This is an excerpt of an article that appeared in the Washington Post on Friday:
“President Bush has dispatched a shadow government of about 100 senior civilian managers to live and work secretlyoutside Washington, activating for the first time long-standing plans to ensure survival of federal rule aftercatastrophic attack on the nation’s capital.
“Execution of the classified “Continuity of Operations Plan” resulted not from the Cold War threat ofintercontinental missiles, the scenario rehearsed for decades, but from heightened fears that the al Qaeda terroristnetwork might somehow obtain a portable nuclear weapon, according to three officials with firsthand knowledge. U.S.intelligence has no specific knowledge of such a weapon, they said, but the risk is thought great enough to justifythe shadow government’s disruption and expense.
“Deployed “on the fly” in the first hours of turmoil on Sept. 11, one participant said, the shadow government hasevolved into an indefinite precaution. For that reason, the high-ranking officials representing their departmentshave begun rotating in and out of the assignment at one of two fortified locations along the East Coast. Rotation isamong several changes made in late October or early November, sources said, to the standing directive Bush inheritedfrom a line of presidents reaching back to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“Officials who are activated for what some of them call “bunker duty” live and work underground 24 hours a day, awayfrom their families. As it settles in for the long haul, the shadow government has sent home most of the first waveof deployed personnel, replacing them most commonly at 90-day intervals.
“The civilian cadre present in the bunkers usually numbers 70 to 150, and “fluctuates based on intelligence” aboutterrorist threats, according to a senior official involved in managing the program. It draws from every Cabinetdepartment and some independent agencies. Its first mission, in the event of a disabling blow to Washington, would beto prevent collapse of essential government functions.
“Assuming command of regional federal offices, officials said, the underground government would try to containdisruptions of the nation’s food and water supplies, transportation links, energy and telecommunications networks,public health and civil order. Later it would begin to reconstitute the government.
“Known internally as the COG, for “continuity of government,” the administration-in-waiting is an unannouncedcomplement to the acknowledged absence of Vice President Cheney from Washington for much of the pastfive months.Cheney’s survival ensures constitutional succession, one official said, but “he can’t run the country by himself.”With a core group of federal managers alongside him, Cheney — or President Bush, if available — has the means togive effect to his orders.”Guest:
- Christopher Simpson, professor of communications at American University in Washington DC. He is author of??Blowback and ??War Crimes of the Deutche Bank and the Dresner Bank, among other books.