This Dark Winter Exercise is Armageddon Approved
The Dark Winter exercise, held at Andrews AFB, Washington, DC, June 22-23, 2001, portrayed a fictional scenario depicting a covert smallpox attack on US citizens. The scenario is set in 3 successive National Security Council (NSC) meetings (Segments 1, 2 and 3) that take place over a period of 14 days. Former senior government officials played the roles of NSC members responding to the evolving epidemic; representatives from the media were among the observers of these mock NSC meetings and played journalists during the scenario’s press conferences.
Operation Dark Winter was the code name for a senior-level bio-terrorist attack simulation conducted on June 22–23, 2001. It was designed to carry out a mock version of a covert and widespread smallpox attack on the United States. Tara O’Toole and Tom Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies (CCBS) / Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Randy Larsen and Mark DeMier of Analytic Services were the principal designers, authors, and controllers of the Dark Winter project.
Dark Winter Objective
Dark Winter was focused on evaluating the inadequacies of a national emergency response during the use of a biological weapon against the American populace. The exercise was intended to establish preventive measures and response strategies by increasing governmental and public awareness of the magnitude and potential of such a threat posed by biological weapons.
Dark Winter’s simulated scenario involved an initial localized smallpox attack on Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with additional smallpox attack cases in Georgia and Pennsylvania. The simulation was then designed to spiral out of control, and to be an inherently un-winnable scenario. This would create a contingency in which the National Security Council struggles to determine both the origin of the attack as well as deal with containing the spreading virus. By not being able to keep pace with the disease’s rate of spread, a new catastrophic contingency emerges in which massive civilian casualties would overwhelm America’s emergency response capabilities.
The disastrous contingencies that would result in the massive loss of civilian life were used to exploit the weaknesses of the U.S. health care infrastructure and its inability to handle such a threat. The contingencies were also meant to address the widespread panic that would emerge and which would result in mass social breakdown and mob violence. Exploits would also include the many difficulties that the media would face when providing American citizens with the necessary information regarding safety procedures.
Discussing the outcome of Dark Winter, Bryan Walsh noted “The timing–just a few months before the 9/11 attack–was eerily prescient, as if the organizers had foreseen how the threat of terrorism, including bioterrorism, would come to consume the U.S. government and public in the years to come.”
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