Continuity of Government
The Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center is a civilian command facility in the U.S. state of Virginia, used as the center of operations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Also known as the High Point Special Facility (HPSF), its preferred designation since 1991 is "SF.” The facility is a major relocation site for the highest level of civilian and military officials in case of national disaster, playing a major role in continuity of government (per the U.S. Continuity of Operations Plan). Mount Weather is the location of a control station for the FEMA National Radio System (FNARS), a high frequency radio system connecting most federal public safety agencies and the U.S. military with most of the states. FNARS allows the president to access the Emergency Alert System. The site was brought into the public eye by The Washington Post, when the government facility was mentioned while reporting on the December 1, 1974, crash into Mount Weather of TWA Flight 514, a Boeing 727 jetliner. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, access to the operations center is available via State Route 601 (also called Blueridge Mountain Road) in Bluemont, Virginia. The facility is located near Purcellville, Virginia, 51 miles (82 km) west of Washington, D.C. The site was originally opened as a weather station in the late 1800s. It was used as a Civilian Public Service facility (Camp #114) during World War II. At that time there were just two permanent buildings on the site: the administration/dormitory building, and the laboratory. Those buildings still stand, supplemented by many more modern buildings. The underground facility within Mount Weather, designated “Area B”, was completed in 1959. FEMA established training facilities on the mountain’s surface (“Area A”) in 1979. The above-ground portion of the FEMA complex (Area A) is at least 434 acres (176 ha). This measurement includes a training area of unspecified size. Area B, the underground component, contains 600,000 square feet (56,000 m2). According to a letter to the editor of The Washington Post, after the September 11 attacks, most of the congressional leadership was evacuated to Mount Weather by helicopter. Between 1979 and 1981, the National Gallery of Art developed a program to transport valuable paintings in its collection to Mount Weather via helicopter. The success of the relocation would depend upon how far in advance warning of an attack was received. The first video of Mount Weather shot from the air to be broadcast on national TV was filmed by ABC News producer Bill Lichtenstein, and was included in the 1983 20/20 segment “Nuclear Preparation: Can We Survive”, featuring 20/20 correspondent Tom Jarriel. Lichtenstein flew over the Mount Weather facility with an ABC camera crew. The news magazine report also included House Majority Leader Tip O’Neill and Representative Ed Markey, confirming that there were contingency plans for the relocation of the United States government in the event of a nuclear war or major disaster. Both Mount Weather and the now deactivated bunker at The Greenbrier were featured in the A&E documentary Bunkers. The documentary, first broadcast on October 23, 2001, features extensive interviews with engineers and political and intelligence analysts, providing rare insights into the secret installations. The documentary compared The Greenbrier and Mount Weather to Saddam Hussein’s control bunker buried beneath Baghdad. The documentary features interior video of The Greenbrier as well as the Baghdad bunker, which survived direct hits from seven Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs during the Battle of Baghdad in 2003. Author William Poundstone investigated Mount Weather in his 1989 book Bigger Secrets. While the novel Seven Days in May mentions a facility called Mount Thunder, a reference to Mount Weather, but the road descriptions in the book make it quite clear that it is the same facility. It is also referred to in the movie based on the book, filmed during the Kennedy Administration and released in 1964. Mount Weather has been the setting for several apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fictional works. These include the 2002 series finale of The X-Files, the 2008 film The Day the Earth Stood Still, the novel series The 100, CW’s TV series The 100 and Syfy’s TV series Z Nation. Mount Weather is also mentioned in the novel Memorial Day by Vince Flynn, and in the novels One Year After and The Final Day, both by William R. Forstchen. It is also mentioned in the movie Thirteen Days, as well as CW’s TV series Arrow ; Season 4 Episode 22 “Lost in the Flood”. It was the opening scenes of 2002 spy film, The Sum of All Fears based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name. It is the setting for the 21st Season 2 episode of Earth: Final Conflict titled “Message in a Bottle”.
