The Dark Winter exercise was a 2001 fictional scenario depicting a covert smallpox attack on US citizens. Tara O'Toole (now Under Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology division) and Thomas Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies (now the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) / Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Randy Larsen and Mark DeMier of Analytic Services (ANSER) were the principal designers, authors, and controllers of the Dark Winter project.
Dark Winter purported to demonstrate the Federal government's inadequacies in the face of a bioterror threat-- within two weeks after the simulated smallpox attack on Oklahoma City, 16,000 Americans were infected and 6,000 were dead or dying.  After the exercise, the public and government officials became particularly concerned about the "bioterrorism threat," leading to the George Walker Bush Administration's decision to manufacture 300 million doses of the smallpox vaccine, and Republican Senate leaders inserting language into the 2006 Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 2863) granting legal immunity to vaccine manufacturers, even in cases of willful misconduct., 
An Army War College report later criticized the exercise for overstating the extent of the threat. According to the report, Dark Winter tripled the normal transmission rate for smallpox — “mak[ing] it next to impossible for the game players to do very much to contain the outbreak, and assur[ing] a disastrous outcome irrespective of whatever control measures the players may attempt to carry out.”, 
About the Exercise
- "The Dark Winter exercise portrayed a FICTIONAL scenario depicting a covert smallpox attack on US 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 Participant List). The exercise itself was held at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, D.C. on June 22-23, 2001.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, which participated in the Exercise, wrote:
- Dark Winter - Bioterrorism Simulation Exercise: "In the summer of 2001, a group of senor-level officials, including Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma, David Gergen, and R. James Woolsey, Jr., participated in an executive level simulation. Dark Winter simulated a U.S. National Security Council meeting in which senior officials were confronted with a smallpox attack on the United States. The exercise illustrated the issues to be addressed in the event of a bioterrorism crisis, including the challenges facing state and local governments, the role and responsiveness of the federal government, and the likely friction spots between federal and state-level responders and responses. Coming as it did before the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks, Dark Winter generated an enormous amount of interest in both the public policy community and the media. CSIS has briefed Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh, over 80 members of Congress, and senior government officials in leaders from approximately 20 ambassadors to the United States, and senior government officials from Asia, Latin America, and Europe. In addition to raising public awareness of the bioterrorism threat, these briefings contributed to the George Walker Bush Administration's decision to manufacture 300 million doses of the smallpox vaccine." (David Heyman, Senior Fellow, Technology and Public Policy Program)
Planners and Funders
- "The Dark Winter exercise was the collaborative effort of four organizations. John J. 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. Dr. Tara O'Toole and Dr. Tom Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies and Col. Randy Larsen (USAF, Ret.) and Mark DeMier of Analytic Services Inc. (ANSER Institute for Homeland Security) 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."
- This exercise was made possible by grant funding from The McCormick Tribune Foundation and The Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism.
Related SourceWatch Resources
- Homeland Security
- Tara O'Toole
- Center for Strategic and International Studies - Homeland Defense
- Dirty Bomb Scenario
- Silent Vector Exercise
- Bioterrorism: The Next Threat? Michael D. Lemonick, TIME Magazine, Sept. 24, 2001.
- Simulations and Tabletop Exercises (archived Homeland Security projects), CSIS website, accessed September 1, 2010.
- Legal Shield for Vaccine Makers Is Inserted Into Military Bill , Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Dec. 20, 2005, New York Times.
- A “Dark Winter” for Public Health: Meet Homeland Security’s New Bioterror Czarina, Tom Burghardt, August 24, 2009, DissidentVoice.org, accessed September 1, 2010.
- Noah Schactman, DHS New Geek in Chief is a Biodefense Disaster Critics Charge "Wired Danger Room Blog", May 6, 2009.
- A VACCINE FOR THE HYPE: Milton Leitenberg's new “Assessing the Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat”, National Security Notes, March 31, 2006, accessed August 31, 2010.
- "Dark Winter exercise overview," UPMC Biosecurity page, accessed September 1, 2010.