Dark Winter was a Bioterrorism Exercise that took place on June 22nd-23rd, 2001. The exercise addressed the growing possibility of a bioterrorist attack on U.S. soil. The goals of the simulation included assessing government and health care response to the attack as well as the effects of the attack.

The war game was set initially in Oklahoma City, OK. The following text (copied from www.homelandsecurity.org/darkwinter) describes the exercise in further detail:
With tensions rising in the Taiwan Straits, and a major crisis developing in Southwest Asia, a smallpox outbreak was confirmed by the CDC in Oklahoma City. During the thirteen days of the game, the disease spread to 25 states and 15 other countries. Fourteen participants and 60 observers witnessed terrorism/warfare in slow motion. Discussions, debates (some rather heated) and decisions focused on the public health response, lack of an adequate supply of smallpox vaccine, roles and missions of federal and state governments, civil liberties associated with quarantine and isolation, the role of DoD, and potential military responses to the anonymous attack. Additionally, a predictable 24/7 new cycle quickly developed that focused the nation and the world on the attack and response. Five representatives from the national press corps (including print and broadcast) participated in the game, including a lengthy press conference with the President.

The key players (including Sam Nunn as President and David Gergen as National Security Advisor) as well as sixty observers identified several learning points at the conclusion of the exercise. They are summarized below:
  1. An attack on the United States with biological weapons could cause massive civilian casualties, breakdowns in essential institutions, disruption of democratic processes, civil disorder, loss of confidence in government, and reduced U.S. strategic flexibility.
  2. Government currently lacks adequate strategies, plans, and information system to manage a crisis of this type or magnitude.
  3. Public health is now a major national security issue.
  4. Constructive media relationships become critical for all levels of government.
  5. Containing the spread of a contagious disease delivered as a bioweapon will present significant ethical, political, cultural, operational, and legal challenges.

In 1980, the World Health Association announced that Smallpox had been eradicated and it was no longer advised that citizens be vaccinated. It is estimated that the U.S. currently has seven to twelve million doses. The CDC has recently contracted with Acambis Inc., Cambridge, MA to produce forty million new doses. Initial deliveries are three years away.

Information gathered from www.homelandsecurity.org/darkwinter

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