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Back to the Bunker 404

Oldsmobile writes "On Monday, June 19, about 4,000 government workers representing more than 50 federal agencies will say goodbye to their families and set off for dozens of classified emergency facilities stretching from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs to the foothills of the Alleghenies. They will take to the bunkers in an "evacuation" that sources describe as the largest "continuity of government" exercise ever conducted, a drill intended to prepare the U.S. government for an event even more catastrophic than the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The vast secret operation has updated the duck-and-cover scenarios of the 1950s with state-of-the-art technology -- alerts and updates delivered by pager and PDA, wireless priority service, video teleconferencing, remote backups -- to ensure that "essential" government functions continue undisrupted in an emergency."
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  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) * on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:24PM (#15466859) Homepage Journal
    Huh ?

    It seems evertyhing is provided for survival of "government" elite - who have the wealth and/or connections to get elected and appointed.

    But what about hordes of people who constitute 'the people' in the declaration of independence ?
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:25PM (#15466866) Homepage Journal
    "an event even more catastrophic than the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks"

    Would that be the November 7, 2006 Congressional elections? Or the November 4, 2008 elections, showing exceptionally long-range planning?
  • Great, just great. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:29PM (#15466894)
    What happened last time everyone went for training exercises? If you've watched loose change [loosechange911.com], you know. And since bush's ratings are in the toilet I suspect it'll happen again.
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:37PM (#15466933) Homepage Journal
    The vast secret operation has updated the duck-and-cover scenarios of the 1950s with state-of-the-art technology

    So, posting it on slashdot counts as secrecy nowadays.
  • by ChePibe ( 882378 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:48PM (#15466985)
    While the Wa Post columnist - it should be noted that this is an opinion piece, not an article - is obviously not too fond of the idea, I'd say it still has at least some merit.

    With increased WMD proliferation - from big budget nukes to dirt cheap chemical weapons - that can be used to attack the U.S. capital and government installations, I'd say that such a plan is smart to have as a backup. Should Iran wake up one day and decide to nuke Washington (a possibility in the future), we would certainly be able to retaliate and turn it into the Islamic Republic of Glass Bowl or Parking Lot (pick your favorite), but what would happen to all of the government infrastructure there? We're not just talking about continuity of elected leaders, but about the civilian side of the government as well, which this plan seems to focus on, too.

    While nuclear war with Russia or another fairly heavily armed power (i.e. China) remains an enormously remote possibility, exchanges with countries that possess only a handful of nukes (Iran, North Korea, etc.) are much more likely. In such an event, the U.S. would not need to focus simply on making sure the attacker is completely wiped out - this is a given - but that it can survive a relatively small attack affecting only a handful of cities such as Washington and New York rather than a widespread nuclear holocaust in which all of this would simply be moot anyways.

    The author is obviously unhappy with the inefficiency of this program, but I'm not entirely convinced by his arguments. Security, backups, etc. are always inefficient. Security and efficiency are always at odds with each other. Spending hundreds of millions on a backup that MIGHT be used is entirely inefficient EXCEPT when you need it, in which case it becomes a necessity. Combine this with the fact that the government is also not known for its efficiency and you've got a problem.

    The U.S. isn't getting ready for nuclear holocaust any more, as many slashdotters have claimed and the author seems to hint at. It's getting ready for a limited nuclear exchange in which, yes, things like the patent office and budget offices must continue operating in the months and years to come when their main offices have been wiped out but a vast majority of the U.S. has been left unscathed.

    Don't get me wrong - I'm not defending every action of this program. I would encourage others, however, to take a more nuanced look at it. And nuance is something slashdot appears to be lacking these days. It's likely my karma will pay for it, but so be it.

    (As a side note, my "confirm I'm not a script" word was "senate"... coincidence?)
  • by tengu1sd ( 797240 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:49PM (#15466991)
    As Leslie Fish [random-factors.com] points out in The Digwell Carol [hamienet.com] if we take the chance to bury them now, maybe we can get on with our lives. Anyone else feel like chipping in for a concrete pour to be arranged at the mouth of bunker this week?
  • by courtarro ( 786894 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @12:57PM (#15467032) Homepage
    I, for one, feel that my money could be going to much more useful places, like developing alternative fuels to oil or cures for common lethal diseses. Frankly, if these bunkers became necessary, I'd probably be pretty offended that they don't consider me valuable enough to warrant a place in one. I hope they're also reserving space for scientists, physicists, doctors, civil engineers, electrical engineers, computer engineers, etc. etc. However I have a feeling that these bunkers will be filled with politicians who will have no purpose, after arising from nuclear holocaust, but to attempt to get surviving mutant population to vote for more defense programs while they struggle to find food.

