By Andrew W. Griffin
Posted: August 3, 2009
OKLAHOMA CITY – National Level Exercise 2009, known as NLE 09, has come and gone and Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security Fusion Center Coordinator Kim Carter said he was pleased with the results of the exercise, which was held July 24-31.
Oklahoma Watchdog was very interested in NLE 09, since Oklahoma was directly involved in the exercise, which is part of the annual TOPOFF exercise involving FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security as well as foreign troops from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico.
This online newspaper did post an article headlined “RDR asks questions about NLE 09 exercise,” posted on July 23, and the article received a lot of attention, particularly with alternative news sites PrisonPlanet.com and WhatReallyHappened.com, in addition to being reported on locally by Radio Free Oklahoma.
Although somewhat vague about the scenario that was being studied by OKOHS and the other government agencies in FEMA Region VI, which includes Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico, Carter said the scenario involved a terror event overseas. In the scenario, the United States is preparing for any terror-related events domestically as a result of the foreign terror event. That is where the government agencies come in and prepare and respond.
“We took several different events and the departments (involved) talked to one another … to make sure the information went through the chain of command,” Carter said.
“They did very, very well,” Carter said. “We picked up a lot of things and a lot of things were learned.”
What was learned? Well, it wasn’t entirely clear. The scenario “was based on things that can happen in Oklahoma,” Carter said, adding that it was also focused on things in FEMA Region VI. He added that the information leaned was used to “prevent possible threats across the United States.”
Asked if the focus was on foreign threats or domestic threats, Carter said it was on foreign-born individuals now living in the United States.
“Foreigners who come to the U.S. and have lived here, possibly for decades,” he said, adding that it was not focused on American citizens.
“New technology” was accessed, Carter said, although he did not elaborate. Asked by Oklahoma Watchdog about reports of high-altitude surveillance blimps, Carter said he was not familiar with them, although knows that weather balloons released from Norman’s weather center are often mistaken as UFOs.
Asked who participated, Carter said Oklahoma State Bureau of Information (OSBI); Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP); the Tulsa Police Department; the Oklahoma City Police Department and tribal police agencies.
Questioned about reports of foreign involvement in the exercise, Carter said no foreign troops were in Oklahoma. The foreigners were primarily along the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana, which is where the Mexican officials were located.
“Typically thee exercises in past years have been response exercises,” Carter said. “You had helicopters and explosions. This year it was more of a prevention exercise with people sitting in front of computer screens.”
And the fact that it wasn’t an action-filled exercise, may be the reason NLE 09 did not get a lot of media attention this time.
“There really wasn’t a lot of media interest,” Carter said. “I saw and read very little about it. Not a lot of media coverage about it.”
Asked if there will be a full report on NLE 09 available for public consumption, Carter said an after-action report should be posted online in October.
Overall, Carter said he was pleased with Oklahoma’s involvement with NLE 09 and because he was so busy all last week, was not able to return a call to Oklahoma Watchdog until today.
“You always learn from these things,” Carter said.