The Dark Winter Exercise and the Current Ebola Problem

Dark Winter Offered A Warning
Dark Winter Offered A Warning

In June of 2001, Johns Hopkins University hosted a Bio-Terror Preparedness Drill known as The Dark Winter Exercise. The effort is described below.


On June 22-23, 2001, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies, the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention Terrorism, hosted a senior-level war game examining the national security, intergovernmental, and information challenges of a biological attack on the American homeland.

This exercise examined what it would be like to lead the United States in the event of a bio-terror attack. It’s the sort of thing that more aspiring politicians should take part in. Being in charge of something like this could cure of the unholy desire to constantly be in charge. However, the exercise offered a bevy of lessons learned that our government could benefit from today in combating the growing threat of Ebola that seems to have arrived in the US of A just in time for Christmas.

The results of the exercise were subjected to an after action review which yielded several findings of varying applicability to our current conundrum. I summarize these below, they can be found in long form at the link I embedded in paragraph 1.

Finding 1) “Massive civilian casualties, breakdown in essential institutions, violation of democratic processes, civil disorder, loss of confidence in government and reduced U.S. strategic flexibility abroad are among the ways a biological attack might compromise U.S. security”


We are seeing the beginnings of the breakdown of institutions, and a loss of confidence in the government. I would argue the number of Ebola infections hasn’t yet reached a high enough count or a wide enough geographic distribution to lead to outright societal panic. This still leaves our civil authorities a window in which they can take necessary and intelligent actions to prevent this from becoming a full-blown disaster for America.

Finding 2) “Current organizational structures and capabilities are not well suited for the management of a BW attack.”

Still true. I thought it might be the case when I posted here. I have come to believe this is the current state of play, as I posted yesterday. This will continue to cause us unnecessary death, but the damage done from our own organizational cowardice and stupidity can be limited by intelligent decision-making at the top.

Finding 3) ”There is no surge capability in the U.S. healthcare and public health systems, or in the pharmaceutical and vaccine industries.”

One of the greatest opportunities our government has to repair some of the damage it has done to us through incompetent, corrupt Bureaucratic Science and PC Epidemiology, would be to organize our resources in the next two weeks so that we have an effective national quarantine, vaccine development and treatment center up and running in Atlanta Georgia prior to 7 Nov 2014. Get that done and President Barack Obama and whoever he tasks this out to; have earned their Crisis Management Merit Badge.


Finding 4)”Dealing with the media will be a major immediate challenge for all levels of government.”

If it oozes and bleeds, it (expletive-deleted) leads! Only an authoritative, well-organized and radically honest program of daily communication will help combat the Geraldo Rivera Effect on this one.

And here is one man’s opinion of how we can apply the lessons learned from Dark Winter to better protect the American public.

1) We are nowhere near as badly situated as “The Honorable” Sam Nunn was as he role-played the President. Dark Winter featured a deliberate Small-Pox bio-weapon attack that instantly introduced 3,000 infections in three separate locations. We’ve got maybe five to ten Ebola victims at present that are probably loose and completely unaccounted for. Find those 5 or 10 and we can almost have this contained by Thanksgiving.

2) Get a central facility up and running in Atlanta where all diagnosed Ebola patients are transported, treated and quarantined. Attach a cadre of trainers to teach Doctors and Nurses how to protect themselves while treating these individuals. Get several effective immunologists and epidemiologists to work immediately on developing a vaccination.

3) Ban flights from epidemic-stricken countries.

4) Develop a daily schedule of educational and informational briefings that go to the American People through as few layers of professional media and opinion journalism as possible. Tell us how many, how bad and how to protect ourselves with no regard for how scary it sounds or who loses what Senate Seat.


5) Shut down the massive illegal immigration of unaccompanied minors across the Southern Border. We need this to happen before Index Ebola patients are found in either Mexico City or Recife.

6) Set up an immediate working group between Congress, The White House and the judiciary to lay out exactly what extra-legal and extra-Constitutional powers will be needed to save lives and under what conditions they will have to go into effect.

This doesn’t have to turn into a disaster. Let’s hope our leadership gets busy making sure that it doesn’t. The Dark Winter Exercise is useful as a set of lessons learned. I’m still thinking we will never get that badly hurt by the Ebola Virus. Smallpox is far more contagious and The Dark Winter Scenario assumed a much larger and more distributed population of initial infections. We can get it done and prevent disaster. Pray that our leadership will.


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