    It's good to know we will be able to handle an occurrence that has killed less than 1000 people each year. I wonder if we'll be prepared for another realistic disaster like Katrina or Rita, or if we'll be prepared for the millions who die of heart disease. Hurry to the bunkers!

  • by InsurgentGeek ( 926646 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:02PM (#15467063)
    First, my personal observation is that about 98% of Federal employees are dedicated and hardworking. Unfortunately the 2% that are not tend to be a) executives or b) customer-facing. Second, if we can provide essential services with 4,000 people - why are we paying for millions?
  • Speaking of 9/11 (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:04PM (#15467081)

    NORAD was running several drills on the morning of 9/11, amazingly, to simulate almost the exact 9/11 events. This is why so many air traffic controllers and military personnel in various tape recordings seem confused and ask for numerous confirmations that what actually happened was not an exercise.


  • I'm sorry, 9/11 wasn't a catastrophe of national or even regional concern. It was an isolated, one-off local emergency. It didn't threaten the average american, it didn't interrupt or negate the federal and regional bureaucracy's ability to operate, and it certainly wasn't a national crisis. To this day its greatest long-term effect has been the destruction of an entire country as simple retaliation

    9/11 was a local disaster affecting one municipality.
    Hurricane Katrina was a regional disaster affecting a couple states.
    The race riots in France were a regional crisis
    The student riots in France were a localized crisis
    If bird flu suddenly spread like wildfire killing hundreds of thousands to millions in multiple states, THAT would be a national-level crisis.
  • by Foerstner ( 931398 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:15PM (#15467149)
    Looking back at the Cold War-era bunkers, several (civillian) VIP's noted that, although they had been informed of the facilities and the contingencies for their use, they never would have actually gone into them.

    Because, as this article hints, they would have had to leave their families to do so.

    Thinking about the "human factors" involved...would their be enough warning for anyone to be able to make it to the bunker in time? Would the roads/airspace/transit function well enough to get them to the bunkers? Would they leave their families to do so?
  • by ChePibe ( 882378 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:17PM (#15467160)
    How far the future are you looking where "Should Iran wake up one day and decide to nuke Washington" be possible?

    My personal opinion? 10 years or so.

    I mean, they'd have to develop a nuclear weapon,

    Perhaps you haven't been following the news...

    a long-range delivery system (Arguably harder than making a small fission device),

    Iran presently possesses the ability to launch against Southern Europe with its existing devices and can acquire other technology as needed.

    weaponising their little pop-gun fission device so their long range delivery system can carry the thing (Very hard)

    Iran presently possesses ballistic missile capability. While they have yet to develop ICBMs, their regional weapons are quite good. Additionally, why would it need to be ground launched from Iran? They have a wide terrorist network (yes, they actually do...) capable of using a nuke, and if recent GAO reports are any indicator of the present quality of border control when it comes to fissile material, I've got my doubts.

    and then be Bat Shit Crazy enough to use it,

    Again, perhaps you haven't been keeping up with the news...

    hoping that the US don't simply shoot it out of the sky before it gets to them.

    Countermeasures to missile defense systems exist.

    Then they'd be turned into the world biggest sheet of glass.

    Would they? I'm not entirely convinced. A small nuclear attack of that sort would likely result in a proportional strike - good bye Tehran, for example. Massive retaliation MAY not be the response, though it certainly is possible.

    I mean, I'm all for sensationalist propoganda and fear based war-mongering, but that's some pretty futuristic fture you've got there.

    I think you meant to post that over here [dailykos.com]. Go knock yourself out.
  • Re:Credibility gap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:20PM (#15467172) Homepage
    When the emergency preparedness procedures are woefully inadequate in cases where the responsible agencies are operating from their regular offices, why should I believe they would be effective when staff are trying to react in a situation of real chaos.

