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U.S. Department of Homeland Security  

Transcript of Background Briefing with Senior DHS Officials on TOPOFF 3

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010
April 8, 2005

WASHINGTON - Senior DHS Official: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. As you know, today we're concluding really a five-day operational execution phase of TOPOFF 3, which is basically built on top of a layer of about two years' worth of very detailed, comprehensive, and I can assure you, stressful planning. As I end the last day of my involvement in the exercise, but really two years' worth of activities, relationship building, and working out procedures and protocols.

We have learned a great deal from the exercise process itself in its execution phase. But I really also want to stress a lot of learning took place during the planning process, interacting not only with our state and local government counterparts, but for the first time in this TOPOFF exercise series, a very robust participation from the private sector, and actually very aggressive participation on the part of the government of Canada in its emergency management and counterterrorism functions, as well as those same functions on the part of the government of the United Kingdom. And a lot of great information sharing processes and procedures were executed during this event.

As you know, we deliberately built the scenario as a very complex WMD bioterrorism attack in New Jersey, as well as a kind of a dual-header in the state of Connecticut in terms of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, and then a simultaneous chemical attack.

The system in TOPOFF 3 across the board was tested as never before, and this was deliberate. We wanted to test the full range of our incident management processes and protocols that spanned prevention, intelligence and information-sharing, and then the more classic or traditional response and recovery. But really for the first time in a national-level exercise, we really got at a near simultaneous WMD attack which is, of course, very, very stressful for the federal folks, as well as our state, local and international partners.

And just when we thought we had turned the corner on this, our friends in the United Kingdom got hit about halfway through the exercise. And of course, terrorism is not a localized or even a national phenomenon, it's an international phenomenon. And that generated a lot of great interaction between us and our partners at all levels.

We've pulled together for this operation in both the planning and execution phases, about 275 federal departments and agencies, state and local organizations from the government side of the house as well as the first responder community. And again, the private sector, as well. So this was a Herculean effort just in terms of the great participation we got, and really our heartfelt thanks go out to all those folks that made this happen, from the governors and the mayors all the way down to the people that were -- simulating victims of the attacks.

Four major objectives, I would say, for TOPOFF 3. First and foremost was our ability to manage and respond as a nation to a horrific set of twin WMD attacks. This was the first time that we've actually energized our recently issued National Incident Management System and our National Response Plan. And I can assure you, we took these two cars off the showroom floor and we took them on a very, very challenging test ride. I'm reminded of the commercials I've seen recently of the Jeep driving through all terrain, and it comes out with a lot of mud on it, which is to be expected when you put it through the test.

We built under the National Response Plan a series of coordination protocols at the national level that also have linkages down into our state and local partners, as well as out to our private sector partners, and we played those as robustly as we could. I must say with the caveat, we deliberately built in the maximum stress possible across all phases of the exercise. As most of you know, we began the exercise operational phase actually the first week in March with an intelligence and information buildup, which actually had built into it a couple different preventable acts, if, of terms of we had our act together with our state and local partners information sharing-wise, we should have been able to prevent a couple of attacks, which, in fact, we did during the course of the exercise.

But had we prevented all of the acts, we would not have had a full-scale event this week. So we deliberately built in some failures in the system in terms of -- that allowed some attacks to take place where we built in, again, in a predetermined manner a lot of different casualties and different venues so that we could fully test and get play for all aspects of the first responder community across various disciplines. So a lot of that was deliberate and a function of the exercise, design and control process.

Again, we have very good feelings about how our National Incident Management System and National Response Plan performed on this test ride. And we're anxious to continue tweaking those documents now as we build our actually an interesting phase now; we have the baseline documents that we're now going to build standard operating procedures and operational supplements that will build the details and the lessons learned in the relationships that we've built as a result of this exercise into a follow-on set of operator-type protocols that will be put into effect.

The second major objective this TOPOFF was to really get a handle on information-sharing across all levels of government here in the United States, out to the private sector, and then importantly try to figure out how that process works with Canada and with the United Kingdom.

