White House Continuity of Government Plan
Continuity of Government Background
Since the days of the Cold War, the United States has had a plan in place to continue the operation of the government following a catastrophic attack on the nation's capital.
Because of its sensitive nature, details from the classified "Continuity of Government Plan" have been kept secret, even from Members
of the House Homeland Security Committee.
As further proof that the Obama Administration was the most open and transparent in history,
the White House had decided to brief the American People on this important program.
The 2007 "National Security Presidential Directive 51
" directs the geographic dispersion
of leadership, staff, and infrastructure in order to maintain the functions of the United States Government in the event the nation’s capital is “decapitated” by a terrorist attack.
Buried deep within the 98-page National Continuity Plan is the strategy for the mass evacuation and relocation of every federal government
agency including The White House and the military in response to an exceptional catastrophic event within the National
Capital Region. Each agency is required to have a detailed Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) in place.
The Shadow Government
Following a catastrophic national emergency, the President, or his successor can authorize the establishment of a temporary "shadow government" to maintain control of the essential functions
of the Federal Government. President Bush activated the shadow government on September 11, 2001 shortly after the second attack on the World Trade Center.
Every federal agency has designated key individuals to be part of an "Emergency Relocation Group". These ERGs are assigned to an alternate secure location on a rotating basis and are
ready to take over the duty of supporting the National Essential Functions of this nation in an emergency.
Presidential Line of Succession
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 sets the order of Presidential Succession. This order is followed if the President dies or is incapacitated. The order of cabinet officers
included in the list is determined by the dates on which each of their positions was created:
- Vice President
- Speaker of the House
- President pro tempore of the Senate
- Secretary of State
- Secretary of Treasury
- Secretary of Defense
- Attorney General
- Secretary of the Interior
- Secretary of Agriculture
- Secretary of Commerce
- Secretary of Labor
- Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Secretary of Transportation
- Secretary of Energy
- Secretary of Education
- Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Secretary of Homeland Security
Orders of succession are also established for each of above Cabinet officials within their own departments. Ten successors residing within the National Capital Region (NCR) and three successors
outside the NCR are identified for all executive departments and agencies. Here is an example of a 2013 Secretarial Order of Succession
Tracking Individuals in the Presidential Line of Succession
In the past, FEMA maintained the Central Locator System (CLS), which tracked the 24-hour movements of key government officials. This legacy system has been replaced by the
Internet Protocol Locator
A real-time tracking system is incorporated into IPL to identify the location of key officials at all times using
Location Based Services (LBS) available from cellular phones and GPS devices implanted in wearable accessories such as pins, earrings, and wristwatches.
There are 24/7 Observer Stations responsible for monitoring the status of each key government official to determine his or her location in the event of an emergency
National Essential Functions (NEFs)
|Ensure the continued
functioning of the
three separate branches of
||Provide leadership visible
to the Nation and the world
||Defend the Constitution
against all enemies, foreign and domestic
||Maintain and foster
effective relationships with foreign
|Protect against threats to
the homeland and bring perpetrators to
||Respond to and recover
from domestic consequences of
||Protect and stabilize
the Nation’s economy
||Provide for critical
national health, safety,
and welfare needs of the United
The Continuity of Government Readiness Conditions (COGCON) system establishes executive branch readiness levels based on possible threats to the National
Capital Region. The President alone determines and issues the COGCON Level.
FEDERAL CONTINUITY RESPONSE
|| Federal executive branch government employees at their normal work locations. Maintain alternate facility and conduct periodic continuity readiness exercises.
||Federal agencies and departments Advance Relocation Teams “warm up” their alternate sites and capabilities, which include testing communications
and IT systems. Ensure that alternate facilities are prepared to receive continuity staff. Track agency leaders and successors daily.
||Deployment of 50-75% of Emergency Relocation Group continuity staff to alternate locations. Establish their ability to conduct operations
and prepare to perform their organization’s essential functions in the event of a catastrophic emergency.
||Full deployment of designated leadership and continuity staffs to perform the organization’s essential functions from alternate facilities either as a
result of, or in preparation for, a catastrophic emergency.
COGCON 0 (Classified)
|Activate classified CONPLAN 3600 evacuating the President and those in the line of presidential succession. Activate classified CONPLAN 3502 deploying the military to enforce law
and order within the Civilian Control Districts. Seize all private communication facilities and assume control over all civilian voice and data communications. Activate
internet kill switch under SOP 303. Commandeer all U.S. domestic resources including food and water. Seize all domestic energy and transportation infrastructure. Deploy the national citizen conscription plan
to fulfill any labor required for the purpose of national defense and reconstitution.