    Well, there are two things:
    1) Being able to continue critical operations in times of an emergency
    2) Actually doing what makes sense in the situation

    For example, if they put all the think-tanks in a scenic office of the WTC, they'd be running around like a bunch of headless chicken because the head just got chopped off. That has really more to do with "can we get hold of people", "where should people go to get work done", "how do we get information from the field", "who will take over these responsibilities" than how they actually act on that information.

    Yes, you need a good strategy in case of an emergency... which is not that easy to create, imagine trying to plan for everything from the WTC attack to the hurricanes in the US to the Tsunami in SE Asia. Someone got a nuke from old Soviet? Chemical weapons from Iraq? Picked up an ebola strain in Africa? A natural pandemic (bird flu)? But you also need a contingency on how to execute it - unless your strategy is so completely without merit it makes no difference at all, and quite frankly they're not quite that bad. That is why you need drills like this.

  • Re:A Waste of Time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:20PM (#15467184) Journal
    we have the largest prison warden population in the world, a vast pool from which to build a new government

    Fixed that for you
  • Re:Credibility gap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Andy Gardner ( 850877 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:25PM (#15467218)
    Good point, maybe they should like have a practice run or something.

    Oh wait...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:37PM (#15467276)
    A couple problems with that scenario.

    If there was an asteroid about to hit earth, hiding a few hundreds yards beneath the surface isn't going to do much for you, as an appropriately sized asteroid is going to turn the surface of the earth into a giant molten mess. You would have to be down pretty far, hope the asteroid didn't hit where you were, hope you could drill your way out afterwards, and have plenty of food.

    If the asteroid was sufficiently small, you are going to be killed by the population when you come out anyway.

    That said, it would come as no surprise to me if they were expecting _something_, just probably not an asteroid. But then, I'd expect them to bring their families with them if they were really expecting something.

  • by Shelled ( 81123 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:40PM (#15467287)
    This takes it a step further though. The implications of the following:

    "Moreover, since 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, the definition of what constitutes an "essential" government function has been expanded so ridiculously beyond core national security functions -- do we really need patent and trademark processing in the middle of a nuclear holocaust?...."

    are horrific. Placing government officials above citizens is old news and expected, planning (presumably) to enforce who has the right to print 'Coke' on a can or copy a CD under terrorist nuclear attack moves the government into territories until now the sole domain of Dali or Escher. It's yet another example of how corporate lobbying have twisted and distorted government.

  • by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:43PM (#15467309)

    That isn't rational long-term thinking, it's complacency and short-term thinking. Schemes like this are simply insurance policies.

    How many times has your home burned down? None? You still have home insurance though, right? Having home insurance doesn't mean you are "paralysed by fear" of your home burning down, does it?

    Yes, things like heart disease are immediate problems, but that doesn't mean you can simply stick your head in the sand and ignore potential long-term problems.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:47PM (#15467332) Homepage
    Nobody should be surprised by this. I mean, surely I wasn't the only one that noticed that the Federal governments first response after 9/11 was to protect itself (i.e. Federal buildings, etc.)?

    Then again, like they say on every #%# flight, "Put on your own mask before assisting others". It did seem like an attack on the heads of business, military and government (the 4th plane was going to the Capitol building), not random civilians. I think large federal institutions like e.g. CIA headquarters would be a much bigger target than any local goverment (as in state or smaller). YMMV, but to seem it seems like the right decision.
  • by Xugumad ( 39311 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @01:47PM (#15467335)
    *pause* So, what you're saying is that the Bush administration is the national catastrophe? :)
  • by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @02:46PM (#15467645)
    Three. Your forgetting the crash site in PA as well.
  • Re:'the people' (Score:3, Insightful)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) * on Sunday June 04, 2006 @02:53PM (#15467686) Homepage Journal
    Well, you have to look by comparing the times for our time and their time.

    In 1770, even the 'white land owners' being 'the people' was a HUGE step in the direction of freedom. The outlook on humanism has to be proportionally far-fetched today too.
  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @03:02PM (#15467735)
    That's pretty optimistic.

    Iran might be working on a nuclear weapons capability. Maybe. They don't have it yet.

