Coordination Among Groups Key to Protecting Capital Region

May 2006
By Henry S. Kenyon and Rita Boland

R. James Woolsey, vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, moderates the day’s first disaster scenario phase, or Move, on awareness and prevention at AFCEA’s Homeland Security conference.
Panelists ponder roles, responsibilities during terrorist attack scenario.

The United States has been fighting a shadowy enemy abroad for more than four years, but uncertainty remains about whether lessons from September 11, 2001, have been sufficiently learned before another attack is launched on home territory. This question was at the heart of AFCEA International’s Homeland Security 2006 conference, “Homeland Security 2.0—Building Resilient Communities,” held in Washington, D.C., February 22-23. Instead of the usual panel discussions, the event centered on a simulation of a major terrorist attack in the capital region. Over the course of the conference, participants from a variety of federal, state, local and commercial organizations described how they would react to such a developing situation.

The event opened with a brief overview of the national capital region (NCR) by Thomas Lockwood, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’) Office of National Capital Region Coordination. He explained that the conference scenario was a different approach that would spark an open conversation between the speakers and the audience about operational expectations, security roles and responses. “Homeland security is a business that everyone participates in,” he said.

Lockwood began by describing the unique characteristics of the NCR. It covers roughly 6,000 square miles and encompasses three jurisdictions: the District of Columbia and the states of Virginia and Maryland. Inside this area are 12 local jurisdictions, the U.S. federal government, 231 federal departments and agencies, and approximately 340,000 federal employees. The region is home to 4 million people with 20 million tourists visiting every year. It is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States and one of the world’s wealthiest national capitals.

The scenario panels, or Moves, set the tone for the event. Each Move focused on one part of a 10-day period leading up to a simulated terrorist attack and its aftermath in the NCR. Members from the organizations that would be involved in responding to each part of the scenario served as panelists.

Move 1 moderator R. James Woolsey, vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, outlined the situation: A security guard in the Port of Baltimore finds two dead employees near an open shipping container, which apparently was used to smuggle several people into the country. Following a tip, Baltimore police raid an apartment and discover an arms cache and maps, communications equipment, explosives and documents outlining possible attacks on the region’s mass transit and highway systems. Investigators also find forged drivers’ licenses and information on the locations of local chemical manufacturing facilities with an emphasis on certain pesticides. Several days later, a truck rental company alerts police to an attempt to rent large cargo trucks, which it declined, and an unsuccessful attempt by unknown individuals to steal a similar type of vehicle from the firm’s lot.

The initial response to the situation would be from local law enforcement organizations, explained Cmdr. Cathy Lanier, head of the Washington, D.C., Police Department’s Special Operations Division. She noted that until more concrete evidence such as the results of the apartment raid could be collected and tied to the murders, the investigation would remain in the hands of local agencies. Once it became evident that there was a homeland security dimension to the situation, organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would be notified, she said.

Once enough data is in place to bring in federal law enforcement, the FBI would become the lead agency in an investigation, said Special Agent Grant Rogers, a member of the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office. The bureau would examine the details of the investigation by studying the murders. During a background check, the FBI discovered that the two victims had false identification. As more evidence surfaced, Rogers added that the FBI’s explosives unit and other organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the DHS’ Immigrations and Customs bureaus also would be contacted.

As the situation evolves, local jurisdictions would be notified with daily briefings. The information gathered from the meetings would be provided not only to law enforcement organizations but also to health care and emergency response groups, shared Calvin Smith, director of the Department of Human Services, Planning and Public Safety for Washington’s Metropolitan Council of Governments. He added that a high level of coordination is necessary with local jurisdictions because the District of Columbia is geographically challenged: A suspect could be in Maryland or Virginia within minutes.

Panel members (l-r) Cmdr. Cathy Lanier, commander, Special Operations Division, Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department; Calvin Smith, director, Department of Human Services, Planning and Public Safety, Metropolitan Council of Governments; Lt. Col. Michael Belding, USMC, chief, Plans Division, Joint Force Headquarters–National Capital Region; and Special Agent Grant Rogers, Washington, D.C., field office, Federal Bureau of Investigation; explain how agencies would interact and communicate during a terrorist attack.
The panelists concluded that all of the region’s different organizations would have to work together quickly once a threat has been determined. Smith noted that the district’s various government bodies require as much real-time information as possible to manage a response. Responding to questions about the possibility of using U.S. Defense Department assets to locate the suspects, Cmdr. Lanier noted that the Posse Comitatus Act prevents the military from undertaking such activities and that law enforcement agencies have major resources in the region, including aircraft and other surveillance platforms, large numbers of highly trained personnel and access to national databases.

Move 2 focused on integrated emergency management and communications and how government and commercial groups would respond during the incident. It is critically important that telecommunications providers have a preparedness plan, said Dr. Susan R. Bailey, AT&T’s vice president of global network operations. Noting that other events such as fires, floods and hurricanes can affect the national infrastructure, she explained that managers must identify critical assets and have backup services ready. For example, AT&T maintains a fleet of several hundred trailers that can be used to restore service in afflicted areas. Situational awareness also is necessary, she said. Network operators must be aware of irregularities and service spikes, which can be the first indicators of an event.

