Man your battle stations

Joint training exercises and simulation can help state and local governments prepare for terrorist attacks, said French Caldwell, vice president and research director of global public policy with the research firm Gartner Inc.

Henrik G. de Gyor

"The major metropolitan areas are more aggressive right now." ? Cheryl Janey, vice president of state and local solutions for Northrop Grumman Corp.

War gaming urged for countering terrorism on state, local level

State and local governments can improve their ability to respond to terrorist attacks by conducting exercises, much like the military does, using simulations to test joint operations and plan for war, a panel of homeland security experts said at the midyear conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers in Pittsburgh.

The exercises can foster the kind of horizontal and vertical collaboration necessary for government agencies to thwart real-life terrorist attacks, experts said at the conference, which took place earlier this month.

French Caldwell, vice president and research director of global public policy with the research firm Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn., said such exercises can help state and local governments develop the coordination and tactics necessary to handle terrorist attacks.

In the Iraq war, the U.S. military has been able to respond quickly to events because of the many years it spent on joint training, he said.

"This type of pre-game collaboration is very important," he said. "The only way we can do this on a wide scale is through simulation."

The Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this month that it is providing $100 million in fiscal 2003 to selected metropolitan areas, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, to strengthen their ability to respond to terrorist attacks. The funds are in addition to the $556 million the office released in March for first-responder needs, the department said.

The increased funding comes after the nation's governors and mayors appealed for more homeland security money. In response, President Bush requested an additional $2 billion in funds for first responders in the fiscal 2003 supplemental budget, and proposed $3.5 billion for first responders in his fiscal 2004 budget.

These simulation exercises, which are intended to foster collaboration among jurisdictions, are just one area in which federal funding might be spent. Homeland security funds for state and local governments can be divided into several broad categories, including critical infrastructure protection, first response and public health.

Planned spending on first responders includes emergency command centers, geospatial information and voice and data interoperability. Public health spending is directed at health alert systems, disease surveillance systems and chemical and biological detectors, according to industry officials.

Kent Blossom, director of public sector for safety and security for IBM Global Services of IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., said industry is beginning to see procurements unfold for homeland security technologies for public health, as well as first response. Analysts and industry officials said this growing demand for alert and disease surveillance systems can be attributed partly to the fact that it has been more than a year since states had to submit requests for bioterrorism preparedness funding to the Department of Health and Human Services.

While public health procurements are likely to involve single agencies, first-responder procurements often involve local or regional consortiums.

"[In the case of] first responders, not only does the funding have to emerge, by nature they are multiagency initiatives, so it takes some time for the consortiums to form," Blossom said. As important as funding is for the success of first-responder initiatives, it's just as important for the agencies involved to choose a method of governance for the effort to succeed, he said.

[IMGCAP(2)]Other industry officials said homeland security opportunities are unfolding at the local level as Congress and the administration funnel funds to metropolitan areas, including port and transit authorities, that are the most likely targets of a terrorist attack, according to analysts and industry officials.

"The major metropolitan areas are more aggressive right now," said Cheryl Janey, vice president of state and local solutions for Northrop Grumman Corp., Los Angeles.

Each of the experts on the NASCIO panel described a simulation that he has been involved with during the past year.

Dartmouth University has been helping government officials hone their ability to react to a national cyberattack through an exercise known as Top Officials, or "Top Off," funded by the Justice Department, said Andrew Cutts, technical programs coordinator for the Exercise and Scenario Development Program at Dartmouth's Institute for Security and Technology Studies.

Carnegie Mellon University has been working on a project known as Realtime Outbreak and Disease Surveillance. The university has invested time and resources in data mining and detection algorithms that have been incorporated into the project, said Jeff Schneider, a research scientist with Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute. The program is being used in Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City, he said.

The university also has been working on a research and technology project for link detection, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, that would provide law enforcement with a way to anticipate terrorist events by making connections between seemingly unrelated events. This project is lower profile than the university's other project, because there is no operation system and the researchers are not using any real data, Schneider said.

Gartner tapped the Naval War College for its strategic gaming expertise to develop a simulation, known as "Digital Pearl Harbor." The game tries to determine the feasibility of cyberattacks crippling the U.S. economy by tearing down its critical infrastructure.

Following the war game, Gartner observed that governments:

  • Can run into trouble if they don't develop plans to counter certain threats to the exclusion of others.

  • Should view even minor problems as potentially contributing to a wider attack.

  • Could fix most vulnerabilities through good security practices, reasonable personnel reliability standards and improved quality control of vendor software.

Staff writer William Welsh can be reached at

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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