    If they do build one, it's likely to be something that can just barely be carried by the world's biggest bombers. Like the US and Soviet Union's first efforts were. Going from one of those monsters to something you can launch on a missile is HARD.

    Going from a missile that can maybe sort of hit near something a thousand kilometres away to something that can reliably (you only get one shot) hit something halfway around the world is HARD. It's also very hard to buy that technology. People tend to wonder when you post your "wanted, ICBM, will pay cash, small denomination Euros" ad on Craig's List.

    Not going to use an ICBM? If a nuclear weapon were smuggled into Washington and detonated the high governmental officials probably wouldn't get ten minute's warning. More likely their first hint would be a very bright light. The ten minute thing is sort of the worst case for a ballistic missile, which take a decent amount of time to travel half way around the world and are fairly conspicuous while doing it.
  • Re:Chaos (Score:3, Insightful)

    by basingwerk ( 521105 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @04:36PM (#15468151)
    > A goodly chunk of the population would surely
    > steal to their heart's content if they knew they
    > would never be caught and punished.

    Some civilisations are stronger than that. During the Blitz, which lasted 8 months, London, Liverpool and other British cities lost around 50K lives, and a million houses - that was a catastrophe! Discipline did not break down, the British went on to defeat Rommel in north Africa and eventually triumphed over Hitler and his henchmen in Europe. Criminality during the war was rife, of course, but general standards remained in place. We tend to be fearful about our society, mostly due to sensational rubbish in the media, in my opinion.

  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @04:51PM (#15468219) Homepage
    It seems evertyhing is provided for survival of "government" elite - who have the wealth and/or connections to get elected and appointed.

    But what about hordes of people who constitute 'the people' in the declaration of independence ?

    Oh, that's easy! Once the "government elite" have left for the bunkers, the hords of people above ground will weld the doors shut. The world forever will be a better place to live =)
  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @05:18PM (#15468328) Journal
    Sounds like they were only concerned about preserving the Executive Branch, rather than protecting American citizens by making sure the Supreme Court's still around.

    Civil Defense planning for large-scale nuclear war had faded out long before the Cold War ended, but it was always pretty much a joke; the dried food in the bomb shelters has mostly faded out, and in spite of Reagan-era bureaucrats saying you should dig a 3-foot hole and cover it with a door, there wasn't much that could be done. But terrorist attacks aren't likely to hit the whole country - they'd necessarily be limited in scope, and Washington and NYC are the obvious targets, which perhaps a couple of small random actions elsewhere for fun.

    DC basically has government workers, Beltway Bandits, museums, and black people. So the government gets its high-level workers out of town, the Beltway Bandits can do their own planning or telecommute, museums are too heavy to move, and George Bush doesn't care about black people.

  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @05:31PM (#15468397)

    Hold on... they're "saying goodbye to their families"? Oh, that can't be good for a marriage. "Yes, darling, I'm just practicing for when there's a national disaster and I abandon you to the collapse of civilisation."

    Their families aren't the only ones being abandoned. Doesn't it warm your heart and fill you with patriotic pride to know that your leaders are going to leave you to die like rats when shit hits the fan ?

    There was a time when the leader was the guy who shouted "Follow me!" in battle, not the guy who sits home and makes speeches about the sacrifices of his loyal troops are doing somewhere far away...

  • by Kpau ( 621891 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @06:54PM (#15468764)
    And that, in a nutshell, is why this whole scenario is stupid and unrealistic --- 4000+ civilians are going to *abandon* their husbands, wives, children, etc. to burrow themselves in deep caverns in order "keep the essential functions of government working". It might have made *some* sense if immediate family were brought along --- how productive am I going to be not knowing the wellbeing of my family in a really big disaster? Make sure they're safe and you'll have some highly motivated people... Makes me want to staplegun a DVD of Dr. Strangelove to the foreheads of these loons we have in charge...
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @07:06PM (#15468813)
    The U.S. isn't getting ready for nuclear holocaust any more...

    The US population, it seems, isn't ready for any kind of serious event. Read the rest of the posts in this topic for an example.

