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Homeland Security

Distributed Environment for Critical Infrastructure Decision-making Exercises

Regulators, business continuity planners and enterprise risk managers within the banking and finance sector all rely on computer systems and have a priority need for a computer-based capability that can examine a variety of risk scenarios. The Distributed Environment for Critical Infrastructure Decision-making Exercises (DECIDE) project is developing a technology to significantly advance the state-of-the-art of critical infrastructure protection exercises.

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), with support from the financial sector, including the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council (FSSCC), is creating a tool that will enable private sector entities located within critical infrastructures to conduct collaborative, realistic, fully immersive, scenario-based exercises with response decisions made by subject matter experts. DECIDE exercises are intended to enable participants to war-game stressful scenarios in a closed-loop manner where the consequences of each participant’s actions feed back into the exercise. These exercises are designed to help participants understand the systemic ramifications of their actions and those of their industry peers—specifically scenarios that may induce or exacerbate cascading failures, resource contention, systemic instability and other unintended consequences. Furthermore, DECIDE exercises will allow critical infrastructure operators to identify scenarios where industry-wide coordinated response tactics are beneficial, and enable these scenarios to be exercised efficiently.

The tool will significantly reduce barriers to exercise participation by encouraging the re-use of time and monetary investments in the exercise setup and planning process. Furthermore, DECIDE exercises will insulate and protect each participant’s proprietary information, allowing competitive institutions to exercise with confidence. Efficient, cost effective, high value, and low risk, DECIDE exercises encourage participation from a full range of participants.


Scalable, cross-platform communications are a critical success factor for large, multi-participant exercises. DECIDE presents players with an immersive environment supporting high-fidelity communications with other players, industry organizations, government agencies and the media. DECIDE supports communications among human players, between human players and artificial intelligence agents, and with participants simulated by the Control Cell. Players can be in the same room or distributed across the country.

Artificial Intelligence

In order to be realistic, business continuity exercises in a large complex industry require participation from multiple organizations. This requirement has made industry-wide exercises time- and resource-intensive—both from a planning standpoint and with respect to the level of commitment required from each participant. Moreover, lack of full industry participation often results in exercises that are incomplete or less robust than intended. DECIDE alleviates this requirement by providing artificial intelligence agents. These agents may be plugged into the exercise as needed to provide realistic simulation of non-present players. Artificial intelligence agents able to simulate specific industry activities are developed in close conjunction with industry subject matter experts. DECIDE allows these smart agents to be used interchangeably with human players.

DECIDE is sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory in support of DHS S&T.

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