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May 13, 2008


Peter Stockton

Betsy Mason is generally a good reporter, but she bought the barn on this one: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_9249055. Clearly, her source doesn't understand how force-on-force tests are conducted. (I have witnessed more than 50 force-on-force tests).

First, by definition, the Design Basis Threat assumes there is an insider assisting the terrorists with "perfect knowledge" of the location of the target. That is not an unreasonable assumption, as historically virtually all the spies caught in the U.S. have been senior officials in the national security establishment.

Secondly, the attackers do, in fact, begin the test from inside the fence because the government doesn't want to blow apart an extraordinarily expensive system of fences, cameras, sensors, etc., just for a test. To compensate for the advantage of getting through the fence (it only takes a few seconds with a Bangalore torpedo), the mock attackers are held at the fence line for the equivalent length of time it would have taken to break through it.

Third, if there is any unfair advantage during these tests, it is on the side of the guard force. Unlike in a real attack, there is no surprise (they know within a window of a couple of hours that there will be a mock attack), there is no speed (safety rules prevent the mock attackers from running at full speed) and there is no violence of action, which during a real attacks means friends and colleagues are being maimed, killed, and taken hostage around you. And to top it off, they had months at Livermore to practice for this test.

Mason's sources didn't explain how the hydraulics that were supposed to lift the Gatling gun didn't work. Don't forget, former NNSA head Linton Brooks came out to Livermore Lab for the deployment of the Gatling, and expounded on the fact that no one will attack this place now that this gun is here.

POGO was pleased that the piece included comments from Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, who said: "I have insisted that the plutonium housed at Livermore be consolidated and moved away from Livermore to a safe location away from population centers as soon as possible." Yet, we encourage Rep. Tauscher to demand a detailed explanation from NNSA why it cannot move the SNM from Livermore Lab by this time next year.

Also, we want to respond to Dr. Dave's comment that "You can not just take away the defenders real guns for hours while they await the mock attack - this would leave the site unguarded." It is our understanding that a fully-armed shadow force is in place during a force-on-force if in fact a real threat emerges. Because this shadow force is kept safely away from the activities of the testing, we disagree with Dr. Dave's point that "Mixing armed and unarmed forces in an exercise environment is a recipe for real disaster."

We encourage those who are interested in this topic to read our report, if they haven't already: http://www.pogo.org/p/homeland/ho-080317-livermore.html.

-- Peter Stockton


Uumm? I guess no one "gets it". The mock attack is supposed to be "unrealistic" DUH? They have how many months to prepare for the attack, everyone knows it is coming and then (at least everywhere else) the guards are at their posts and the "attackers" loose.

Now comes the media making excuses for the contractor. Would that be the same contractor that has brough us all the security lapses at Los Alamos? Is the leader of the contractor Bechtel? Who is in thier pocket?

The point here is that these exercises are planned. Mostly to make sure what happenned - doesn't. Seldom has there ever been a breakdown as serious as this one.

Hopefully someone will "get it' before a lot of people are hurt or worse- die from the bureaucratic and political ineptitude of these clowns.

Dr Dave

A mock attack team can not be that realistic - they can not attack without notice, because the defenders would be armed with real guns/bullets, and people would die for real... they can not blow real holes in fences and walls, because that would compromise actual security and hurt people. You can not just take away the defenders real guns for hours while they await the mock attack - this would leave the site unguarded. Mixing armed and unarmed forces in an exercise environment is a recipe for real disaster. Superblock complex is a half mile inside LLNL site, which has is own layered level of security systems (fences, sensors, cameras, patrol officers, etc.) starting at the LLNL exterior boundary and going to the fence lines surrounding Superblock - these defences would have detected and slowed down the large mock attack force long before it got to the Superblock fence line.

Bottomline, a real attack force would not have had the advantages that the DOE mock team had in order to meet real safety and security constraints of the force on force exercise.

Dr. Dave

From a newspaper that covers LLNL

By Betsy Mason
Contra Costa Times

"... A DOE official familiar with the mock attack said that the Time report was exaggerated.

The attacking force did reach their objective, he said, and the defenders did not do as well as they could have in some areas, but the attack was unrealistic.

For one, the simulation started at the fence line of the plutonium facility known as Superblock, already well inside lab property, he said. The attack team was made up of security officers from other DOE sites and before the exercise began was allowed to haul into Superblock equipment, including all-terrain vehicles, torches and mock explosives.

Some members of the attack team were even positioned inside rooms in the Superblock, as if they had already cut fences, blown up walls and avoided guards. The mock attackers were also treated to a walkthrough ahead of the exercise.

"They knew exactly what was there, how to get to certain places and where the defenders would be," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It just wouldn't happen in real life."

The whole point of the force-on-force test is to really stress the system and hit the pressure points, he said.

"Things don't run perfectly in a force-on-force," he said. "That's not the point. You want to see where the stress points are. That's why you do it."

Chris Holte

Unfortunately it is going to take legislation, and probably some indictments, impeachments, and more severe actions to get the Feds to obey existing law, much less provide transparency to the general public. Not only is the trend the other direction, but the Fed increasingly relies on contractors who add yet another layer of confidentiality to operations, and Judges increasingly are putting gags on litigants. If there is anything I can do to help I'm monitoring. Transparency is a requirement for functional democracy and for "less" corruption.

Chris Holte

Jeff Johnson

Like border-port security and anything else concerning the safety of it's citzens,our gov't is so fat and sluggish it is unable to respond.We can still make a choice to eliminate artery clogging trans-fat from our diet.Let us make that same choice with our obese congress.

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