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Truths you should know... National Level Exercise 2009 (NLE 09)

National Level Exercise 2009 (NLE 09) is scheduled for July 27 through July 31, 2009. NLE 09 will be the first major exercise conducted by the United States government that will focus exclusively on terrorism prevention and protection, as opposed to incident response and recovery.

NLE 09 is designated as a Tier I National Level Exercise. Tier I exercises (formerly known as the Top Officials exercise series or TOPOFF) are conducted annually in accordance with the National Exercise Program (NEP), which serves as the nation's overarching exercise program for planning, organizing, conducting and evaluating national level exercises. The NEP was established to provide the U.S. government, at all levels, exercise opportunities to prepare for catastrophic crises ranging from terrorism to natural disasters.

NLE 09 is a White House directed, Congressionally- mandated exercise that includes the participation of all appropriate federal department and agency senior officials, their deputies, staff and key operational elements.  In addition, broad regional participation of state, tribal, local, and private sector is anticipated.  This year the United States welcomes the participation of Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom in NLE 09. 


NLE 09 will focus on intelligence and information sharing among intelligence and law enforcement communities, and between international, federal, regional, state, tribal, local and private sector participants.

The NLE 09 scenario will begin in the aftermath of a notional terrorist event outside of the United States, and exercise play will center on preventing subsequent efforts by the terrorists to enter the United States and carry out additional attacks. This scenario enables participating senior officials to focus on issues related to preventing terrorist events domestically and protecting U.S. critical infrastructure.

NLE 09 will allow terrorism prevention efforts to proceed to a logical end (successful or not), with no requirement for response or recovery activities. 

NLE 09 will be an operations-based exercise to include: activities taking place at command posts, emergency operation centers, intelligence centers and potential field locations to include federal headquarters facilities in the Washington D.C. area, and in federal, regional, state, tribal, local and private sector facilities in FEMA Region VI, which includes the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.


Through a comprehensive evaluation process, the exercise will assess prevention and protection capabilities both nationally and regionally. Although NLE 09 is still in the planning stages, the exercise is currently designed to validate the following capabilities:

  • Intelligence/Information Sharing and Dissemination
  • Counter-Terrorism Investigation and Law Enforcement
  • Air, Border and Maritime Security
  • Critical Infrastructure Protection
  • Public and Private Sector Alert/Notification and Security Advisories
  • International Coordination


Exercises such as NLE 09 are an important component of national preparedness, helping to build an integrated federal, state, tribal, local and private sector capability to prevent terrorist attacks, and rapidly and effectively respond to, and recover from, any terrorist attack or major disaster that occurs.

The full-scale exercise offers agencies and jurisdictions a way to test their plans and skills in a real-time, realistic environment and to gain the in-depth knowledge that only experience can provide. Participants will exercise prevention and information sharing functions that are critical to preventing terrorist attacks. Lessons learned from the exercise will provide valuable insights to guide future planning for securing the nation against terrorist attacks, disasters, and other emergencies.

For more information about NLE 09, contact the FEMA News Desk: 202-646-4600.
FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation, to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism and other man-made disasters.



Target Capabilities List

Appropriate law enforcement personnel are trained in the FBI 12-step process of evidence collection/preservation

State, local, and tribal personnel are trained and educated regarding the Federal assets that are available to them

State, local, and tribal personnel are trained in appropriate Federal responsibilities in prevention and investigation matters

Training is tailored to address regional trends/issues by State, local, and tribal officials Yes/No

Training is repeated/updated at least on a periodic basis

Appropriate personnel are trained in cultural awareness as it relates to terrorism Yes/No

Appropriate personnel were trained to recognize criminal activity (e.g., money laundering) that could be exploited by terrorists and/or related to terrorism investigations

Appropriate personnel are trained in source recruitment and development Yes/No

All law enforcement personnel are educated and trained to recognize terrorist techniques and procedures, including suspicious criminal and non-criminal activity and indicators

Designated personnel are trained to recognize indicators of a hazardous or contaminated environment

Designated personnel are trained in the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) Yes/No

All relevant personnel receive safety awareness training from appropriate agencies or units (e.g., HazMat, bomb squad, military EOD unit)

Appropriate personnel are trained and educated on the NIMS Yes/No

Communication mechanisms are routinely tested via discussion-based and operationsbased exercises, tabletop exercises (TTX), and functional exercises (FX) to ensure they are operating effectively DHS/DOJ/DOD develop and test interoperability capabilities through joint training and exercises

Training plans are developed independently or in cooperation with other jurisdictions, per

Federally defined guidelines

All jurisdictional training plans designate a centralized training facility and/or lead agency responsible for joint training programs

All jurisdictional training plans establish a mechanism for notifying/updating participating agencies of training opportunities and scheduling

Federally sponsored training programs utilize train-the-trainer methods as appropriate to enable the broadest possible reach to all levels of government

Federally developed awareness training programs relating to legal responsibilities and limitations, preservation of potential or suspected crime scenes, and control/custody of evidence (videotapes, documents, etc.) are offered to non-law enforcement (public safety, code enforcement, public health, and private sector security)

Agencies adhere to established policies regarding training intervals and requirements Yes/No

All State, local, and tribal jurisdictions provide DHS with a list of their cultural awareness training needs, in order of priority