Terrorism prevention institute gets shot in the arm

Thursday, April 10th 2008, 7:45 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

Oklahoma City's Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism is getting a critical shot in the arm giving it new life and a new program emphasis. An important national conference at MIPT on Thursday reflected that change.

Last October, the Department of Homeland Security conducted a full-scale simulation of a terrorist attack called TOPOFF 4 in Oregon, Arizona and Guam. The exercise tested the response of law enforcement and first responders to the simulated detonations of radioactive, dirty bombs.

On Thursday, close to 100 public safety officials from all over the country converged on MIPT to discuss what they learned from the exercise.

"We're trying to get the word out as far and wide as we can," Homeland Security Deputy Administrator Dennis Schrader said.

Schrader said one of the reasons they decided to have the after-action conference at MIPT is because of what happened there back in 1995.

"We want to make sure that people remember why we're in this business and it has an impact in terms of sending a message," Schrader said.

Another reason the conference was held at MIPT is because of its soon-to-be new role as a training venue for Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. MIPT Executive Director Don Hamilton said it'll be doing critical work in the War on Terror -- providing intelligence training to analysts and first responders.

"We're not going to prevent terrorism and drive back the terrorists with more guns, stronger gates, armor plate; all that stuff's useful, but we've got to outthink them," Hamilton said.

It's been suggested that almost 13 years after the bombing, MIPT had reached a crossroads, lacking a clear mission. Hamilton doesn't quite see it that way, but does agree that their new mission gives them renewed viability.

Hamilton said they jumped at the opportunity to be part of FEMA's new hub and spoke system for training.

"Right now they have a training facility in Emmitsburg, Md. on the East Coast," Hamilton said. "They have a nice arrangement with the Naval Post-Graduate School in California, and they envision us, a vision we're happy to comply with, becoming the Mid-American hub."

Hamilton said it's a great opportunity for MIPT and a great opportunity for the hundreds who will get their training here each year.