"This is Bluegrass with a COGCON" : COGCON Alert and Notification Process
When the President directs a COGCON change, all executive departments and agencies are notified:
- White House Military Office Director notifies Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) located in the bunker under the East Wing
- PEOC notifies the FEMA Operations Center (codename Bluegrass) located at Mount Weather in Bluemont, Virginia
- Bluegrass notifies Department and Agency COOP Emergency Points of Contact and/or Emergency Operations Centers
COGCON ZERO: The Evacuation
Evacuating the President
The President would evacuate via the White House Tunnel System
to the Marine One hangar at the Anacostia Naval Support Facility. His ultimate destination would be onboard the
E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOB)
, a highly survivable militarized version of the Boeing 747-200
capable of being refueled in flight. After several days in the air, the President could choose to go to one of the Presidential Emergency Facilities at Mount Weather
, Site R
, the underground bunker at Camp David
the bunker at Offutt Air Force Base
, the new bunker under the Denver International Airport, or other still-classified locations.
Evacuating the Presidential Line of Succession
The U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is responsible for evacuating government officials under the guidance of the classified Concept of Operations Plan
CONPLAN 3600: Emergency Preparedness in the National Capital Region
. The executive agency and department heads along with designated emergency relocation group (ERG) members would be transported to classified locations around the country above ground, below ground, and
The secret evacuation plan includes a nearby fleet of specialized vans and trucks
that can be dispatched on a moment's notice
to secret campgrounds located within the Shenandoah Valley and in nearby federal park lands in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia containing underground
hardened facilities with emergency communication systems.
An Emergency Action Alert sent by the FEMA Alternate National Warning Center in Olney would direct the 1st Helicopter Squadron from Andrews Air Force Base to the Capitol to evacuate
the top congressional leaders to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center. The Secret Service would take the Vice President and top-ranking White House officials down into the
underground bunker in the White House.
Secret C-20C "Senex" Aircraft
Three Air Force C-20C aircraft (85-0049, 85-0050, and 86-0403) based at Andrews AFB are operated by the Presidential Airlift Group (PAG) of the 89th Airlift Wing.
The C-20C aircraft are a secret part of the COG program and are designed to move senior executives (Senex) quickly in the event of a national emergency. The three C-20C aircraft are equipped with a
comprehensive hardened communication system installed by E-Systems and designed to enable operations in a post-nuclear environment. Whenever the President travels away
from Washington, a C-20C is positioned discretely at an adjacent airfield in case the President has to suddenly depart and Air Force One has been disabled.
National Intelligence Emergency Management Activity (NIEMA) atop Peters Mountain
The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) maintains a top-secret 24/7 Response Operations Center located in Albemarle County
in central Virginia.
In an emergency, the national Warning, Alert, and Mobilization System (WAMS) would alert a select group of people from across the Intelligence Community to deploy to the bunker. The alert would come from “The Communicator” Automated Notification
System. The select Core Participants would then assemble to their emergency pick-up location to board helicopters for evacuation to Peters Mountain.
Pentagon Relocation to Site R
Site R, also known as the Raven Rock Mountain Complex
, is located six miles north of Camp David and serves as the Alternate National Military Command Center. The deep underground facility can
fully support the Pentagon's mission essential functions including nuclear command and control. Army helicopters are on standby at Davison Army Airfield
to evacuate senior Defense officials from
the Pentagon to Site-R providing hasty access to the secret facility by following Blue Light and Iron Gate procedures
View photos of Site R
COGCON ZERO: The Military's Role in Civilian Control Under Martial Law
NORTHCOM also has the important responsibility for ensuring the safety of our citizens during the expected chaotic unrest. The classified CONPLAN 3502 - Civil Disturbance Operations gives the military
the authority to establish operational zones across the country to enforce law and order upon the U.S. civilian population.
Upon activation, troops would report to their assigned "Civilian Control District". The military would impose curfews until the chaos subsided. Citizens would be required to carry
identification at all times. The civilian judicial system would be temporarily halted until full order was restored.
Military forces would have the authority to imprison rioters, looters and other civilians committing criminal offenses. Anyone failing to heed the orders of the military would be arrested and
held in temporary detention camps until the civilian judicial process was restored. Special military units acting under the authority of classified JCS CONPLAN 0300-97 would
detain Main Core watchlisted individuals in the Special Circumstances Section of the federal detention camps.
COGCON ZERO: Expanded Executive Powers
In 2012, President Obama issued two Executive Orders that will greatly expand his executive powers in the event of a national emergency.
