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News | June 6, 2024

DTRA Builds Partner Capacity with the Government of Armenia

By Andrea Chaney Defense Threat Reduction Agency

YEREVAN, Armenia--Members of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)s’ Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program and the Government of Armenia participated in the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Table Top Exercise (TTX) in Yerevan, Armenia, 20-24 May.

DTRA’s programs help partner nations reduce threats to national and global security from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats and increases partners’ preparedness to detect and respond to disease outbreaks regardless of whether the source is natural, accidental, or the deliberate use of a weapon of mass destruction.

DTRA and Armenia have endured a strong partnership for over 20 years to enhance Armenia’s preparedness for natural, accidental or deliberate WMD CBRN incidents, but this was the first exercise of its kind for the country.

“The exercise is designed to help the participating Armenian agencies assess current capabilities to conduct effective risk assessments associated with CBRN threats and evaluate cross-agency coordination and information sharing in response to such threats,” said Dr. Robert Pope, DTRA Cooperative Threat Reduction Program Director at the start of the TTX. “By the end of the exercise, all participants should have a better understanding of Armenia’s incident response capabilities and have identified areas which may benefit from further practice or capacity-enhancement,” he said.

Elizabeth DuFrane, International Program Manager for CTR, said this exercise is important for the government of Armenia because it’s the first time they’ve ever done an interagency coordinated effort like this.

“This has been a 16-month planning process. Over those months, we engaged with leadership and deputy ministers to keep them abreast of progress along the way,” DuFrane said. “Armenia is a unique country in the middle of a geopolitical-economic dynamic chess board, and with the way WMD threats have been evolving and transpiring, and take into consideration global and regional trends, we felt it was important to ensure our investments in countering WMD with Armenia still holds true, should something happen,” she said.  “This was important for DTRA and CTR, as well.”

During the exercise, there were two separate groups, a chemical/nuclear/radiological group and a biological group. Those groups represented a notional task force that was established to solve some type of countering weapons of mass destruction problem or scenario that was presented to the government of Armenia.

Throughout the week, the two teams received information in the form of ‘injects’ which came in throughout each day. As each inject came in, the teams were required to formulate a response, and all of these responses were compiled into recommendations to their government on how they should respond to these weapons of mass destruction threats as events unfold (notionally) in Armenia. 

In addition to participating in the groups during the exercise, the Armenians also helped staff the Exercise Control Group (ECG) which acted as the thinking brain cell of this exercise.

Robert Wagner, ECG Director, said a main goal for the exercise was to compare the government of Armenia’s existing capabilities in countering weapons of mass destruction against their desired level of competence.

“The specific objectives were evaluating their ability to conduct risk assessment, evaluating their operational coordination amongst the interagency, evaluate their intelligence and information sharing and assess their ability to conduct crisis communications,” said Wagner. “Their performance this week has been great, they were talking to one another, interacting well, and sharing information. What has been most impressive for me, was how quickly they have figured the underlying ‘storyline’,” Wagner said.  “All of the different injects and events that occurred during the exercise, were connected by a common threat. They quickly connected those dots, of which I’m extremely impressed,” he said.

Armenia partner Anna Harutyunyan, co-Exercise Director, echoed that the TTX process was engaging and successful.

“It was quite intense and comprehensive, covering multiple directions such as radiological, biological, nuclear, and chemical threats. One of the most significant outcomes was the strengthening of interagency cooperation,” said Harutyunyan.  “We identified gaps within the Republic of Armenia and developed resilience directions for emergency situations. I believe these will eventually be formalized as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs),” she said.

Arman Shahnubaryan acted as the team leader for one of the groups and said the DTRA implementers were very helpful throughout the exercise.
“They [USG] made every effort to provide a comprehensive overview and offered guidance in challenging situations,” said Shahnubaryan. “Particularly when we found ourselves at an impasse, they drew on their previous experiences to provide examples that helped get us back on track,” he said.

DuFrane remarked that the journey from having a “good idea” to a culminating table-top exercise in the country was rewarding to see.

“We are developing a new capacity within the government of Armenia that didn’t exist before,” said DuFrane. “They are now holding interagency forums. Partners are approaching to develop national CBRN strategies and through practices and techniques we’ve taught from the exercise, has lent them to establish a model going forward to work with other partners. It’s been great to see Armenia utilizing tools and techniques to further help themselves in other areas,” she said.
DuFrane concluded that there is definitely opportunity to follow-up and do TTX’s and FTX’s of this sort in other countries. 

“It’s on our Agency to be willing to go to the stakeholder and propose such an idea and be there every step of the way,” she said. “With Armenia, it’s been such a learning process because it’s the first of its kind, but I think DTRA, CTR specifically, has many great stakeholder partners in other nations that would greatly be receptive of this.”

For more information on DTRA’s programs, visit


DTRA provides cross-cutting solutions to enable the Department of Defense, the United States Government, and international partners to deter strategic attack against the United States and its allies; prevent, reduce, and counter WMD and emerging threats; and prevail against WMD-armed adversaries in crisis and conflict.  

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