And again, I have some good news to report in that area. A lot of information-sharing done real time, very complex across all these different jurisdictions and across international boundaries. A great example of that process at work is that when we were locked and cocked here at the Orange level, and then yesterday we had the horrific subway bombings happen in London, we pulsed our folks in London for information about the actual dynamics of that attack and were able to get that information within a very short amount of time back here at DHS headquarters, work with the FBI and our state Homeland Security advisory network to push out the particulars of that attack to our state and local law enforcement partners, so that they were able to get the word out to the major transit systems across the United States on how we thought that attack went down in London and were able to export some advisories and cautionary information out to our communities of interest in the United States prior to our evening rush hour people coming home from work across the Eastern seaboard, which was very useful.

The third major objective, of course, of TOPOFF was to test our public communications strategies, protocols and processes, because as you all are very much aware, the physical damage associated with a horrific WMD terrorism attack has to be managed through a coordinated public affairs messaging across all levels of government, every one in sync, every one on the same message explaining ground truth about what is happening and what is not happening, and then fashioning a coordinated set of public -- or communications to the public so we can get our arms around the incident and begin the lifesaving process and minimize the panic and public perception on a negative sense.

We thought that we did a great job setting up our national-level processes here that are interagency in nature, as well as setting up joint information centers in both venues, so at the local level we had an integrated federal, state, local and private sector team that was on board with the same message throughout the exercise in a very positive way.

And the fourth objective, and now this begins a very detailed and comprehensive process -- the exercise ain't over yet. It's not over until we fully capture all the lessons learned, document them, and hear from all parties involved in about a four- to six-month process as the next phase. This is perhaps the most significant phase of the exercise for us because we capture things where we've done good, where we need to make improvement. In those areas where we need to make improvements, we build them in to our protocols in an ever bettering process.

We're better now than we were in TOPOFF 2, and we're going to be much better in TOPOFF 4. But I'm confident that we're acting even now on some things that we picked up during the exercise so that if an incident occurred tomorrow, we're going to be much better off.

Again, we bill this as the largest, most complex, comprehensive and dynamic exercise counterterrorism-wise we've ever conducted in the United States. And I can assure you that we stressed every part of that system, including me, personally, and put it on the line. And great kudos for everyone that subjected their jurisdictions to all this activity and for pulling together as a team. And I think actually the people of the United States would be proud of the job that their different governmental jurisdictions did to get them through this very horrific sequence of events.

That's all I have from the operational execution pieces of this. Now I'd like to turn it over another official to talk about some of the planning and preparedness aspects.

Senior DHS Official: Thanks. Just to follow up briefly, and then we're going to into questions. As previously indicated, huge thanks go out to lots of folks, not just at state and local level, although huge thanks do go to those folks in the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, as well as up in Canada and the U.K., but also huge thanks to the folks across the interagency at the federal levels who participated actively in this process, helped us develop the process to get where it was for the last five days, and then execute. Huge thanks to [my colleague] and his team for the level of involvement, and then thanks to the media, as well, for your attention to this process.

I know a lot of you have been out in New Jersey and Connecticut and here in Washington actively participating from a viewing standpoint to report on what we're doing. So I think that's all good and part of the learning curve for us.

Previously mentioned, we now hit this fourth element, which is really the after-action process. And I had the privilege, I guess, of being out in Connecticut for a day, in New Jersey for a day, and then here in Washington for day, all visiting various elements of what we were doing, whether it was the master control cell, the venue control cell, the venue sites. And what I saw was massive amounts of engagement at all levels, which is a good thing. Levels of government, across disciplines, engaged in this exercise. That importance of that full engagement is it's going to allow us to have the most robust after-action report that we can have. In all those locations, we had data-collectors whose entire focus in time this week was spent collecting data that would then populate the after-action report, which is really what leads us to identify what we did or did not do well, and then helps us close the gaps for vulnerabilities that existed at a certain level of government, across government, and within disciplines. So very important element.

Two final points. Again, this was the first time we really injected a very robust prevention element into the exercise, given what has occurred in terms of the 9/11 Commission and other elements. That was an important new step, next step for the TOPOFF program so that we could really start testing our prevention capabilities in terms of not only making sure we find the bits of data that are in the intelligence streams but also analyzing it and then sharing it appropriately. And so that's a good thing, and I look forward to seeing what the after-action report says about how we did there.

