Center for BiosecurityUPMC
Dark Winter
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Exercise developed and produced by:

Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies

The Center for Strategic and International Studies

The ANSER Institute for Homeland Security

The Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism

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Home > Events > Dark Winter.


Exercise Overview

June 22-23, 2001

The Dark Winter exercise portrayed a fictional scenario depicting a covert smallpox attack on U.S. citizens. The scenario is set in three successive National Security Council (NSC) meetings (Segments 1,2 and 3) which take place over a period of 14 days. Former senior government officials played the roles of NSC members responding to the evolving epidemic; representatives from the media were among the observers of these mock NSC meetings and played journalists during the scenario's press conferences (see Players List). The exercise itself was held at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., on June 22-23, 2001.

The Dark Winter exercise was the collaborative effort of four organizations. John Hamre of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) initiated and conceived of an exercise wherein senior former officials would respond to a bioterrorist induced national security crisis. Tara O'Toole and Tom Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies and Randy Larsen and Mark DeMier of Analytic Services Inc. (ANSER) were the principal designers, authors and controllers of Dark Winter. Sue Reingold of CSIS managed administrative and logistical arrangements. General Dennis Reimer of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) provided funding for Dark Winter.


Additional Information

July 23, 2001 House Hearing on Combating Terrorism: Federal Response to a Biological Weapons Attack

I was honored to play the part of the President in the exercise Dark Winter.... You often don't know what you don't know until you've been tested. And it's a lucky thing for the United States that, as the emergency broadcast network used to say, 'this is just a test, this is not a real emergency.' But Mr. Chairman, our lack of preparation is a real emergency.

— The Honorable Sam Nunn in testimony before the House Government Reform Committee,Subcommittee on
National Security,Veterans Affairs and International Relations, July 23, 2001

Shining Light on "Dark Winter"
article published electronically on 02/19/02 in
Confronting Biological Weapons:
a special section in Clinical Infectious Diseases