In what was the largest cybersecurity exercise in our Nation’s history, Obsidian Analysis, Inc. successfully designed and delivered the entire series of NLE 2012 exercises and planning events, culminating in the final component exercise, Exercise #4/EAGLE HORIZON 2012, which was completed on June 21, 2012. In support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Exercise Division (NED), Obsidian and its team of subcontractors and consultants developed, coordinated, executed, and evaluated this congressionally-mandated exercise that included the participation of over three dozen Federal Government departments and agencies, ten states and territories, scores of private sector companies and trade associations, and four international partners.
President Barack Obama and his Cabinet participated in the NLE 2012 Capstone Exercise on June 4-7, highlighted by a meeting of the Homeland Security Council and its Principals Committee to evaluate the various courses of action in response to the scenario’s multi-level cyber attack on the country’s critical infrastructure and government computer networks.
NLE 2012 was composed of four (4) major component exercises, all of which tested the various elements of our collective response to a significant and debilitating cyber attack to America’s critical infrastructure. These exercises featured common scenario elements, although each had its own specific areas of focus and participation:
Exercise #1: Information Exchange (March 28-29, 2012): This discussion-based and functional exercise examined the challenges of sharing of cyber-related information among the various Federal cyber operations centers, intelligence community, law enforcement, Federal, state, tribal and local governments, the private sector and international partners, as appropriate. Issues discussed included security classification, privacy concerns, and the unique nature of the cyber challenge during the indications and warning phase.
Exercise #2: National Tabletop Exercise (April 25-26, 2012): This exercise served as a walk-through of the interim National Cyber Incident Response Plan (NCIRP) for both public and private stakeholders. The exercise focused on legal authorities, private sector equities, and the National Cyber Risk Alert Level (NCRAL).
Exercise #3: NLE Capstone/Cyber Physical Effects (June 4-7, 2012): This functional exercise was the largest of the NLE component events and examined the challenges related to managing a cyber event with physical consequences and national security implications. The Capstone exercise featured Whole Community participation and tested the Nation’s ability to manage a physical response to a cyber attack while government networks were under cyber attack themselves.
Exercise #4: Continuity Exercise/EAGLE HORIZON 2012 (June 19-21, 2012): This full-scale exercise evaluated the continuity relocation and devolution capabilities of Federal departments and agencies during a cyber attack. It also included a nationwide exercise examining communications capability of the homeland security enterprise under conditions in which critical systems have been degraded or lost.
In addition to the major exercises, the NLE 2012 process included senior-level exercises, building-block events (i.e., seminars, tabletop exercises, and training) and routine exercise planning conferences.
National Level Exercise (NLE) 2012 is part of a series of congressionally-mandated preparedness exercises designed to educate and prepare participants for potential catastrophic events. Obsidian is the only certified small business enterprise to serve as prime contractor for a National Level Exercise.