Military To Conduct Bio-Terror Exercise

By  | 

U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for military operations inside the United States, said Friday it will begin an exercise next week to test its ability to respond to multiple domestic emergencies simultaneously, including a bio-terror attack in Nevada.

The exercise, dubbed Determined Promise ’03, includes a simulated hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, real and simulated wildfires, an airborne terrorist threat in Alaska and an outbreak of pneumonic plague in Nevada. The military also will simulate the derailment of a train carrying munitions in Kentucky, said Maj. Cheryl Phillips, a Northern Command spokeswoman.

It begins Monday with the plague outbreak in Clark County, which includes 70 percent of Nevada’s population, including Las Vegas. Local authorities will respond first by activating an emergency operations center, followed by action at the state level and activation of the Nevada National Guard on Wednesday. Northern Command will direct the use of active-duty forces.

At the same time, Northern Command’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., will deal with a variety of simulated natural disasters and terrorist threats elsewhere in the country.

Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, a Pentagon spokesman, said the exercise has been planned for months and has no direct connection to this week’s power blackouts in the Northeast.

Fifteen federal offices and agencies will participate, including the assistant secretary of defense for homeland security, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as intelligence agencies such as the National Reconnaissance Office and the CIA.

Also participating will be the American Red Cross and the American Association of Railroads, as well as seven state and local organizations, including National Guard units in Nevada, Alabama and Rhode Island. Twenty-eight active-duty military units will be involved, including the headquarters of Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, Va., and Air Combat Command in Langley, Va.

As part of the exercise, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, at Colorado Springs, Colo., will conduct a one-day air exercise in Alaska to test the command’s ability to deal with potential airborne terrorist threats and to coordinate with Northern Command. That portion will include fighter jet flights over Alaska, Phillips said.

The exercise will have 2,000 participants and cost $2 million, according to Northern Command. It ends Aug. 28.