National Planning Scenarios

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Another Bush administration leak was discovered March 15, 2005, when a draft of Department of Homeland Security's confidential report National Planning Scenarios was discovered "inadvertently posted" for more than three months on the state of Hawaii website. The draft plan was first reported "on the Internet site of The New York Times" and was subsequently deleted from the state's website "at Homeland Security's request." [1][2]

The document, a year in the works, was prepared in response to a request by President George W. Bush about fifteen months ago for a list of disaster scenario priorities "to address widespread criticism that administration wastes money by spreading it out rather than concentrating on key areas and targets." [3][4]

The FBI offered assurances that "there is no evidence that any such plots exist or that terrorists have the means to carry them out." Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said March 16, 2005, "that it was a mistake for Hawaii to post the report, but it won't keep his agency from alerting state and local authorities about potential threats." However, he added, "he plans to be less forthcoming with the public about possible terrorism threats as they unfold until he has definitive information to give." [5]


"National Planning Scenarios. We must prepare for the next major event, not the last one. The National Planning Scenarios illustrate the range of major events the Nation could face. They illustrate the potential scope, magnitude, and complexity of major events that we should prepare for as a Nation.

"Scenarios such as these have been in use since 1995, when Presidential Decision Directive/PDD-39 'U.S. Policy on Counterterrorism' directed a national review of preparedness for terrorism acts, including catastrophic weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Program was established to provide training, exercises, and equipment to major metropolitan areas. The scenarios help project requirements and apportion responsibility among all potential partners so we will all be ready to roll in a coordinated national effort. The scenarios were developed by a Federal interagency group led by the Homeland Security Council and will be published as soon as they are finalized." Source: Capabilities-Based Planning Overview.


  • Planning Scenarios. Executive Summaries, Created for Use in National, Federal, State, and Local Homeland Security Preparedness Activities, The Homeland Security Council, David Howe, Senior Director for Response and Planning, July 2004.
  • The document identified a "dozen possible attacks considered most plausible or devastating," including the detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear device in a major city, the release of sarin in office buildings, the truck bombing of a sports arena, and a "truck driven by terrorists goes down the streets of five large cities over two weeks quietly spraying anthrax spores, ultimately exposing 328,000 people and killing 13,300 while costing the economy billions of dollars." [6][7]
  • Chertoff said the Department is "also emphasizing risk-based planning" and "three catastrophic natural events are included:" an influenza pandemic, a 7.2 earthquake in a major city, and a slow-moving Category 5 hurricane that would hit a major East Coast City. The New York Times reported March 15, 2005, that the "document reads" like a doomsday plan, "estimating deaths and economic damage." [8][9]

List of Scenarios

  • Scenario 1: Nuclear Detonation – 10-Kiloton Improvised Nuclear Device
  • Scenario 2: Biological Attack – Aerosol Anthrax
  • Scenario 3: Biological Disease Outbreak – Pandemic Influenza
  • Scenario 4: Biological Attack – Plague
  • Scenario 5: Chemical Attack – Blister Agent
  • Scenario 6: Chemical Attack – Toxic Industrial Chemicals
  • Scenario 7: Chemical Attack – Nerve Agent
  • Scenario 8: Chemical Attack – Chlorine Tank Explosion
  • Scenario 9: Natural Disaster – Major Earthquake
  • Scenario 10: Natural Disaster – Major Hurricane
  • Scenario 11: Radiological Attack – Radiological Dispersal Devices
  • Scenario 12: Explosives Attack – Bombing Using Improvised Explosive Device
  • Scenario 13: Biological Attack – Food Contamination
  • Scenario 14: Biological Attack – Foreign Animal Disease (Foot and Mouth Disease)
  • Scenario 15: Cyber Attack

Source: Planning Scenarios. Executive Summaries, July 2004.

Pandemic Flu

The list of disaster scenarios ranked pandemic flu as the most likely and most deadly. "Our surveillance and countermeasures abroad are inadequate, and current response plans won't do much to slow a pandemic once it is under way," wrote Dr. Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard School of Public Health. [10]

The scenario "begins in southern China and spreads within months to four leading American cities, claiming the lives of 87,000 and putting 300,000 in hospital, the plans estimate." [11]

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