And finally, what I think is often overlooked with the TOPOFF program that I think is equally as important is not just the actual exercise itself, but frankly, the relationships that are built across government, across disciplines in the two years that lead up to the exercise and in the five days of the exercise, so that people get to know across the country who it is that they actually do turn to, who do they call when these things are occurring, how do we begin to establish those relationships that are going to be the relationships we're going to need to depend on if something does occur.

And so I think that's a very important piece of this exercise program, as well, are those relationships that are forged across the country and in this case now, internationally. And so with that, I will end my comments and turn it back over.

Senior DHS Official: Okay, we'll go ahead and take the Q&A now.

Question: I guess I would hope that you could identify some things that have already -- are evident, that I know that you're going to be spending some time with this after-action report, but what are some things that are already obvious to you, areas where you feel that there needs to be some work? Such as, for example, in Connecticut, apparently, the state Department of Health was saying that it was not safe for people to go outside while there was a guy on DNN from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms saying that the site had been cleared and it was safe to go outside. Are you aware of that incident? Are there other things like that that have already become apparent that are obvious that you need to work on?

Senior DHS Official: I can't stress enough the importance for us to take a step back and really wait for the after-action process to unfold so we can identify those various anecdotes that you may or may not have heard over the last five days and may or may not be accurate.

And so I want to make sure before I comment on these types of things that I let the after-action report play out so that we get what real information is out there, what really occurred, and what we need to really fix. Anything short of that starts getting to be somewhat myopic.

Question: So there's nothing at all that's become apparent to you, there's nothing that was evident superficially without having the specifics that it was clear that there was an area that you needed to do some work, not a single thing?

Senior DHS Official: Again, I didn't say that. What I did say was I wanted the after-action process to play out so that we can identify what did or did not occur beyond what anecdotes may have been reported at various levels, or talked about at various levels. So I want to have some assurances that the after-action process has a chance to play out, that we identify what did or did not occur, what mistakes may or may not have been made so we can then start working forward in closing the gaps and fixing those vulnerabilities.

Senior DHS Official: I have a comment that I'd like to make in terms of, I think for me the single most important thing in terms of a lesson learned, a positive lesson learned, is really the importance of prior planning with our state and local and private sector partners in order to get ready for these WMD incidents that may or may not be in our future. That's anyone's guess at this point, but we have to assume that they are at some point.

The two-year planning cycle with our two state venue partners was absolutely fundamental to the excess of the things that we're able to do on a very complex scale during this exercise. So I think one of the challenges for us at this point now is we have a National Incident Management System, a National Response Plan. -- both have been recently published within the near-term time frame -- continuing education and awareness with our state, local and private sector partners, and now our international partners, actually, to make sure everyone on all sides of the fence are aware of the agreed-upon protocols and procedures and coordinating structures that are outlined in those documents, and then realizing collectively that we have to do a whole bunch in our near-term future of integrated planning with our state and local partners so we flesh out the over-arching, coordinating structures that are contained in those documents to the specifics of the jurisdictions and the environments that we will have to face where these incidents may occur.

Because no matter how hard we try, there's just not one single checklist that we can pull off the shelf and automatically gives us all the right answers to any given problem. So again, big lesson learned is we've got, I think, a great set of general structures right now, but they're going to require some very detailed integrated planning with our state, local, and private sector and international partners to really make sure that we're all fully prepared and understand the nuances associated with the environments where these incidents will occur.

So I think that's for me the fundamental lesson learned in all this -- that relationships and the planning prior to it, to the actual execution of any operational responsibilities is the key to success.

Question: You talk about the intelligence buildup in March. Did you say that if the agencies had responded properly they could have prevented the attacks? And what other attacks were prevented based on that buildup?

Senior DHS Official: For the answer to that, there were certain events that were preventable during the first phase of the operation if we, for example, at the national level uncovered through intelligence analysis some plot themes and got those out into the hands of our state and local and private sector law enforcement and security counterparts, those kinds of acts could have been prevented.

