Since the findings of the simulation have not been made public in it’s entirety, I started doing a little digging for 1st hand accounts of the simulation and/or testimony that revisited the exercise.
Below, I have included pages 24, 25 and 26 of a transcript from the First session of the 109th Congress, Senate Hearing: To Review BioSecurity Preparedness and Efforts to Address AgroTerrorism Threats. This specific transcript is one of the few places one can find more than a couple of brief sentences regarding Crimson Sky and what really took place. If you needed a reason to question DHS’s logic for the NBAF here’s your sign.
Back in 2002, I joined an exercise held by the department called Crimson Sky. That was sort of a misnomer because it followed the experience of Great Britain in regards to their problems with their livestock herds. They used that method in regards in incinerating the animals, which is probably the worst thing you could have done, as we found out.
There wasn’t anybody else in town, so I played the role of President in this exercise, and it simulated the intentional introduction of foot and mouth disease in five different locations. By the way,the person who did that was from Iraq, at least in the exercise. The impact was incredible. In 6 days, if you do not detect the disease, that is when this or the effects of the disease first become obvious, and then it is too late. All of our exports stop. People in the cities discovered that their food doesn’t come from grocery stores, and panic set in. The markets went crazy.
Basically, we had States calling out the National Guard. That is when we had the National Guard in the States, not over in Iraq and in Afghanistan and everywhere else, setting up all sorts of border situations so livestock in Texas couldn’t go to Oklahoma; Oklahoma couldn’t go to Kansas; Kansas couldn’t go to Nebraska; etc.,etc. It got pretty rough except everybody finally realized that all of the States were involved and we had to do something.
As President, I stopped the movement of all livestock. The Secretary of Commerce said you couldn’t do that. So I fired him, and it felt very good. But it was absolute chaos and not only for 1 year and not only for livestock, but every crop. So if you talk about a real problem, that was a real problem.
So, Chuck, can you tell me are you still conducting these kind of exercises? You probably don’t want to have me play President, but at any rate, are we doing the exercises that we need to do in conjunction with your compatriots up there on the panel, and has that impacted the way you do business?
Mr. CONNER. President Roberts—
Senator ROBERTS. No. That is Brownback. That is not me.
Mr. CONNER. First of all, we did appreciate the role that you played in that. I think that was a very important simulation for us and we learned a great deal from that. I would just harkenbacktosome of the experiences and, again, what we learned from that just in terms of the importance of quarantine and the role that that plays in an event like this, and I think others mentioned earlier the GAO report, this focus upon the vaccines. I think one of the problems you have with relying upon the vaccines to control situations like this is the fact that it does not do much for you in terms of international.
Senator ROBERTS. We had to terminate almost every herd in America. I mean that was the end result. It was an incredible experience when you really finally got down to the final answer to stop what was going on. We had to call out the National Guard and call out the military. Quite frankly, we ran out of ammunition. It was a mess, and then you had PETA on television, and I can’t describe the utter chaos that happened.
Mr. CONNER. I was there, if you recall, sir.
Senator ROBERTS. It was something that I had quite not expected all of the ramifications to happen. If we have that, we don’t have the vaccines to do that.
Mr. CONNER. No.
Senator ROBERTS. We had to dig ditches miles long out of the water supply to get rid of the animals, and it was just absolutely devastating, which really gets back to the intelligence factor and are we getting enough intelligence.
Your prepared testimony discusses the Food and Agricultural Government Coordinating Council as the Department of Homeland Security, USDA, and HHS, along with Federal, State, and local officials,
and I know that the DHS is the lead agency. How often do you meet?
Ms. MCCARTHY. Well, sir, there is actually a meeting with the full coordinating council next week.
Senator ROBERTS. Good.
Ms. MCCARTHY. And the subgroups meet regularly. There are lots of discussions that go out across the community both internal to the Federal Government and also across into the private sector.
Senator ROBERTS. Chuck, your prepared testimony talks about rapid test kits, and there is a lot of that in some legislation. I know Senator Cochran has been very interested in this. Can you tell me do we have the rapid test kits? I am talking about livestock here. Have they been distributed to the States? Are they located at the State labs? At the universities? At law enforcement, so on and so forth? Is there training? Where are we with that?
Mr. CONNER. Well, I think the rapid test kits are an important part of that, Senator Roberts, and I may need to supplement and get some APHIS people to give you the precise answer just in terms of their development, but let me just say the simulation, Crimson Sky situation that we had, underscored for us the importance of that rapid communication and knowing that if you get a positive hit somewhere in America, that information needs to be out there and distributed to our laboratory network very, very quickly so that we can get those containment measures in place before it does what happened in the simulation and gets too far away from us.
That has been a big part of what we have done with the additional resources that have been given us, is to improve this rapid communication and coordination among our labs so that we know almost instantaneously when something like this happens and then provide the appropriate notification to our colleagues at Homeland Security. FBI has been tasked to work with our I.G. so that they are involved in the event if it is a law enforcement-type issue.
Senator ROBERTS. That is after he reads the GAO report? Right?
Mr. CONNER. That is right.
Senator ROBERTS. All right. We have heard a lot lately. We even had a vote on the Senate floor regarding the distribution of homeland security funding, high threat versus lower threat areas, city versus rule. That is what it was about.
So, Dr. McCarthy, what priority is given to threats that are related to food and agriculture security when making these designations? Do you weigh in on that?
Ms. MCCARTHY. Yes, sir, we do, and I can tell you the risked based approach that we are taking right now looks at the integration of threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences. We are concentrating heavily, though, on things that we think can have a catastrophic impact to the country, a national scale impact. So threats to the agriculture are things that we take very seriously. Actually, many of those wind up falling in the catastrophic category. Catastrophic doesn’t include not only casualties to humans, but it includes
potential economic impact or societal disruption.
So right now, the department has embarked on integrating a very solid rigorous risk-based approach to looking at those things that fall into the most catastrophic category, and those are the highest priority items that we are looking at, and there are all elements of the agricultural sector that are very important. Obviously, our big concern with foot and mouth disease reflects that.
Senator ROBERTS. I am glad to hear that.
After finding this and reading the transcript, I really wonder what Roberts is thinking.