According to a recent major news network report, experts are predicting that by January 2015, the number of Ebola-infected patients could reach between 550,000 and 1.4 million. The report also noted that these figures account for cases in Sierra Leone and Liberia alone, which should be a concern for policymakers, as well as military and intelligence-community leaders. The rapid spread of the virus, as well as the lack of a cure, much less adequate medical containment measures or a robust treatment, make the situation seemingly impossible.

Add to that the unstable situation in the region of the outbreak, the deficient security controls in airports, seaports, and along borders in Africa, and for good measure, a terrorist element in the form of (add your favorite organization here) who would literally kill to weaponize the bug, and you can see why most Hollywood movies portray intelligence operatives as cranky and always rubbing their temples. (Not me, of course. I am a zenned-out, centered ray of sunshine.)

In early September 2014, a U.S. air marshal working a flight leaving Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, was stabbed with a hypodermic needle. The attacker escaped, and while medical tests have shown no evidence of Ebola or other threat agents, the fact that the marshal was allowed to board a flight back to the U.S. before the full battery of testing was done, is disturbing.

It is here that I should make a disclaimer. Most medical, political science, and intelligence experts agree that the above prediction numbers are a worst-case scenario, and that the likelihood that it will a) make it to the U.S. and b) become an epidemic if it did make it to the U.S., are very slim.  A worse-case scenario, yes, but a scenario nonetheless, and one that should be taken very seriously.

With the prospect of re-deployments lingering on the horizon, it must be considered that there is a chance of a threat agent making it within our borders, and as scary as the thought of an outbreak-movie-type scenario exploding in Small Town, USA is, the thought of that same scenario playing out on a military base or bases is another nightmare altogether.

Okay, time for disclaimer number two. I am not giving away any state secrets or providing the bad guys with their next plan. Nothing that I am saying here is anything that has not been war-gamed and Red-Celled to death by people much smarter than me in the intel, military, and political communities. I have taken part in some of them, and in fact, even took part in one while I was in college.

Back in 2005 or 2006, I was able to take part in a “mini” version of an exercise called Silent Prairie, which is a national level “what if” scenario. In the scenario, numerous but isolated outbreaks of Foot-and-mouth disease break out in the United States, and when it is realized that the outbreaks center around military bases, which caused them to be quarantined, experts suspect a terrorist attack.

Experts from (among others) the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture and members of Congress all come together to formulate a response. It was fascinating and a bit unnerving, to be honest. Knowing that a simple, naturally occurring organism can cause so much chaos makes you pause and realize just how vulnerable we could be.