Last week, I was interviewed for a story on San Antonio’s NBC affiliate, WOAI-TV, about a Pentagon training exercise built around the idea of a zombie apocalypse. The immediate reaction that people might have to this is that it’s a waste of money. The next reaction people are likely to have is one of disbelief — rooted in the idea that the U.S. military should be focused on real threats, and safeguarding against attacks that are plausible, versus attacks from fictional undead creatures that couldn’t possibly take place.
Military exercises do have some usefulness, and as I pointed out in the interview with the reporter, there’s a political line of reasoning to using a fictional enemy. If it gets out that the U.S. military is focusing its training exercises on China, the Chinese government might regard that with some suspicion, and it could create tension between the two nations that doesn’t need to be there. If it’s zombies the U.S. is fighting, no one can be offended.
There’s also a scenario where a zombie apocalypse has some practical application — if there’s some sort of worldwide epidemic of a disease (or even a pandemic), in which people are dying and order begins to break down, there are elements of a zombie apocalypse that then translate to this scenario. There are also biological warfare scenarios where lessons learned from this sort of training might apply.
But, as I said in the interview, the effects of a cyber attack could be catastrophic, and making preparations for such an attack — and the chaos it would create — should be a priority for those charged with maintaining the safety and security of the United States. While zombie apocalypse training plans might grab headlines (and not for all the right reasons), there are very real and unpredictable dangers that we could and should be addressing with appropriate training exercises. Even a small amount of time spent on zombie attacks is probably too much, when more pressing dangers exist.