DHS runs TOPOFF 4 readiness exercise

The Homeland Security Department has launched a simulation of terrorist incidents on the national capital region and a West Coast city, in a tabletop exercise that began yesterday and is set to continue through Thursday, the department said.

A key goal of the crisis simulation will be to analyze the federal government's ability to implement its continuity-of-operation plans during a mass-destruction weapon attack on Washington, DHS spokesman Jarrod Agen said.

"The folks who are situated at the command center are involved in making decisions concerning a situation where terrorist agents have smuggled two weapons of mass destruction into the United States," Agen said. "One is thought to be in Washington and the other in a West Coast city."

The project also is aimed at testing the National Response Plan and honing information sharing among government agencies and private-sector Information Sharing and Analysis centers, according to a document describing the exercise.

A memo about TOPOFF 4 from the Real Estate Information Sharing and Analysis Center to its members stated that the exercise would involve "a significant threat in the Washington, D.C., area."

The ISAC memo referred to the simulated threat as "unusual and significant."

DHS officials are working with officials from about 85 other agencies to carry out the tabletop simulation, Agen said. Private-sector organizations are also participating, he said. The exercise is being run from an undisclosed location outside the Washington area, Agen said.

According to the ISAC memo, the department runs large-scale TOPOFF exercises in odd-numbered years. In 2006, an off year, DHS is operating a smaller-scale CPX, or command post, exercise. As a result, this week's exercise can be referred to as TOPOFF 4 CPX or T4 CPX, according to the memo.

"There are not people like firemen and state and local law enforcement officials [involved in TOPOFF 4]," Agen said, explaining the difference between the smaller type of exercise and a full-fledged simulation.

Companies and trade associations can participate in the simulated national emergency either as a tabletop exercise called a TTX or a Command Post Exercise known as a CPX, according to the Real Estate ISAC.

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