Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 3, 2008

Chertoff: TOPOFF 4 Lessons Under Review

Filed under: Radiological & Nuclear Threats,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Jonah Czerwinski on April 3, 2008

Reader Arnold asked whether we can expect a public report on the lessons learned from the TOPOFF 4 exercise, which took place October 15-19, 2007, with thousands of federal, state, and local officials responding to a full scale response to a simulated dirty bomb attack in Oregon and Arizona. The Secretary explained that the TOPOFF lessons learned are under review now and being circulated for sign off. t4-portland.gif
Two things to consider:

1. The Secretary also said that planning for TOPOFF 5 is underway. It would be important for the lessons from TOPOFF 4 to inform that design.

2. Its unclear if the lessons from TOPOFF 4 are being drafted as a deliverable to the public, including state and local officials, who clearly drew their own lessons that should probably have a hand in crafting the review.

Look for a public version no sooner than summer.

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Comment by Arnold

April 3, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

Don’t forget Guam…

Thanks for asking. I do appreciate it. It seems that the lessons learned network and other information sharing initiatives don’t always work as well as DHS officials hope. I attended TOPOFF 4 as an observer. In subsequent conversations with a state homeland security official (in a state not participating in the exercise)many months after I realized that general information was not shared which could help that official develop relevant plans for recovery from any time of event. So a public release could help disseminate important information to those who can operationalize it.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 4, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

It would be interesting to have a Congressional oversight hearing on how, when, where, what, and who released information on conduct of the exercise, who participated, and results and of course lessons learned from all the TOPOFF exercises. After all they were mandated by Congress. My information still indicates more TOPOFF (senior officials) have observed rather than actually play the exercises. Has any senior official been through them all? what will be transmitted to the next administration as the results of TOPOFF 2-4 since TOPOFF 1 was under President Clinton. By the way have Senators running for President ever observed the Exercises? Why not? Oh that is correct, too busy with important fundraising work. Okay so who will their TOPOFFs be?

Comment by josephlogan

April 6, 2008 @ 5:34 am

As a matter of public perception if nothing else, it would seem prudent to release some subset of lessons learned to the public along with recommendations for what citizens and municipalities can do. There will certainly be insights that might be best kept among military and law enforcement (though that info would likely leak), but DHS would buy a lot of goodwill with just a little positive press.

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