The Bipartisan Policy Center, which has ported over the 9/11 Commission co-chairs, Lee Hamilton and Tom Keane, is coordinating the major cyber exercise this week. The U.S. Government has conducted closed versions of cyber war games several times before, and the results are held very closely. At other times, cyber attacks have been injected into broader exercise scenarios but almost always are abandoned because it “ruins” the wider training value. That means cyber brings the entire show to a halt because we really do not know how to deal with it.

The BPC should be commended for its openness. This exercise will be completely transparent and open to the press. CNN has agreed to record the event for broadcast later in the week. Wow. It should be quite a show

The actual participants don’t know the scenario ahead of time; it will all be real time for them. It is said to be a dynamic test where runners with cards enter the “Sit Room” with continually unfolding new information. Insiders say it is not an obvious set of incidents, and it will not be easy to mitigate.

The war game is not sponsored by the government. The Department of Homeland Security would normally be the “host,” but this one is being conducted independently and will include former senior office holders from several administrations. The goal is for it to be as realistic as possible, featuring senior intelligence and national security officials, including former directors of intelligence agencies and combatant commands and homeland security advisers. A production company has been hired to re-create a White House Sit Room in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and professional scriptwriters have been working with experts to create a real-life scenario. It will end with participants stepping out of their roles for an honest, on-the-spot review, which is open to the press.

Players will include Ambassador John Negroponte, the first DNI and former Deputy Secretary of State, as the exercise Secretary of State. Ex-DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff will be the National Security Adviser. Fran Townsend, the former White House Homeland Security Adviser, will be the Secretary of DHS. Former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin will be the Director of National Intelligence. Other former government players are Stewart Baker and Joe Lockhart.

Bottom line is that this is a landmark event that will show us where we stand in the face of such a (likely) event.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More