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Enabling the homeland security enterprise through systems engineering the National Exercise Program

Kenneth G. Crowther, PhD, Anna K. A. M. Gradishar, MS, Michael R. French, DBA


On August 17, 2010, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano signed a memorandum directing an evolution of the National Exercise Program (NEP). The Memo emphasized the importance of the NEP for strengthening and evaluating our nation’s preparedness and reinforced core statutory and regulatory guidance.While the NEP has traditionally focused on national-level exercises, the revised NEP should serve the full homeland security enterprise. This article suggests a direction for evolution of the proposed NEP. It describes how exercise components and stakeholders operate and how they might be better synchronized using methodical system engineering and the careful application of innovative science and technology. Central to aligning and integrating subsystems into a coherent, synergistic whole is the concept of “interface.” System interfaces focus on describing common standards and protocols by which system components relate, interact, and share information. The authors identify five process interfaces from the Secretary’s Memo and describe system architecting principles that could improve NEP flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and robustness. Systems engineering methodologies provide time-proven approaches to describe system characteristics and behavior in ways that facilitate the development of effective interfaces—interfaces that promote overall systems efficiency and provide a basis for measuring and tracking systems performance. This harmonization of information promotes the application of modeling and simulation, which, in turn, promote greater exercise realism and efficiency and create a scientific environment in which to explore and experiment with new concepts and technologies.


homeland security, emergency preparedness, National Exercise Program, systems engineering, systems of systems

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