The March 2012 Executive Order
gives the President the authority to commandeer all U.S. domestic resources, including food and water, and seize all energy and transportation infrastructure within the United States.
The order also allows authorizes the U.S. Government to force its citizens to fulfill labor requirements for the purposes of national defense.
The July 2012 Executive Order
gives the Department of Homeland Security authority over private communication networks in emergency situations.
Under a recent Cybersecurity Act, the President has the right to shut down parts of the Internet in times of an emergency. This would be accomplished
by having the National Security Agency shut down key Domain Name Servers, which would effectively act as a "kill switch'.
The White House believes the ability to rapidly expand Presidential Powers in a crisis is a matter of National Security. Because it is impossible to anticipate every possible catastrophic scenario, draft Presidential Emergency-Action Directives (PEADs) have been prepared in advance allowing the White House
to fill in the blanks as needed during a crisis.
Main Core: Our Secret Database of Watchlisted Americans
The Main Core database tracks Americans who are considered potential threats in the event of a national emergency. It was first developed in the 1980s using software called PROMIS, which was
designed as a case management system by a private company, Inslaw, for federal prosecutors. It provided the ability to track people within the legal system across multiple databases. The PROMIS software was taken from Inslaw via
"trickery, fraud and deceit"
by the Department of Justice and modified by US intelligence
agencies to monitor intelligence operations, agents and targets.
The stolen software had users in multiple federal agencies including
Lt. Col. Oliver North who created a secret dissident tracking system under the Reagan Administration's Continuity of Government program.
The NSA's Domestic Surveillance Directorate
is now the main source of intelligence feeding into the modern version of the Main Core system.
The database includes domestic e-mails, internet searches, bank transfers, credit card transactions, travel, phone, and other records allowing authorities to identify and locate
those deemed 'enemies of the state' almost instantaneously in an emergency.
The White House National Continuity Coordinator
The operational authority for the Continuity of Government was shifted from the civilian Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the
White House Military Office in early 2009, giving the White House full control over this important national security program. Tom Bossert, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism serves as the current National Continuity Coordinator.
OUR NATIONAL EXERCISE PROGRAM
Our National Exercise Program
consists of a two-year progressive exercise cycle that culminates in the Capstone Exercise held
in even-numbered years. Operational details of the CAPSTONE Exercise are sensitive and can only be disclosed through unofficial channels
CAPSTONE EXERCISE 2016
: Catastrophic Earthquake and Tsunami Exercise in Washington and Oregon held June 7-10, 2016 (Exercise Scenario
) - See list of participating state and federal agencies
ARDENT SENTRY 2016
: Focuses on the Department of Defense Support to Civilian Authorities’ mission. (Held in conjunction with Cascadia Rising)
VIGILANT GUARD 2016
: Large-scale, multi-state disaster response exercise sponsored by USNORTHCOM and the National Guard Bureau. (Held in conjunction with Cascadia Rising)
ULTIMATE CADUCEUS and JLOTS (Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore)
: U.S. Transportation Command and Navy/Marine/Army exercises (Held in conjunction with Cascadia Rising)
CYBER STORM V
: An extensive DHS cybersecurity exercise designed to strengthen cyber preparedness in the public and private sectors - March 2016 (About Cyber Storm
: Nuclear Weapons Accident/Incident Exercise tests how well emergency responders can safely mitigate a scenario involving potential damage to a U.S. nuclear weapon in DOD custody. Held
April 19-21 at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay
VIBRANT RESPONSE 2016
: May 1-6 - Camp Atterbury, Indiana / Harrisburg, PA - Tests the response to an improvised nuclear device (IND) detonation in a metropolitan area
MARBLE CHALLENGE 2016 (May 8-14 Mobile, Alabama)
: FBI-led domestic render safe exercises
that approximate the complexity of conducting operations on a nuclear/radiological device in the United States
: Continuity exercise for all Federal Executive Branch departments and agencies held May 16-17, 2016 (See details below
EAGLE HORIZON 2017
Eagle Horizon is our annual mandatory integrated continuity exercise for all Federal Executive Branch departments and agencies. The Eagle
Horizon exercise requires each department and agency to test their Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) by deploying their Emergency Relocation Groups
to secret remote locations where they will perform their Essential Functions ensuring the preservation of Our Government.
will start their work day at their normal work locations. When the continuity level changes to COGCON 1, they will make a mad dash to deploy
to the alternate sites leaving their loved ones behind. Eagle Horizon uses scenarios such as hurricanes, improvised nuclear device detonations, earthquakes and cyber-attacks.
Sample Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)