Preparedness also is vital at the state level, explained John Droneburg III, director of Maryland’s Emergency Management Agency. States and other jurisdictions must have plans and joint operations centers in place, and protocols must be available to share between a variety of individuals and organizations. In addition, it is important for law enforcement agencies to determine when to move from data acquisition to response.

The panelists concluded that response personnel must be familiar with the equipment they are using to restore communications. Organizations also must take full responsibility for lessons learned from an event, and critical infrastructure providers need to ensure that local operational personnel know whom they must work with in federal and local government agencies.

The second day of the conference began with a keynote address by Maj. Gen. Guy C. Swan III, USA, commander, Military District of Washington, and commander, Joint Force Headquarters–National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR). Both the JFHQ-NCR and the Military District of Washington, the Army Service component of the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), fall under NORTHCOM. The JFHQ-NCR trains for catastrophic incidents during large events such as the U.S. Marine Corps Marathon and the State of the Union address. The headquarters includes a joint operations center, which coordinates the response during both the training exercises and during an actual disaster. NORTHCOM does not have its own forces and will draw from other sources if necessary. For example, in a biological or chemical attack, the command could request a Marine Corps chemical/biological response force or it could request special forces troops from FortBragg in North Carolina. The headquarters would acquire troops depending on the needs of the first responder.

Move 3 focused on the response effort and was moderated by Peter LaPorte, senior vice president, Community Research Associates, and former director, Washington, D.C., Emergency Management Agency. In this phase, an explosive in a box truck is detonated near the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel at 5:15 p.m. partially collapsing the first 30 feet of the tunnel and creating a 20-foot-diameter crater that completely destroys the roadway. Between 60 and 70 people have been injured and need immediate medical care. People also are exhibiting symptoms comparable to chemical agent exposure. Traffic near the explosion is stopped. Also, as a train approaches the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., a 24-foot closed box truck explodes creating another 20-foot crater in the road and causing the first 10 cars of the train to derail. The president signs a Presidential Disaster Declaration. Additionally, the whereabouts of a third box truck are unknown.

Move 3 of the disaster scenario discussed how federal, state and local organizations would respond to a terrorist attack. Panel members are
(l-r) Bob Marbourg, traffic reporter, WTOP Radio; Brig. Gen. Frank Cardile, USAF (Ret.), vice president, professional services, Lockheed Martin Information Technology; John Contestabile, director, Office of Engineering, Procurement and Emergency Services, Maryland Department of Transportation; James Schwartz, fire chief, Arlington County Virginia Fire Department; and moderator Lacy E. Suiter, emergency management and homeland security consultant, and former associate director, response and recovery, Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The panel’s goals were to determine which organizations should take which roles and how the private sector could assist in the response. Panelists explained the roles they expected their organizations to play. John Contestabile, director of the Office of Engineering, Procurement and Emergency Services, Maryland Department of Transportation, said the department would shut down Interstate 895 immediately and then the Fort McHenry Tunnel. They also would post messages on Interstate 95 from North Carolina to New Jersey alerting motorists of the closures so people could plan alternate routes.

Brig. Gen. Frank Cardile, USAF (Ret.), vice president, professional services, Lockheed Martin Information Technology, said that the private sector would not be in charge of handling the response but would be engaged immediately. It would have to account for people, find a way to keep staff safe and continue to conduct business, especially because many businesses have personnel who support the government and keep command centers running.

The panel discussed at length the importance of a flow of accurate information to the public to keep residents aware and alert to prevent more injuries and confusion. In addition, James Schwartz, fire chief, Arlington County Virginia Fire Department, noted that elected officials need to be prepared to address and reassure the public, since the public chose them to lead. The panelists also considered how they could control the spread of the chemical effects and promote communication between agencies, especially if equipment was damaged in the explosions. The panel explained that authorities would have to decide which facilities to close—for example, the airports—and how many resources to dedicate to disaster relief.

The panel outlined the command, control and communications procedures that would need to be in effect to allow the various responders and the public to work together. By the end of Move 3, the major issue identified was finding a way to have everyone communicating and working together effectively to keep the damage and injury to a minimum. The panel cited failures in response to hurricanes Rita and Katrina as examples of what responders in the NCR have to be prepared for and that need to be improved.

The next segment of the day was the final phase in the attack scenario: recovery. Moderating was Barry West, chief information officer, and director of the Information Technology division, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). David F. Snyder, assistant general counsel, American Insurance Association, explained that insurers need to reach the people affected by a disaster to help facilitate the recovery process. He advocated a system where the insurance community and the government could work together to provide insurance adjusters access to the area.

Berl D. Jones Jr., acting chief, individual assistance branch, Recovery division, FEMA, told the audience how the agency would assist people with needs such as counseling, unemployment and legal services. He also explained the various programs available to victims of a disaster and how the government sorted out which programs applied to which cases through an application process.