High Frequency Global Communications System (HFGCS) has never been this active before the past 48 hours. The High Frequency Global Communications System (HFGCS) is a network of single sideband shortwave transmitters of the United States Air Force which is used to communicate with aircraft in flight, ground stations and some United States Navy surface assets. All worldwide receiving and transmitting sites in the HFGCS system are remotely controlled from Andrews Air Force Base and Grand Forks Air Force Base. Before 1 October 2002 it was known as the Global High Frequency System (GHFS).
HFGCS stations tend to operate in the aviation bands clustered around 5, 6, 8 and 11/12 MHz, although other frequencies are in use. The primary HFGCS voice frequencies are 4724.0 kHz, 6712.0 kHz, 6739.0 kHz, 8992.0 kHz, 11175.0 kHz, 13200.0 kHz and 15016.0 kHz. In addition to the HFGCS, U.S. aircraft frequently use Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) HF stations (13927.0 kHz) and Canadian Forces HF stations (11232.0 kHz) to relay messages. Various other discrete frequencies are available, and used, as part of the HFGCS network and are not listed here. One common use for the HFGCS is to place telephone calls from the aircraft in flight by means of the Defense Switched Network (DSN) to an Air Force base to obtain local weather conditions, to arrange for refueling, and to inform the base of the number of passengers and crew. The HFGCS also carries Emergency Action Messages. In addition to EAMs, the HFGCS also carries a few different types of messages. A higher priority code for orders is a Skyking Message, which is a time sensitive message for orders that need immediate attention. Force Direction Messages (FDM’s) are also sent through the HFGCS, although it is impossible to tell whether the message is an FDM or just another EAM being read. The sign off ‘Colour Bar’ is currently being used (2016) at the end of the transmission.
Although transmissions are often single sideband (SSB), the use of the ALE transmission mode is more and more common. HFGCS complements the use of satellite communications between aircraft and ground stations.
Stations of the HFGCS Network
- Andersen Global, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, USA
- Andrews Global, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, USA
- Ascension Global, Ascension Auxiliary Airfield, Ascension Island, British Overseas Territories
- Croughton Global, RAF Croughton, United Kingdom
- Diego Garcia Global, Diego Garcia Naval Station, British Indian Ocean Territory
- Elmendorf Global, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, USA
- Hickam Global, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, USA
- Lajes Global, Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal
- Lincoln Receiver Site (aka West Coast Global), Beale Air Force Base, California, USA
- Offutt Global, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, USA
- Puerto Rico Global, Salinas, Puerto Rico, USA
- Sigonella Global, Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, Italy
- Yokota Global, Yokota Air Base, Japan
- Thule Air Base, Greenland
- Keflavík Global, Keflavík NAS, Iceland
Bayonne Global (Bayonne, NJ) A former USTRANSCOM station operated by the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) from 1989 to 1999.
The HF-GCS is used by the United States Air Force to send instructions for their operations through messages, and most commonly send Emergency Action Messages (EAMs). The HF-GCS is not exclusive to the USAF, and is used by other countries too, but not as often. They also send higher priority messages known as “Skyking Messages” which will even be read over-top and interrupt an EAM to be read. Both of these messages are time sensitive and are read live in NATO Phonetic letters. The primary HF-GCS frequency is 11175 kHz, and broadcasts 24/7 on that frequency as well as 8992 kHz. The HF-GCS also broadcasts on 4724, 6712 (Croughton), 6739, 13200, and 15016 during their scheduled times, which is still most of the day. The High Frequency (HF) Global Communications System (HFGCS) supports war plans and operational requirements for the following organizations: White House Communications Agency (WHCA), Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Air Mobility Command (AMC), Air Combat Command (ACC), AF Air Intelligence Agency (AIA), Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), and Air Weather Service (AWS). Test counts are also normally sent over the HF-GCS: “This is mainsail with a test count… testing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” Sometimes you will notice an echo of the voices in the background. These echos are a result of propagation delays because of slow landlines and the satellites going to the multiple widely spread transmission sites. Emergency Action Messages: EAMs are frequently read on the HF-GCS frequencies and usually won’t take you long to hear one. They begin with a 6 letter header, this preamble could have a few different uses, but NPS states for Minuteman Missile launches “The preamble told the crew which edition and page number of a non sealed authenticator to use. Once at the right page the crew would know what message checklist to use.” The receiving crew has access to an emergency action checklist binder where the message and instructions