    Rather than trying to prevent a serious event or planning to deal with the consequences, the public view seems to be one of denial, fantasy, and conspiracy theories. Nothing bad can happen (denial). Diplomancy, disarmament, and environmental awareness will keep us safe (fantasy). And it's all about Haliburton anyway (conspiracy theories).

    And it's expressed and reinforced by making fun of people who are just trying to be prepared. Bravo.

    It's apparently going to take a few more attacks over several years for Americans to finish the process of growing up. I'm glad I don't live near any likely targets.
  • by Murphy Murph ( 833008 ) <sealab.murphy@gmail.com> on Sunday June 04, 2006 @08:39PM (#15469150) Journal
    Yes he was, and I agree with him. More real changes to my lifestyle have happened as a result of those deaths than from Islamic terrorists.
  • by bpd1069 ( 57573 ) on Monday June 05, 2006 @04:09AM (#15470713) Homepage
    And they just completed Ardent Sentry, a drill where 4 simultaneous catastrophes occur in the US/North America... May 10-16.

    Ardent Sentry [army.mil]
    And the Command and Control Structure of the JTF-CS [globalsecurity.org]

    The JTF-CS was the ones running the Live Fly exercises on 9/11/2001.
  • by prurientknave ( 820507 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:33AM (#15477878)
    I'm not a political science major. (Science? I guess the term is used loosely.) I have no idea who your witty asides are referring to or what their political persuasions are, or even the names or intersections of of their various persuasions.

    I don't think I'm a marxist. Atleast I don't recall mentioning anything about collectivising anything but hey if straw man arguments are the way you swing so be it.

    Of the responses I could decipher
    a)If you don't know the list of nations under our thumb then you've wasted money on a worthless education.
    b)You do make a valid point about america being a self interested actor that routinely , overthrows popularly elected govts in favor of strong man dictators that stay in line with regard to our economic interests. If you don't think this has anything to do with (a) then obviously we're operating under totally different rulesets for understanding realiyt.
    c)you brought up the image of the america the batterer and the liberal apologists. I explored the metaphor for you to see why the liberals are worried. Again if you don't understand it you have a strange way of perceiving reality.
    d)At which point their appetite for the fruits of sweat shops, young prostitutes (how young will they go?)
    So, you're either a liberal in support of foreign policy or you're a pedophile...

    The republicans have been found time and time again of running prostitution rings and sweat shops abroad as hospitality suites for the well to do. My question was what happens to these appetites when they don't have foreigners to feed on? What happens to american women and children when these monsters come home to roost? How you twisted that to slander me is another leap of mushy pol. sci. thinking that your type is famous for.
    e)Oh how do these other nations compare to our amazing power? The SCO (shanghai cooperation organization) combining russia and china are determined to stamp out our influence and bases in the region. Without our bases in the region we become less and less able to monopolize the oil supplies in the region. Once our dominance of the oil is gone, what reason does anyone have to export to us at the current rate? We can only push them to slave labor while they need oil backed in dollars. Which remains backed only because of our control of the shipping lanes in the region. With their recent moves in the region (new pipelines etc) they aim to secure their own access to oil. Which reduces any necessity for trade with us. India remains a key contender in the region. Sure, they don't have the ability to reach into america, but making our oil supplies insecure is a trick they too can join in. It seems their recent accords with the SCO seems to indicate a lack of enthusiasm for a US plan to use them as a china counterweight, regardless of the measely bones we toss them every so often.
    f)The atrocities in iran occurred during a US backed regime quite similar to the iraq script, we supplied the means for the overthrow of a popular govt to a more brutal, though more favorable despot. This puppet was then overthrown and his band of traitors executed by the popular insurgency which then became the present govt. Oh of course atrocities happened but the USA and britain funded and made it happen. Whoops.
    g)As to your 'argument' of the caveat. Let me ask you this. Is it your position that criminals not be brought to justice and compensation made? Sure one can argue that this would be unduly difficult for the criminal, since he's gotten used to having the things he stole etc. but is it just? If you don't think it's just then you understand why their people hate us. Sure you're right, from a realistic stand point they're in no position to bring the dominant power to justice. But given the chance they will do everything to hasten our downfall. h) the ones who work two jobs to make ends meet aren't the ones writing policy or even being presented with a truthful accounting of our actions both past and present at home and abroad. they're being robbed blind w

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb