as a result of the review ordered by Ms. Napolitano, but he cautioned in an interview, “don’t mess around” significantly with this year’s exercise or drills on the drawing board for 2010 and 2011 that will simulate an improvised nuclear bomb attack and a catastrophic earthquake.

Mr. Saunders said states and localities had already started budgeting for those exercises. “If we start shifting near-term activities,” he said, “it becomes fairly problematic.”

… States and cities routinely conduct emergency preparedness drills. Specialists in domestic security agree that it is also essential to hold large-scale national emergency exercises to test how federal, state and local officials and emergency personnel work together to prevent or deal with terrorist attacks.
Congress directed the government in 1998 to carry out a national exercise program, formerly called Topoff for the “top officials” who participate. There have been four major exercises since then, simulating chemical, biological and nuclear attacks. The exercises now also include foreign partners, like Britain and Canada.

Specialists in domestic security say Ms. Napolitano offers a new perspective to the program.
“She brings to the table real-world experience as a governor, as a person responsible for implementing these programs where the rubber hits the road,” said David Heyman, director of the domestic security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Ms. Napolitano’s unhappiness with the program stems from her participation in the five-day October 2007 exercise, which simulated a dirty-bomb attack against Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; and Guam. It was planned to test how well federal, state and local officials responded to such a cataclysm.
Within days after the exercise wrapped up, Ms. Napolitano complained to Mr. Chertoff that federal officials never contacted top Arizona emergency officials during the drill, did not involve her as much as she said she would have been during a real disaster, and gave participants too much advance information about the drill.

“When you have months to prepare for an exercise and you know the exact scenario being contemplated,” Ms. Napolitano said, “a large part of the exercise’s value is lost.”


Filed in 4GW,Intersections,Resilient Community,School Security,Terrorism | Comments Off

Comments are closed at this time.