are copied to. Then the message continues afterward and is repeated. A typical EAM message is 30 characters long but can be different. There have been EAMs over 200 characters long before. The message usually ends with “Mainsail Out”, but can change based off where it is being sent from ex. (Offutt out). Mainsail is the collective callsign for all ground stations in the network. From 2013 – April 2015, “Mainsail Out” was a much more commonly used ending than the originating base. Since then, you will now mostly hear a callsign being used for the sender/recipient. Another unique callsign is SkyMaster – the collective callsign for all USSTRATCOM airborne command units Sometimes messages are intended for specific recipients, and tactical callsigns are read at the end of a message. For example “For WAITER” and “For TRINITY” have been used as tactical callsigns before. These callsigns are changed very often, and can change in less than an hour or possibly even shorter. Force Direction Messages (FDMs) are another type of message sent through the HF-GCS, however there is no way to tell if an FDM is being sent or if it’s just another EAM. The Single Channel Transponder System (SCTS) provides Emergency Action Message (EAM) and Force Direction Message (FDM) dissemination capability to command centers (USSTRATCOM, EUCOM, SHAPE, NMCC, USSPACECOM, and PACOM) and force elements for the control of strategic and non-strategic nuclear forces. Also known as “Foxtrot Broadcasts” are Skyking messages. These are a higher priority message and are sent in a different format from EAMs. Skyking messages will sometimes even interrupt an ongoing EAM since it’s the highest priority. “Skyking” is the collective callsign for sending messages to all Single Integrated Operation Plan (SIOP) aircraft and missile Ops which are also responsible for deploying strategic bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, and various support aircraft. A Skyking message begins with the reader speaking “Skyking Skyking do not answer”, followed by a codeword, then two numbers for the time of the hour, and ends with a 2 letter authentication string. The message is then repeated. Skyking messages have the same ending as a regular EAM and can also change depending on where it is sent from. Until 2016 Skyking began with a 3 letter trigraph instead of a codeword. In 2015-2016 the trigraph was still used, but sometimes a codeword was used instead. Skybird: Skybird is the collective callsign for all USSTRATCOM command posts, launch control centers, Global HF stations, Air Traffic Control (ATC) towers on Air Combat Command (ACC)/Air Mobility Command (AMC) host tenant bases, Singles Sideband HF radio stations, and air defense sites in Canada.
“Skybird” is rarely ever heard on HFGCS comms. When a Skyking message is sent out, the receiving plane(s) transmit to Skybird – which is what sends the Skyking message and acknowledges it. Skybird likely has many other uses and also has changed over time, but we’ve seen proof of this Skybird activity.
In the United States military’s strategic nuclear weapon nuclear command and control (NC2) system, an Emergency Action Message (EAM) is a preformatted message that directs nuclear-capable forces to execute specific Major Attack Options (MAOs) or Limited Attack Options (LAOs) in a nuclear war. They are the military commands that the US military chain of command would use to launch a nuclear strike. Individual countries or specific regions may be included or withheld in the EAM, as specified in the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP). The SIOP was updated annually until February 2003, when it was replaced by Operations Plan (OPLAN) 8044. Since July 2012, the US nuclear war plan has been OPLAN 8010-12, Strategic Deterrence and Force Employment. EAMs use cryptographic protocols (including such methods as digital signatures) to authenticate the messages, thereby ensuring that they cannot be forged or altered. In the United States, the EAM will be issued from the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon or, if it has been destroyed by an enemy first strike, by the Alternate National Military Command Center - Site R at Raven Rock, Pennsylvania or by the Boeing E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC). The messages are sent in digital format to nuclear-capable major commands. The messages are then relayed to aircraft that are on alert by the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, via single-sideband modulation radio transmitters of the High Frequency Global Communications System (formerly known as the Global High Frequency Service). The EAM is relayed to missile-firing nuclear submarines via special transmitters designed for communication with submarines. The transmitters include those designed to operate at Very Low Frequency (VLF). The submarines pick up the message via special antennas. Nuclear-capable forces will then be expected to carry out an EAM without fail. Manned bombers may be recalled, but missiles fired from land-based silos or from submarines cannot be recalled. Skyking messages are also read on the same network as EAMs, also known as “Foxtrot Broadcasts”. These messages will interrupt an EAM if needed to be read. They contain a higher priority and time-sensitive code for orders that need immediate attention.
