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SILENT VECTOR was a strategic level exercise designed to simulate possible U.S. reaction to a credible threat of terrorist attack when there is not sufficient information for effective protection. The overall purpose of the exercise was to assist the Administration and Congress in their attempts to improve the effectiveness of response during the pre attack phase of a major terrorist incident.

The United States operates 103 nuclear power plants, is the world's largest consumer of petrochemicals and by-products and continues to import a disproportionate amount of oil from the Middle East. It is reasonable to assume that terrorist organizations have recognized the potential financial, industrial, and public impact of a substantive attack against American energy infrastructure.

SILENT VECTOR challenged current and former senior government leaders to respond to increasingly credible and specific intelligence indicating the possibility of a large scale attack against critical energy and energy-related infrastructure on the East Coast of the United States.


President Hon. Sam Nunn
Governor of Virginia Hon. James S. Gilmore III
Secretary of State Hon. Fred C. Iklé
Secretary of Defense Hon. John P. White
Secretary of Homeland Security ADM James M. Loy, USCG (ret.)
Secretary of Energy Hon. Charles B. Curtis
Attorney General Hon. George J. Terwilliger III
National Security Advisor Hon . R. James Woolsey
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff GEN Wesley K. Clark, USA (ret.)
Director, Central Intelligence Agency Mr. Winston Wiley
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation Hon. William S. Sessions
Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency Hon. James Lee Witt
Director, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Hon. Shirley Ann Jackson
Director, White House Office of Homeland Security Hon. Jerome M. Hauer
Director, National Economic Council Mr. Stephen Friedman
The President's Press Secretary Hon. Margaret Myers
Deputy Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation Mr. Dale Watson


The role players were summoned to an emergency meeting with the President and the National Security Council at Camp David to address the looming crisis. Based on information from two independent and relatively reliable sources, the national intelligence community determined that there was a credible, conventional, terrorist threat to unspecified elements of energy infrastructure on the east coast of the United States. The attack was expected to occur in two days, however the precise timing was unknown. Given this information, the role players were faced with several key questions:

  1. Is the attack real? How credible is the intelligence?
  2. What is likely to be attacked?
  3. What should our priorities be?
  4. Can anything be done to prevent an attack?

Over the course of the two days leading up to the expected attack (simulated by two 4-hour sessions), role players were presented with specific analyses on threats, vulnerabilities and expected impacts as well as, emergent intelligence and law enforcement data to help formulate a comprehensive response plan. At the outset, the role players determined that the threat was too vague for direct, specific measures but did raise the alert level and installed general protective measures. This in turn led to media leaks and public panic in communities near energy facilities, such as nuclear power plants. The role players then had to face the problem of balancing rising panic with the need for more extreme protective measures.

The day of the expected attack comes and goes, but nothing happens. The role players must confront the silence of the day after the anticipated attack (simulated by one two-hour session). They are faced with not knowing if the attack was foiled, deterred, or a hoax. Role players must determine when it is safe to return to normal life.


PHOTO ALBUM - photos by Nike Zachmanoglou


In developing the scenario for SILENT VECTOR, CSIS created a threat/vulnerability integration methodology to map likely terrorist capabilities against the vulnerabilities of specific sectors/facilities of energy and energy-related infrastructure. While simplified for the purposes of the exercise, the methodology used to develop a threat/vulnerability integration matrix establishes a foundation upon which to build a system of assigning priorities and allocating resources for homeland security. Currently, no such analytical approach exists for U.S. critical infrastructure.


For more information about Silent Vector, contact Phil Anderson at (202) 775-3218 or

This exercise was developed in partnership with the ANSER Institute of Homeland Security and was made possible by grants From the Smith Richardson Foundation and the Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism

Special thanks to Environmental Systems Research Institute and AIR Worldwide for their invaluable technical support in the planning and execution of Silent Vector.

CSIS would also like to recognize the valuable contributions and support of the following organizations:

Colonial Pipeline Company
Defense Threat Reduction Agency
National Petrochemical & Refiners Association
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division
Nuclear Energy Institute
Sandia National Labs
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Energy
U.S. Department of Transportation


Contact Information

International Security Program
Center for Strategic and International Studies
1800 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
ph: 202-775-3255 | fax: 202-775-3199 | email:

Program Staff

Kurt M. Campbell
Senior Vice President and Director
James Mann
Senior Writer-in-Residence
Phil Anderson
Senior Fellow, Homeland Security Initiatives
Frederick D. Barton
Senior Adviser
Derek Mitchell
Senior Fellow
Daniel Benjamin
Senior Fellow
Clark Murdock
Senior Fellow
Robert Einhorn
Senior Adviser
Joel Wit
Senior Fellow
Michele Flournoy
Senior Adviser


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