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1998-2001: Secret Service Simulates Planes Crashing into the White House

Paul Nenninger.Paul Nenninger. [Source: KRCU]The US Secret Service runs training exercises that involve computer simulations of planes crashing into the White House, in order to test security there. [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175]
Plane Crash Scenarios Test White House Security - Secret Service agent Paul Nenninger has, since 1997, been assigned to the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Maryland, where he serves as program manager in charge of the Security and Incident Modeling Lab (SIMLAB). [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 299] In a 2005 book, he will write that from 1998 up until the time of the 9/11 attacks, the Rowley Training Center is “crashing planes into the White House… on a simulation program provided by the military.” This is done “to test the security responses of the various agencies that interact to provide security and support to the White House.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175] The plane crash scenarios are perhaps inspired by an incident in 1994, when a suicidal pilot crashed a Cessna into the White House grounds (see September 11, 1994). Time magazine reported at the time that “security officials have long feared in private [that] the White House is vulnerable to sneak attack from the air.” [Time, 9/26/1994; New York Times, 10/3/2001]
Exercises Held Based on 'Terrorist Attacks on the White House' - Nenninger will not state whether the simulated plane crashes are imagined to be part of a terrorist attack. However, he will comment that simulations “allow you to practice scenarios that can be attempted by a terrorist or other deranged individual.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 177-178] And in May 2001, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill testifies that the Secret Service “holds interagency tabletop exercises in preparation for terrorist attacks on the White House.” However, it is unclear if he is referring to the same exercises as those described by Nenninger. [US Department of the Treasury, 5/8/2001]
Secret Service Uses Advanced Analytical Software - For the simulations, the Secret Service has what Nenninger will describe as “a very good piece of analytical software” called the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation (JCATS). This program was developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. It was released by LLNL in 1998 and distributed to the Secret Service by the Joint Warfighting Center at Fort Monroe, Virginia. [Science and Technology Review, 9/2000; Nenninger, 2005, pp. 176] JCATS can handle things like “alarms” and “FAA radar” in the simulations, according to Nenninger. The computer simulations are particularly popular with the Secret Service’s special operations units, which request “more and more time in SIMLAB.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 184-185]
Colleague Says 'You Know All about That' in Response to Attack on WTC - On the morning of September 11, 2001, Nenninger is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, for a board meeting. When he and the others there for the meeting learn that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center, another Secret Service agent in the room points at Nenninger and, referring to the computer simulations he has been involved with, comments, “You know all about that.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Paul O’Neill, Paul L. Nenninger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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