FAS: Continuity of Government
Continuity of Government is basic to survival of the nation. This principle has received increasing attention by government at all levels and in all branches. Despite this general awareness and an increasing understanding, there is still some confusion about the survival of government which is essential to the future of the nation and the world. Stated simply, the major objective of emergency planning, and therefore of these specific programs, is to preserve the American representative form of government. The country cannot afford to leave a vacuum at any governmental level which could lead to anarchy or to an unlawful assumption of authority. On 12 February 1962 President Kennedy stated: “the continued effective functioning of civilian political authority in an emergency is vital to the survival of our free society.” The survival of a president to provide national leadership is essential to national unity and strong public will. Emergency plans must be so drawn and implemented as to give the nation assurance of: the survival of a president; a capability for bringing to bear the president’s influence on the immediate emergency situation; and the functioning of central government. The plans and provisions for continuity of the executive departments and agencies of the federal government are based on executive orders 10952 and 10346, and National Security Council action documents. Executive order 10346, issued to the federal departments by President Truman, specifically charges them to prepare plans for maintaining the continuity of their essential functions at the Seat of Government and elsewhere during the existence of an emergency. It further stipulates in order to achieve uniformity of planning for the continuity of essential functions, the Office of Emergency Planning shall establish such standards and policies as it may from time to time deem desirable. Section 2(b) of executive order 10952, by which President Kennedy reorganized the nonmilitary defense program, charged the Director of the Office of Emergency Planning with responsibility to “develop plans, conduct programs and coordinate preparation for the continuity of federal governmental operations in the event of attack.” The elements comprising the program for the continuity of the executive departments and agencies of the federal government have changed but little in the years since the federal government initiated the program. The single most important element for achieving continuity of government is the preservation of constitutional leadership. Since this cannot be handled by delegation with regard to the presidency, establishing an effective line of succession is the only solution. In 1947 Congress changed and lengthened the line of succession to the presidency. This line extends from the Vice President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to the President pro tem of the Senate, and thence through nine members of the cabinet, thus providing twelve successors to the president. The Secretaries of the various Cabinet Departments which did not exist at the time this law was passed are not Constitutional successors to the presidency. The departments and all major agencies of the federal government have established lines of succession for their key positions at the seat of government. The currency of these lines have been maintained and are checked annually. Most of the departments and agencies have publicly announced their lines of succession through publication in the Federal Register, thus informing all agencies and the public of their plans. A few of the departments and agencies have classified their lines of succession as a security measure; the information is, of course, available at their records repositories. There are ranges of opinions concerning what federal functions will be carried on during and immediately after an all-out nuclear attack, with some maintaining that there is little or nothing that the federal government can or should do. Others proposed federal programs and federal controls inconsistent with the situation resulting from widespread destruction which would be caused by such an attack. A great deal of attention has been given over the years to the question of determination essential functions. Most of the analysis which has been done by individual departments and agencies in this field reflected the lack of overall criteria for this purpose. The process which was undertaken in the review of essential functions was one of analyzing each function of the department or agency and making a specific determination as to essentiality or non-essentiality; when a function was determined to be essential an estimate was made of the number of people required to carry it out. Federal planning has proceeded on a basic assumption that maximum effectiveness and efficiency could be derived by requiring federal departments and agencies to undertake planning and the development of emergency capability compatible with their ongoing major peacetime missions. To provide specificity and further emphasis the president has, by the issuance of executive orders, made emergency preparedness assignments to a number of departments and agencies in addition to the Department of Defense. Crisis Relocation Facilities are designated which would accommodate all persons required to perform agency’s emergency functions under an austere economy. Guidance from the Office of Emergency Planning was used in the development of regional relocation programs. Generally these sites would be used as conditions warrant and permit to maintain continuity of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government. During the 1980s the White House National Program Office (NPO) was responsible for Continuity of Government (COG) initiatives, to include projects to maintain command and control centers during a National Emergency.
