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(September 8, 2001): FBI and Other Agencies in the Washington Area Conduct an Exercise Based around a Hypothetical Terrorist Attack

The FBI’s Washington Field Office.The FBI’s Washington Field Office. [Source: FBI]The FBI’s Washington, DC, field office (WFO) holds a field training exercise in which various agencies practice their response to a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The exercise is led by Special Agent Christopher Combs on behalf of the FBI. (9/11 Commission 8/5/2003 pdf file; Combs 5/17/2011) Combs is the assistant WMD coordinator on the National Capital Response Squad—an antiterrorism rapid response unit—out of the WFO.
Exercise Is Based around a Chemical Weapons Attack - The exercise is based around the scenario of a terrorist attack, according to Combs. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 76; Combs 5/17/2011) Assistant Chief James Schwartz of the Arlington County Fire Department will later describe it as a “major chemical exercise,” presumably meaning it involves a hypothetical attack with a chemical weapon. It is held at an unspecified location in Fairfax County in Northern Virginia and is attended by “all the area fire departments, police departments, and the FBI,” Combs will say. (Combs 5/17/2011; Arlington TV 7/18/2011; Schwartz 10/8/2014) It is held on the Sunday before 9/11—September 9—according to Combs. (Kettl 2008, pp. 203; Combs 5/17/2011) Other accounts, however, will state that it is held on September 8, the Saturday before 9/11. (9/11 Commission 8/5/2003 pdf file; Arlington TV 7/18/2011; Schwartz 10/8/2014)
Exercise Improves the Response to the Pentagon Attack - Many people who participate in the exercise will be involved in the emergency response to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11. (Kettl 2008, pp. 203) Combs, for example, will arrive at the Pentagon just minutes after the attack there and initially serve as the on-scene FBI commander at the crash site. (9/11 Commission 8/5/2003 pdf file; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 76) The exercise reportedly has a beneficial effect on the ability of its participants to respond to the Pentagon attack. It is “one more of those opportunities for us to not only get to know each other but [also to] figure out how we were going to interoperate with each other,” Schwartz will comment. Consequently, on September 11, there will already be “a great deal of understanding about how we were going to work together on this kind of an incident.” (Arlington TV 7/18/2011) The FBI’s WFO and the Arlington County Fire Department, which participates in today’s exercise, regularly train together and often respond jointly to real-world incidents. (9/11 Commission 8/5/2003 pdf file)


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