The Coast Guard participated in an annual Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-led federal continuity of operations (COOP) exercise, Eagle Horizon 22 (EH), on Oct. 26. This exercise was an opportunity for departments and agencies in the greater Washington, D.C., region to collaborate on interagency emergency response.
“The exercise went well,” said Jeffrey Kellam, continuity manager in the Coast Guard’s Office of Emergency Management and Disaster Response (OEM). “Our goal was to invest in the future and ensure we are prepared to continue operations in a degraded environment, and I think we achieved that. Our Pacific Area (PACAREA) team did a fantastic job, and we have some things to work on for sure.”
While EH has a different theme and focus each year, this year’s exercise revolved around the transfer of command capabilities from one unit to another in a crisis. Participants simulated a complex cyber-attack that took Coast Guard headquarters offline. “We tested the readiness of the National Command Center by shifting operations from Coast Guard Headquarters to PACAREA,” Kellam said. “Whether it’s a cyber-attack, hurricane, or a simple power outage in the NCR and elsewhere, it’s imperative that we are able to sustain our mission-essential functions.”
Eagle Horizon is one of the many ways the Coast Guard cultivates a culture of continuity. COOP is inherent to the service given its need to constantly adapt to a range of missions and functions, Kellam noted.
As a reminder, units are required to conduct annual COOP exercises. OEM offers regular workshops drawing on lessons learned from common challenges throughout the service. Kellam emphasized that units can incorporate continuity exercises into other events taking place – such as annual hurricane response exercises with state and local authorities – to fulfill the annual requirement.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the service from holding its usual continuity exercises for the last couple of years. As the world recovers from the pandemic, it is critical that the Coast Guard focuses on responding to unforeseen emergencies and challenges to its capabilities.
Planning your unit’s continuity exercise? If you have any questions, please contact Jeffrey Kellam.