WASHINGTON – A joint task force involving the military, Department of Homeland Security and police is set to begin a sophisticated and realistic drill today on how to respond to a terrorist nuclear bomb detonated on U.S. soil.
Dubbed “Noble Resolve ’07,” the series of tests are a follow-up to a similar operation last year called “Urban Resolve” and will run through Friday.
2006 Urban Resolve exercise
The U.S. Joint Forces Command, which recently modeled every building in Baghdad in virtual space, is using that same technology in the Tidewater area of southern Virginia for this modeling and simulation project. Joining the command in the operation will be the Northern Command, DHS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Virginia police.
The planned scenario involves a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb headed to Virginia from a foreign country.
“It’s a venue that we’re providing to allow a variety of organizations to work issues that they’re concerned about, and have access to partners that they wouldn’t normally have access to,” explained Navy Capt. John M. Kersh Jr., who heads U.S. Joint Forces Command’s J9′s Joint Context and Homeland Defense Department. “I’m sure there are already some working relationships. Anything we can do to enhance those relationships and introduce other people, that’s a great thing.”
Kersh said the military is taking what it learned overseas and bringing that knowledge back to the U.S. to protect the homeland. In this scenario, the threat originates in Europe and travels to the U.S.
“You try to prevent the problem by working with your multinational partners,” he said. “And give the multinational partners an opportunity to interrupt the threat as soon as possible, so you work the problem as far in advance as you can.”
In this case, as the bomb gets closer to its destination, other agencies are brought into the planning.
“The problem eventually arrives at the Commonwealth of Virginia with that threat making it into port and then blowing up,” he said. “This will cause us to work the consequence management part of the problem.”
Noble Resolve ’07 will test state planners and emergency manpower as well as federal.
“One of the capabilities that’s going to be flexed during this is a new capability that the commonwealth has stood up called the fusion center,” said Kersh. “It’s manned by folks from Virginia, including the state police, and they’ve got actual DHS employees in there as well. The fusion center is in a state police headquarters and it’s collocated with Virginia’s emergency operations center.”
Later this year, many members of the team will work with city officials in Portland, Ore., and the Oregon National Guard in an exercise designed to prevent, prepare for and respond to large-scale terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.
Also last week, Vice President Dick Cheney said the threat of nuclear terrorism is very real.
“The fact is that the threat to the United States now of a 9/11 occurring with a group of terrorists armed not with airline tickets and box cutters, but with a nuclear weapon in the middle of one of our own cities is the greatest threat we face,” he said. “It’s a very real threat. It’s something that we have to worry about and defeat every single day.”