Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Operation ‘Dark Winter’ – Wargame Simulated a Biological Attack on US

Coronavirus déjà vu? In 2001, just three months before the terror attack of 9/11, various think tanks and other organizations hosted a senior-level war game examining the national security challenges of a biological warfare (BW) attack on the United States.

The exercise called Operation ‘Dark Winter’ (ODW) simulated a deliberately created, highly contagious and deadly smallpox outbreak in Oklahoma City that spread to 25 states and 15 other countries.

The simulated attack realistically coincided with simulated tensions rising in the Taiwan Straits, and a major crisis developing in Southwest Asia. The Dark Winter conclusions were sobering, and the simulation eerily mirrors today’s Wuhan Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and response.

ODW’s revealed serious gaps in the nation’s preparedness and ability to effectively respond to a bioterrorism attack — similar to the gaps we are seeing today. The findings from the exercise included:

1. An attack on the U.S. with biological weapons could threaten vital national security interests. Massive civilian casualties, breakdown in essential institutions, violation of democratic processes, civil disorder, loss of confidence in government and reduced U.S. strategic flexibility abroad are among the ways a biological attack might compromise U.S. security.

2. Current organizational structures and capabilities are not well suited for the management of a BW attack. Major “fault lines” exist between different levels of government (federal, state, and local), between government and the private sector, among different institutions and agencies, and within the public and private sector. 

3. There is no surge capability in the U.S. healthcare and public health systems, or in the pharmaceutical and vaccine industries. This institutionally limited surge capacity could result in hospitals being overwhelmed and becoming inoperable

4. Dealing with the media will be a major immediate challenge for all levels of government. Information management and communication will be a critical element in crisis/consequence management.

Today we are experiencing a real-world, real-time, global COVID-19 “wargame” that is confirming many of the conclusions from the Operation Dark Winter exercise, as well as other pandemic simulations.

We can be certain that China, Russia, Iran and other adversaries are using this current “wargame” to ramp up their bio-defense efforts.

As we aggressively combat this pandemic, the U.S. also needs to learn from and apply all the valuable lessons from this crisis.

We need to use this real-life “wargame” to develop a robust and effective national strategic effort to effectively prevent, prepare and respond to any future natural pandemic, or a deliberate bio-warfare attack on the U.S.

Explore our interactive COVID-19 map below to learn about the latest updates from every state!

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY DC

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Paul Crespo
Paul Crespo
Paul Crespo is a defense and national security expert. He served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. He holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. Paul is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and a Contributor to American Defense News.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I was on active duty from 1962 – 2982. At that time, we realized that NBC warfare was a distinct possibility. As someone who that had that as a specialty, I was appalled that Saddam Hussain’s biological fermenters where called “meteorological balloon stations.” No wonder we are unprepared for this type of attack. The Democrats used the money to buy votes by such things as “Obama phones” instead of taking the threat seriously. I am not surprised that the largest casualties are in the Democrat governed states.

  2. Great comment “Adjunct George”!
    Americans definitely need to hear more from the good folks who know, because they have been grossly misinformed and kept in the dark for too long now and about way too many things. Like you, there are many who do know what goes on behind all of those closed door meetings and Americans have a right & responsibility to know things that effect them & put them in danger. My PhD father was on the team of historians that recorded the history of the ICBM program many years ago. Later he became a history teacher in a university, but in 1968/89 he was asked to rejoin Military Intelligence as a “special courier” that traveled to Iceland, Africa, and through most of Europe for about 9 months. I was taken along as part of the cover story and even though I was young I always knew that my father (and I 🙂 were working for America. I was proud, but I kept quiet for decades about it. It was just obvious to me, but I am the only one in the family that figured it out. Ha! I watched him dressed in his street suit, get saluted by the marine MP at the gate as he strolled into a closed American Nuke sub base in Spain, and that was a dead giveaway. The next day he snuck me into the same base for a burger & fries at the commissary (I am sure with tacit permission from the top). Being an American I just about starved trying to eat the European food 🙂 I never asked what he was doing because I know better, it was a rule of the family, and it may be difficult for many to believe but I just didn’t care about the details that were obviously government security business, but a few years ago he confirmed that it was in fact that. Hilariously, my father had the only office in the university library of all of the teaching staff and it always drove the head librarian completely insane because he could never figure out why my father was so “special” to have an office in “HIS” library that he otherwise controlled! Military Intelligence beats the FBI hands down! The FBI guys in the staff were close friends of the family and I still call them “uncle”… Thank you for your service and all of the personal pain & suffering you have been caused for your patriotism! Good Americans care more than you think! ;-] M

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