The White House will take a more direct role in managing continuity of government plans to be used in the event of a “decapitating” attack on the federal government, under a presidential directive issued Wednesday.
Known as National Security Presidential Directive 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20, the order establishes an office in the White House which will replace the Federal Emergency Management Agency as the coordinator of continuity of government plans.
“As a result of the asymmetric threat environment, adequate warning of potential emergencies that could pose a significant risk to the homeland might not be available, and therefore all continuity planning shall be based on the assumption that no such warning will be received,” states the directive.
“Emphasis will be placed upon geographic dispersion of leadership, staff, and infrastructure in order to increase survivability and maintain uninterrupted Government Functions.”
The prospect of a nuclear bomb being detonated in Washington without warning, whether smuggled in by terrorists or a foreign government, has been cited by many security analysts as a rising concern since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The order makes explicit that the focus of federal worst-case planning involves a covert nuclear attack against the nation’s capital, in contrast with Cold War assumptions that a long-range strike would be preceded by a notice of minutes or hours as missiles were fueled and launched. . . .
After the 2001 attacks, Bush assigned about 100 senior civilian managers to rotate secretly to locations outside of Washington for weeks or months at a time to ensure the nation’s survival, a shadow government that evolved based on long-standing “continuity of operations plans.”
Since then, other agencies including the Pentagon, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA have taken steps to relocate facilities or key functions outside of Washington for their own reasons, citing factors such as economics or the importance of avoiding Beltway “group-think.” — Washington Post
The federal government’s continuity of government planning has come under fire in recent years for inadequate facilities and supply planning (PDF) and trying to include too many services as essential.
In 2006, the federal government tested its continuity of operations plans in Forward Challenge ’06, which reportedly had over 4,000 employees heading to underground bunkers to run the government. Nothing’s been heard about Forward Challenge ’06 since, including whether the exercise was successful.
Usually, no news is good news. But in this case, no news is probably bad news. It’s quite possible that the government won’t even last three days in the event of something really serious. I hope you’ve planned to last longer than three days.
Be ready. In the event of a “decapitating” attack, the government might go into its bunkers and never come back out.