White House: Continuity of Government - 2020
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. 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 102-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.
COGCON Levels: 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.
COGCON 4: Federal executive branch government employees at their normal work locations. Maintain alternate facility and conduct periodic continuity readiness exercises.
COGCON 3: 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.
COGCON 2: 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.
COGCON 1: 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 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 (“This is Bluegrass with a COGCON”)
National Essential Functions (NEF):
The National Continuity Policy Implementation Plan identifies eight national essential functions which represent the overarching responsibilities of the federal government during a crisis.
Ensure the continued functioning of the three separate branches of government.
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 nations.
Protect against threats to the homeland and bring perpetrators to justice.
Respond to and recover from domestic consequences of an attack.
Protect and stabilize the Nation’s economy.
Provide for critical national health, safety, and welfare needs of the United States.
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.
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 at sea. 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.
Continuity of Operations (COOP) is a United States federal government initiative, required by U.S. Presidential Policy Directive 40 (PPD-40), to ensure that agencies are able to continue performance of essential functions under a broad range of circumstances. PPD-40 specifies certain requirements for continuity plan development, including the requirement that all federal executive branch departments and agencies develop an integrated, overlapping continuity capability, that supports the eight National Essential Functions (NEFs) described in the document.
FEMA provides guidance to the private sector for business continuity planning purposes. A continuity plan is essential to help identify critical functions and develop preventative measures to continue functions should disruption occur.
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.
In 2012, President Obama issued two Executive Orders that will greatly expand the presidential 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.
The State of the Union Address
Every year, U.S. federal agencies quietly prepare for the change in the Continuity of Government Condition (COGCON) level during the annual State of the Union Address. Because the full Presidential Line of Succession is in attendance at this NSSE event (except for a designated survivor Cabinet Secretary hiding out in the White House bunker), the COGCON level for the United States Government secretly drops from Level 4 to Level 3 in preparation for the President’s State of the Union Address to our nation.
The 25th Amendment defines the procedures for replacing the president in the event of death, removal, resignation, or incapacitation. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
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. The Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism serves as the current National Continuity Coordinator.
The United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) is one of eleven unified combatant commands of the United States Department of Defense. The command is located at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, and was established in 1987. The USTRANSCOM commander is Army General Stephen R. Lyons, the first commander who is not a United States Air Force officer. USTRANSCOM coordinates missions worldwide using both military and commercial transportation resources. It is composed of three service component commands: The Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command. The Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, which was part of the former U.S. Joint Forces Command, is now part of the U.S. Transportation Command.
Air Force: Air Mobility Command (AMC) is also located at Scott AFB. The AMC fleet provides refueling and cargo and personnel transport capability. Aircraft of the command include: C-17 Globemaster III, C-5 Galaxy, C-130 Hercules, KC-135 Stratotanker, and KC-10 Extender. Additional long-range airlift aircraft are available if a U.S. national emergency is declared through the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, a fleet of commercial aircraft committed to support the transportation of U.S. military forces and material in times of crisis.
Navy: Military Sealift Command (MSC) USTRANSCOM’s sealift component, provides sea transportation worldwide for DoD in peace and war. Headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. MSC uses a mixture of government-owned and commercial ships for three primary functions: Surge sealift, principally used to move unit equipment from the United States to theaters of operations all over the world; prepositioned sealift, comes under USTRANSCOM’s command once the ships have been released into the common-user fleet; and sustainment sealift, the life line to keep deployed forces continuously supplied. MSC assets include Fast Sealift and Ready Reserve Force ships. In addition, MSC charters and books space on commercial ships.
