The Exercise Culture-Some History

There has always been and ebb and flow in the interest in Exercising plans, oplans, SOPs, authorities etc and often no seeming consistency in why’s or wherefore’s!

NLE 2011 coming up. April. The NLE terminology (National Level Exercises) replaced the old topoff series and stems from PKEMA 2006 made effective March 31, 2007.

PKEMA Extract:

”              SEC. 648. TRAINING AND EXERCISES.

.—Beginning not later than 180 days afterthe date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator, incoordination with the heads of appropriate Federal agencies,the National Council on Disability, and the National Advisory Council, shall carry out a national training program to implement the national preparedness goal, National Incident Management System, National Response Plan, and other related plans and strategies.


.—In developing and implementingthe national training program, the Administrator shall—
(A) work with government training facilities, academic

institutions, private organizations, and other entities that

provide specialized, state-of-the-art training for emergency

managers or emergency response providers; and

(B) utilize, as appropriate, training courses provided

by community colleges, State and local public safety academies,

State and private universities, and other facilities.

.—Beginning not later than 180 days afterthe date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator, in coordination with the heads of appropriate Federal agencies, the National Council on Disability, and the National Advisory Council, shall carry out a national exercise program to test and evaluate the national preparedness goal, National Incident Management System, National Response Plan, and other related plans and strategies. 

.—The national exercise program—(A) shall be—
(i) as realistic as practicable, based on current

risk assessments, including credible threats,

vulnerabilities, and consequences, and designed to

stress the national preparedness system;

(ii) designed, as practicable, to simulate the partial

or complete incapacitation of a State, local, or tribal


(iii) carried out, as appropriate, with a minimum

degree of notice to involved parties regarding the

timing and details of such exercises, consistent with

safety considerations;

(iv) designed to provide for systematic evaluation

of readiness; and


(v) designed to address the unique requirements
of populations with special needs; and

(B) shall provide assistance to State, local, and tribal

governments with the design, implementation, and evaluation

of exercises that—

(i) conform to the requirements under subparagraph


(ii) are consistent with any applicable State, local,

or tribal strategy or plan; and

(iii) provide for systematic evaluation of readiness.

for the following purposes:

(A) To test and evaluate the capability of Federal,

State, local, and tribal governments to detect, disrupt, and

prevent threatened or actual catastrophic acts of terrorism,

especially those involving weapons of mass destruction.

(B) To test and evaluate the readiness of Federal,

State, local, and tribal governments to respond and recover

in a coordinated and unified manner to catastrophic




.—The Administrator shallperiodically, but not less than biennially, perform national exercises.


We know the current Secretary is interested or at least want to CYA because of the document at URL which follows:

But I have long struggled to deal with the interest or lack of interest in Exercising plans and procedures. Here is what I have concluded!

Before the end of the draft and now again many who had military training or backgrounds or were drafted had lived through exercises in the Armed Forces of the US. If you were not actually fighting you were exercising in FX’s, OPsEX, Command Post Exercises (CPX) and whatever. Of course on active duty I was exercised to death including inspections by DASA and the AEC Commissioners themselves. EUCOM had the highest level exercises of my unit. And for over a year I conducted exercises in numerous units on behalf of my SASCOM battalion HQ.  

The brief period I was at HUD from July 1, 1974 t0 September 10, 1979 there were few exercises. That department would not see itself as operational in any sense so why exercise when its primary purpose was enriching middlemen like the Mortgage Bankers of the US.

When I got to FEMA exercises again were important and even though I was running the litigation for FEMA I asked and received the Exercise portfolio in OGC. This ran on and off throughout my career. It served me in good stead when I operated as the OPs lawyer for FEMA. Then low and behold I found that DOJ and DOD were asking FEMA to send me to play their exercises. So as a completely sendentary person I was well exercised in one sense.

Of course with a wonderful person named Don Harper who I met first when he lawyered for the Pay Board in the Nixon wage-price-rent freeze and left HUD to start a historic preservation practice in Savannah, GA, we together drafted the implementing regulations of the Disaster Relief Act of 1974, P.L 93-288 which was housed in HUD for administration by President Nixon’s [so-called Carlucci Plan] Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1973.

Because Mother Nature was gently with the new REAGAN Administration, note it had been very mean to Jimmy Carter who created FEMA (Hurricane’s David and Frederick, Mt. St. Helens etc) the National Security State was off and running in FEMA after January 1981 and Louis O. Guiffrida’s confirmation as Director. Oddly this had nothing to do with the Civil Defense program which at that point was just another federal grant program with periodic efforts such as the Crisis Relocation Program, started by Carter but blamed on Reagan. MOBEXs became very popular and FEMA in conjunction with DOD participated in both REX-ALPHA and REX-BRAVO exercises leading the civil agencies.

Of course, DOD has never been shy from exercising the thinking the unthinkable missions including several that have come to frution like the crashing of civil airliners into critical infrastructure.  And DOJ led by the Criminal Division that in my time did most of the National Security work also participated from time to time.

Well the point is a simple one, some departments and agencies and programs, functions, and activities love to exercise because they hope their plans and systems will not ever actually be needed. Unfortunately as we know they often are.

Another important exercise program was handed to FEMA by President James Earl Carter, largely by press release not even an Executive Order when off-site safety around nuclear power plants was handed to FEMA in 1980. And that program actually litigated administratively two huge qualifying exercises for the Shoreham Nuclear Power Station and one for the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station. I was involved in all of these. The exercise cycle for nuclear power stations is a regulatory mandate of FEMA and NRC and designed to test plans produced under NUREG 0654.

The problem is that the natural disaster types almost never exercised and fought bureacratically from being forced to do so on the basis that they were tested every day. Well yes and no. Large scale natural disasters are relatively infrequent. In particular those impacting governmental capability and more than one state.

So it is interesting to watch as NLE 2011 steams down the pike with its major emphasis a NEW MADRID earthquake as the exercise scenario dictates. Should be fun. Especially seeing as to how response is prioritized. Energy? Transportation? Mass care? Etc.?

I am sure that someone with good answers to all the questions will be playing!


About vlg338
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