8/26/2005

www.GovExec.com - U.S. ports begin catastrophic terrorist attack drills (8/25/05)

U.S. ports begin catastrophic terrorist attack drills

By Joe Fiorill, Global Security Newswire
U.S. ports are preparing for catastrophic terrorism in a major new program of security drills that began last week in the San Francisco Bay area and continues next week in Baltimore

The federal Port Security Training Exercises Program (PortSTEP) brings together government and private-sector officials responsible for maritime transportation and commerce, emergency response and land transit in 40 port districts around the United States. Officials participate in fictitious incident scenarios intended to reflect the terrorist threat environment.

"Everyone was really, really engaged because the scenarios were very realistic" in the San Francisco Bay exercises, Universal Systems and Technology Inc. Vice President for Homeland Security David Holmes said Wednesday.

The company, known as Unitech, was the lead contractor for last week's exercises and will fill that role for most of the exercises scheduled around the country through September 2007. The Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration are administering the program.

Holmes would not specifically say whether weapons of mass destruction figured in the San Francisco Bay scenarios.

"You certainly have to know what the realities are today, what the challenges are today" in order to design realistic exercises, Holmes said. "What are the events that could shut down, for example, transportation or the shipping industry on the West Coast?"

The 40 sets of exercises are being conducted in seaports and inland ports of various sizes and terrorist threat profiles, ranging from Chicago to San Juan, Virgin Islands. Holmes said exercises would be tailored to the ports' varying situations, potentially involving threats to cruise ships in San Juan or to sea commerce in Long Beach, Calif.

www.GovExec.com - U.S. ports begin catastrophic terrorist attack drills (8/25/05)

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