Questions Raised Over Terror Exercise (TOPOFF )http://apnews.myway.com/article/20071003/D8S1N7080.html
Participants perform their roles during a terrorism response exercise 04 April 2005 in New London, CT. The comprehensive drill, dubbed "TOPOFF 3" (short for Top Official), is part of a five-day exercise simulating chemical and biological terrorist attacks in the eastern US states of Connecticut and New Jersey. (Don Emmert, AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation is preparing for its biggest terrorism exercise ever next week when three fictional "dirty bombs" go off and cripple transportation arteries in two major U.S. cities and Guam, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.
Yet even as this drill begins, details from the previous national exercise held in 2005 have yet to be publicly released - information that's supposed to help officials prepare for the next real attack.
House lawmakers were expected to demand answers Wednesday, including why the "after-action" report from 2005 hasn't been made public. Congress has required the exercise since 2000, but has done little in the way of oversight beyond attending the actual events.
Next week will be the fourth Top Officials exercise - dubbed TOPOFF. The program costs about $25 million a year and involves the federal government's highest officials, such as top people from the Defense and Homeland Security departments.
"The challenge with TOPOFF is not the exercise itself. It's to move as quickly as possible to remedy what perceives to be the problems that are uncovered," former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said in an interview with AP this week.
Ridge, who launched his own security consulting company on Monday, said he's a big fan of the TOPOFF exercises. But he said "it's not acceptable" that the review from the 2005 exercise is still not released publicly.
The House Homeland Security emergency communications, preparedness and response subcommittee was holding a hearing Wednesday on the terrorism exercise program.
This year's TOPOFF will build on lessons learned from previous exercises, according to the Homeland Security Department, which runs the program. The agency said the Oct. 15-19 exercise would be "the largest and most comprehensive" to date.
According to an internal department briefing of next week's exercise obtained by AP, a dirty bomb will go off at a Cabras power plant in Guam; another dirty bomb will explode on the Steel Bridge in Portland, Ore., impacting major transportation systems, and a third dirty bomb will explode at the intersection of busy routes 101 and 202 near Phoenix.
Local hospitals and law enforcement agencies will be involved in the "attacks" by the dirty bombs, which are conventional explosives that include some radioactive material that would cause contamination over a limited area but not create actual nuclear explosions.
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