Declassified CIA documents reveal a secret plan if nuclear war breaks out
1956 Operation Redwing bombing at Enewetak Atoll. (National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Field Office)
If Kim Jong Un launches a nuclear weapon there’s an extensive plan in place thanks to the CIA, the military and former President Jimmy Carter.
Newly declassified documents from Carter’s administration revealed Presidential Directive 58, the plan for how the United States moves forward, according to Foreign Policy magazine. Under President Ronald Reagan, the directive was amended slightly.
The strategies behind the end of the world stem from a single man: emergency preparedness and disaster response expert Ray Derby. In Europe, Derby worked with NATO to craft evacuation drills for non-combat troops. He led the government-wide work to prepare for a nuclear, biological or chemical threat. The nuclear bases around the United States have Derby to thank for their plans as well.
During the Carter administration, the plan for nuclear war was Federal Emergency Plan D, which required each agency to design, develop and build its own underground facility, FP reported. The thought was that in the event of an emergency, the agencies of the government could still function from a bunker. Most didn’t take it seriously and as such, most agency personnel didn’t know whether they were part of the team that was supposed to head to the bunker or not.
To make more people take it seriously meant getting the military involved — something the military had no interest in. They assumed martial law would have to be instituted in the event of a nuclear incident but the military would also be tasked with the military response from the United States. Neither the military nor political leaders wanted to talk about the plans openly, forcing them to be devised in secret.
If “the bomb” was en route, the Joint Chiefs of Staff would order 60 officials to a special facility build into Mount Weather in Berryville, Virginia. Other locations are near Hagerstown, Maryland, and Martinsburg, West Virginia. The FBI would be relocated to the Marine base near Quantico, Virginia. The State Department would be sent to Front Royal, Virginia. The rest would be hidden at colleges inside or near the Washington, D.C. metro area.
Having a rendezvous spot was only half the battle, however. The military didn’t have enough helicopters to carry more than a third of those assigned. Everyone was given an alternative idea for how to get to Mount Weather. However, most leaders scoffed at the idea that nuclear war would ever happen and even if it did, the former Soviet Union knew about Mount Weather. They even purchased land around it to monitor what was going on at the site.
Carter became the first president since John F. Kennedy to take civil defense seriously, FP said. Many fallout shelters were decaying and agencies had spent years ignoring assignments for readiness. The budget was increased and a whole new policy was developed. The goal was to have 80 percent of the population survive by spending less than $250 million each year. That’s when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was created.
FEMA became responsible for stocking the bunker with supplies and ensuring that a functioning government can operate. At the same time, the White House was tasked with ensuring there were mechanisms in place for a presidential successor to function militarily during and after nuclear missiles land. The Secret Service enacted their own plan for getting the president out or securing the successor in the event that the president was killed. One declassified memo from the White House urged daily communication between the Pentagon and the president at Mount Weather. Then it confessed that after an incident of “uncoordinated sabotage” facilities wouldn’t provide enough protection and survivors probably wouldn’t live long and could become a target themselves.
Fixed command posts didn’t seem like it would work and mobile ones would require getting the president or a successor to an emergency escape aircraft. Doing so also required a plan for finding the successor if the president is incapacitated. So, the White House tried to make it a little more flexible and focused on three major concepts: survivability, connectivity and supportability.
So, the devised a “presidential successor support team” that would be pre-positioned or pre-deployed during emergencies to the presidential successors. Each team would have requirements to authenticate the new president and the further actions continue to be classified. FP was able to hear some specifics that reveal what might be the first use of a “tracking chip” in the successor cards that would be “amplified by radio frequency repeaters.” They could be collected by FEMA to find locations.
The team was also tasked with helping the successor to carry out functions, talk to other teams, talk to the Pentagon and help execute the nuclear war plan. They’d also be required to “receive intelligence and damage assessments” and talk to local and state governments. Essentially, each team must be able to function as its own government.
All of the other documents that outline specifics are still classified but Carter issued at least 29 other directives. It’s unclear how Congress would be reestablished or if troops would be drafted.