We built -- we got a couple of those kinds of things, and I don't have the specifics on the scenario because I try to stay away from the scenario myself so I could be a legitimate player in this prior, but we did avert some attacks during that initial phase in March.

We deliberately -- the attacks that happened this week could not have been prevented, and we deliberately built those in because we wanted to exercise the first responder piece of this after an incident had occurred, to work through the hospital emergency room processes, the fire guys, the policemen across the jurisdictions affected. We deliberately allowed these attacks to happen so we could exercise that part of the system.

Question: What's the final number of fatalities that you registered in both New Jersey and Connecticut? And was this in line with what you had anticipated? Was it more, was it less?

Senior DHS Official: I'm sorry, could you repeat that one more time?

Question: Yes, I'm sorry, what was the number of fatalities in the end in both New Jersey and Connecticut? And was that in line with what you had anticipated?

Senior DHS Official: I would say -- I don't think we're right now going to reveal the specific number.

Senior DHS Official: That is correct. That is correct because we're still gathering that data.

Question: Well, can you at least tell me, does it look like it was more than you expected or is it less than you expected?

Senior DHS Official: Again, until we get all the final data in, I can't say whether it's more or less.

Senior DHS Official: Just say in the thousands.

Senior DHS Official: And again, I want to stress the point that there's a certain exercise artificiality when we get into the examination of the numbers because no matter how good we were or what we did, we had to allow certain numbers of casualties to be built in so we could fully test the entire hospital triage system, treatment system, the distribution of the antibiotics. We had to build in some rather large numbers so we could test a statewide process. So that's a lot of what you're going to see when you get those final counts.

Question: Thanks.

Question: Can either of you speak to any involvement by Northern Command, and/or DOD's WMD specially trained teams?

Senior DHS Official: The specifics of the request for assistance -- the Department of Defense, of course, when we energize our local federal joint field office, we have representatives of various federal departments and agencies. The Defense Department pushes forward a defense coordination officer normally at the colonel or O6 level to handle the DOD participation in this piece. The way the process works, unmet requirements from the state and local level will come into this joint field office, and the federal interagency partners will determine is there a federal solution to the problem, and if so, which agency might be the best agency to offer up a solution. And is there a local federal solution available, or do we have to bump it up to the regional or national levels.

I believe that we built in some deliberate Department of Defense play in this exercise, some of it in coordination with the state National Guard units to figure out who might have the best capability and be able to best respond. And we had quite a bit of analysis and assessments in terms of DOD hospital capability where I believe there were some DOD mobile hospital requirements built into each venue that were sourced by DOD. And we were somewhere in the process of those being mobilized, energized and deployed on site.

Also there were DOD requirements to, I believe, provide DOD airlift or transportation for some critical care patients out of the Connecticut venue when the New England treatment capacity for some of the more severe casualties that had experienced chemical burns had to be flown to other burn centers across the country. I believe that DOD volunteered for the mission and taskings to transport those patients to those -- through the DOD medical system out to those other care centers.

But again, they're integrally involved in the planning process and the resource determination and sourcing process for each venue. And they were considered for hospital bed capacity, mobile capacity for treatment. Some of the DOD medical system got energized, and the DOD airlift system got energized.

Question: Okay, thanks.

Question: My question is, what specific procedures led to the improvement in information-sharing between all the different agencies?

Senior DHS Official: Again, I believe there are some process solutions that we've developed in the last two years of our existence as a Department of Homeland Security, as well as some technical or technological solutions to the issues.

In the National Response Plan, we have processes and protocols built in that mandate the sharing of information and intelligence between the federal departments and agencies, a vetting and clearance process that we've taken as much time out of that as possible, and then pushed down to the state and local and also private sector security offices across the critical infrastructure structures as an example of processes that are now built into the NRP. And you can read those, go to our DHS website, we have that document online that will walk you through those.

But I think also importantly, we've been working to ensure that our Homeland Security Ops Center is able to pass real-time information in our Joint Regional Information Exchange System or network out to our state and local partners in coordinated efforts with the FBI. So we now have real-time FUR* instant messaging capability where law enforcement and Homeland Security-type data is passed back and forth between all jurisdiction levels across the country, and we now have placed in the hands of state governors and some of our top 50 urban population centers across the country actual capabilities for them to have -- where they do have now, provided by the federal government, secure voice equipment and secure video teleconferencing capability that they simply did not have a couple years ago.

So we have processes and protocols in place to share information, and we've worked hard to get people at the other end of the pipe clearances in the equipment capability to receive sensitive and even classified information at their end.

Question: I was wondering what role the private sector played in this exercise. And kind of related to that, was there any disruption of the internet or information systems, and was that part of the testing?

Senior DHS Official: The second portion of your question first, no, there was no interruption of the internet or any cyber-systems as part of the exercise.

The second piece, the private sector was involved in two ways -- actually, three ways -- first as a potential target or series of targets across the northeast region of the United States; and the challenge for us was to make sure that we had a good handle on sharing information on the threat with our private sector partners, as well as assessing what measures they had put in place with respect to that threat. The second piece was, after they had put measures in place to assess the impact from a business case, the economic and financial squeeze that those measures put on our private sector partners with respect to the threat, the protective measures in place, and the cascading effects of absenteeism, for example, in New Jersey we think had a huge role to play there, particularly within the chemical industry, in terms of the robustness and sustainability of protective measures across the board.

So, again, fact-finding, and we're still in the middle of all this at this point, figuring out how the terrorist threat, the security measures put in place, and the psychological dimension of massive terrorism attacks and what that does to the private sector, that will be part of our after-action analysis.

And the third part was the private sector as a source of support and donations in terms of equipment or blood supplies, volunteerism. The private sector has always been huge for this. They stepped up to the plate this time as well, and we're working through our National Infrastructure Coordination Center as a central point of contact in cooperation with the organizations like the Red Cross that tap the private sector as a source of help in situations like this.

Question: I wonder -- I'm sure maybe others know, but I don't -- what are some of the actual companies, firms that were participants?

Senior DHS Official: If we can get your information after the call, if you want to call back into our volunteer shop, we can get you a list of the actual companies that were playing in the exercise. There are quite a large number of them, actually.

Senior DHS Official: If you call, we'll get you that list.

Question: Thank you. And also, if you didn't test the internet for disruption, was that just because you're not ready to that yet, or would you do that in a future exercise of TOPOFF?

Senior DHS Official: Yes, in fact, during TOPOFF 2, we tested cyber-disruptions as part of the exercise. We have some plans in the works for different exercise events over the course of the next year that will have cyber-play.

This time, we felt we had enough with the bioattack, the chemical attack, and the VBID attack to deal with that we wanted to kind of focus on those WMD physical traumatic events at this point without building in yet another very complex dimension at this point.

Senior DHS Official: But also, just in terms of the usage of DHS's networks and internets and -- internet and everything else, it was just because of all the exercise play. It was certainly ramped up in stress because of all the additional users that were put on because of this exercise.

Question: Right. I mean, did you draw some conclusions that the internet is pretty dog-gone important?

Senior DHS Official: Well, we have drawn conclusions that information-sharing mechanisms and the cyber-components thereof are very important. We do not necessarily -- we have some additional pieces beyond the internet, of course, we go to, but in terms of a general information-sharing vehicle, with our public affairs component, for example, in a bioattack, it's very critical to as soon as you can let the public know what is happening, and almost as importantly, maybe more importantly, what is not happening to avoid unnecessary panic or to -- for the public to take the wrong precautionary measures. And we use the internet extensively, in terms of websites where people can take a hit on those websites and go and see exactly what the official federal government message is and message to the public is.

So we do use that as a quick access portal where people can come and find out what the heck's going on in addition to all the other media channels that we kick into motion.

Question: Thank you.

Question: I have, first, a procedural question. I'm just wondering why this briefing had to be on background. It seems mostly pretty straightforward information and some very useful quotes, and I'm wondering if we can get some questions on the record maybe at the end.

Senior DHS Official: Well, why don't you give us a call offline? Part of the problem with doing teleconferencing when we have people in different locations in the city, every time that they speak, they don't have to exactly clarify themselves at the end and say, this person said that. So it helps avoid confusion. But why don't you give us a call offline when you get done and talk to us about what you'd like to use. And we'll try and remember because we have a transcript on who said it.

Question: Okay, well, here are a couple of more substantive questions that I might like to use, then. One is what's your timeframe? And what's your method for identifying the important lessons and spreading that information to other jurisdictions that did not participate? You indicated -- one speaker indicated that you thought we'd do pretty well if there were an incident tomorrow. I wonder how well do you think you would do if there were an incident tomorrow in an area that has not experienced the exercise.

And secondly, was there any other international involvement, besides Canada and the U.K.? Did you make an effort to seek information or spread information elsewhere around the world through this exercise? Thank you.

Senior DHS Official: In terms of the process, we will essentially spend the next six -- four to six months going through all the data that was collected, identifying the lessons learned, and then doing the report to get that distributed. Once that's done, there will be different levels of the report that we will make available to different entities; the media will get one version, the states will get another version. Obviously, there's information in there that we will -- that is sensitive, so we'll be careful on how we distribute that. Where we will put that information, in terms of the lessons learned, we will populate the lessons learned information-sharing website, which is the tool we launched over a year ago for the very purpose of sharing lessons learned across jurisdictions and across the country.

So that's the answer to question number one. Question number two -- and [my colleagues] can add to this if I don't cover it, but other than the player aspect of the international play with the United Kingdom and Canada, we did have a number of international observers come in who essentially observed the exercise in places like Connecticut and New Jersey and Washington, and I believe the number was somewhere around 13 countries had representatives here to observe the exercise.

Question: Can you say what some of the countries were?

Senior DHS Official: I think we had, I believe, Singapore, France, and Australia, to name a couple.

Question: Okay, there was a second part to my first question, and that is, how well do you think you'd do, considering that it's a four- to six-month process you've identified, how well do you think we would do in the event of a terrorist attack in the very near future in an area that hasn't participated in an exercise.

Senior DHS Official: I'll take that one on. I'm going to say that the federal team that went through this exercise here over the last -- this week specifically, with the full-scale boots on the ground events, and then the prior exercise, intel-information-sharing buildup phase last month, that's the same exact team that's going to take the country into the response piece if we do have a terrorism incident anywhere in the United States of America or its territories. It's the same team, where there weren't role players; this is it. So this team is now very well rehearsed, worked together in a very comprehensive manner, and this exercise made us even more aware of concerns that governors and state emergency managers and state law enforcement officials have, using the Connecticut folks and the New Jersey folks as representative samples of Americans across the dimensions of our country.

The federal team is rehearsed. We kind of know where to look for things, where we need to be on message with the state and local folks, and there are just key principles or objectives that it really doesn't matter who the state or local partners will be. They're going to be applicable to any type of situation across the board, regardless of incident type, and those are things like setting up joint information centers, setting up joint field offices to make sure we have cross-discipline representation from the federal family and the state and local family. We now know how important those kind of structures are, and they are more or less universally applicable, but again, have to be tailored once we determine where the incident is. There will be specific tailoring based upon the nuances associated with each jurisdiction.

Question: Thank you.

Question: Two questions. One is, you mentioned that there were some attacks that were preventable by the successful interpretation of intelligence. Did you deter all of the attacks? How many attacks are we talking about? And -- or did any of those attacks proceed?

And the second one was, I was in Connecticut, wasn't in New Jersey, but I was hoping you could give us an overview of the scenarios themselves again.

Senior DHS Official: In terms of the overview of the scenarios, in New Jersey, we had a pneumonic plague attack that began some time over the weekend, and we were made aware of the fact that we were under attack due to a significant amount of people that were presenting with flu-like symptoms by late morning and early afternoon of Monday of this week, and that is what began to clue us in. Then we also had, almost simultaneous with that, some investigative leads, and the FBI working with, in partnership with state and local law enforcement, uncovered an actual vehicle with a jerry-rigged spring device that led us to the conclusion that we had an aerial dispersal of a pneumonic plague agent in a certain piece of New Jersey, and that started that process in motion.

The Connecticut venue basically featured a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, in conjunction with a festival where a large number of people were gathered. And in subsequent investigation, we found out that there was a chemical agent also involved in the detonation of the vehicle bomb, and also -- almost near simultaneous with that, people started presenting with burn-like symptoms at various hospital emergency rooms in that particular venue.

Question: And about the success of the interpretation of the intelligence prior to these --

Senior DHS Official: Yes, what we did is we had lots of information that kind of highlighted the fact that we had some numerous individuals of concern operating in different locations throughout the northeast United States, and FBI, working in partnership with state and local law enforcement, were able to follow some investigation -- investigative leads where we were actually able to make some arrests of some individuals that had information dealing with other plotlines that were not the plotlines associated with the attacks that eventually did occur on Monday of this week, but with plotlines associated with other potential attacks or weapons caches or things that were leading us down the path to these other plotlines that did actually unfold on Monday but weren't quite there yet.

So we were able to prevent, or able to grab some people, able to grab some weapons, able to grab some information that we believe allowed us to successfully thwart a couple of events during the week or two prior to the actual full-scale events on Monday, and some actors that, of course, did not come up in the information surge associated with those activities, so that we had to deliberately build those in so we could get first responder play during the full-scale event.

Question: If I could just follow up, during the full-scale event, were there indications of other actors who were not caught, or did you have the best possible outcome in making these mock arrests?

Senior DHS Official: In terms of activities in the United States, we believe that all individuals that were associated with the plotlines that were able to follow through the buildup phase and then into the boots on the ground phase of the exercise, we policed up the individuals, the sprayer devices, the suspect vehicles in question. We were able to do that, and also produce information that we actually exported over to the United Kingdom and across the border into Canada.

And actually, the Canadians were very, very helpful working with our Customs and Border Protection folks to place into custody some perpetrators of the Connecticut venue attacks that actually had fled across the border in a remote part of Maine into Canada.

Question: Given that you're saying that it's going to take four to six months in order to really process the results, but a terrorist attack could happen at any time, it's kind of a race against time -- is there anything that you're pushing out now to the state and locals or to the private sector, based on this, in the immediate future? And if not, can we take from this that there are no immediate glaring gaps in our response system?

Senior DHS Official: I think we are not going to sit back for the next four to six months while the after-action process unfolds and just wait until that report is finalized to actually start doing work. I think as [my colleague] alluded to earlier, as we get information out of that process, and even stuff that I think we've probably picked up already, we're going to start moving forward with fixing it or putting in the right processes to get things on the right track.

And so we're not going to wait until the end of the AAR report for us to actually do the work that needs to be done to get us to the right level.

So the answer to your question is, no, we're going to start implementing -- as soon as we get the right information to correct any problems that are out there.

Question: Okay.

Senior DHS Official: One other thing that we're doing that folks should be aware of here is we're -- again, our National Response Plan was actually released just about a couple months prior to the execution of this exercise. We are -- as an education awareness piece, which I have to stress is very, very important -- it's not enough to just read these documents on the website, you have to get some hands-on with them for them to be fully effective -- we are taking the National Response Plan and the National Incident Management System on a road show, actually, across the country over the next couple months, and using our DHS and actual FBI regional structures to pull the appropriate audiences together, working our way across the country and in large groups of people within the first responder, law enforcement and governmental structures across the country, really, and bringing them some really beneficial hands-on briefings and seminars and practical exposure to the NRP and the NIMS in the next couple months.

Question: And just one other quick question. Right before you did the exercise, there was the anthrax scare at the Pentagon, and I'm just wondering if you looked at that in the response, and whether or not that played into any adjustments that you made to the -- to TOPOFF. And if you have any comment about the response or the lack of coordination in the response that happened with regard to the anthrax.

Senior DHS Official: No.

Question: I've got a question. I was just curious as to why plague was chosen as the biological agent. Because it had already been used or practiced against, I guess, in a past TOPOFF exercise?

Senior DHS Official: From a design and control perspective, do you have any --

Senior DHS Official: You know, I think as we worked through it with the subject matter experts and the whole planning environment, it just seemed like the right -- the right bioagent to use, because of its ability, from an aerosol standpoint, as well as, I think, from a communicable standpoint, that it wasn't going to be necessarily noticeable initially. And so -- but I don't have all the details. We can probably get back to offline on that detail.

Thank you very much.