Army: Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC), located at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, is the commercial surface lift component and primary surface distribution manager for USTRANSCOM. SDDC’s provides global surface deployment command and control and distribution operations. SDDC has a presence in 24 water ports worldwide. In an average year, SDDC manages and directs the movement of 3.7 million measurement tons (4.2 million m³) of ocean cargo, 500,000 personal-property moves, 600,000 domestic freight shipments, 72,000 privately owned vehicles and 518,000 passengers. SDDC assets include 10,000 containers and 1,350 railroad cars. Within the United States, the SDDC works with the Federal Highway Administration to designate the Strategic Highway Network.
Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC) specializes in the airlift of senior defense officials within the continental United States. JOSAC is located at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC) supervises quickly deployable planning, communications, and public affairs elements. JECC is located at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia and is divided into three subordinate joint commands that provide capabilities across seven unique functional areas. It aims to bring tailored, mission-specific forces to a joint force commander within hours of notification. The JECC subordinate joint commands are:
- Joint Planning Support Element (JPSE) – Provides specialists in order to accelerate the formation and increase the effectiveness of newly formed joint force headquarters. JPSE is co-located with the JECC headquarters at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.
- Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE)– Provides rapidly deployable, en route, early entry and scalable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities across the full spectrum of operations in order to facilitate rapid establishment of joint force headquarters and bridge joint C4ISR requirements. JCSE is located at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
- Joint Public Affairs Support Element (JPASE). JPASE is located in Suffolk, Virginia.
Cyber threats remain a major concern for USTRANSCOM. Because of its extensive use of commercial capabilities, nearly 90 percent of USTRANSCOM missions are executed over unclassified and commercial networks. USTRANSCOM’s Joint Cyber Center (JCC) uses a process knows as the Cyber Staff Estimate to assess risk, adjust defensive posture, and adopt operational or technical mitigations in performance of key missions. USTRANSCOM integrates cyber security language into a majority of its commercial contracts and co-chairs the National Defense Transportation Association Cybersecurity Committee.
Airlift and Aerial Refueling
Airlift forces move critical cargo and people to the point of need, while air refueling capabilities enable projection of forces across great distances to any location at any time. The Air Force’s primary · airlift workhorse, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, remains the backbone of the United States’ strategic airlift capability. To continue the C-17’s airworthiness, and meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 2020 mandates, the Air Force has planned a series of modifications for the early 2020s and is pursuing a mitigation plan to restore 16 of their C-17 aircraft from Backup Aircraft Inventory to Primary Mission Aircraft Inventory. The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy fleet is currently undergoing a Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program modification through April 2018, which will extend service life past 2040. Additionally, USTRANSCOM is building partnership capacity with other nations possessing air refueling competencies. Greater interoperability among nations will strengthen coalition partnerships and provide additional capability to the combatant commands.
Civil sector transportation infrastructure enables the movement of military forces. The Defense Personal Property Program (DP3), administered by SDDC, enables the movement and storage of service member, DoD employee, and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) employee personal property and privately owned vehicles. DP3, in collaboration with Transportation Service Providers (TSP), manages over 550,000 personal property shipments for DoD and USCG customers at an annual cost of $2 billion. The Defense Personal Property System (DPS) and its associated Program Management Office provide a centralized, web-based, single-point interface system for worldwide shipment of personal property. The DPS is a self-service system, offering real-time access for government, industry and customer users to input and retrieve data supporting the entire movement process – from pick-up to delivery of household goods.
Sealift moves roughly 90 percent of all DoD cargo and maintaining the readiness of the entire strategic sealift portfolio, both commercial and organic, is a top priority for USTRANSCOM. Per the National Sealift Policy, USTRANSCOM relies upon the U.S.-flag commercial shipping industry, to the extent it is available, to provide sealift in peace, crisis and war, and the government-owned organic fleets to provide unique national defense capabilities not resident or available in sufficient numbers in commercial industry. USTRANSCOM’s relationships with its U.S.-flag commercial sealift partners are formalized through agreements such as the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA), the Maritime Security Program (MSP) and the Voluntary Tanker Agreement (VTA). USTRANSCOM has expressed concerns that the U.S.-flag commercial international trading sector is declining. In the past year, fourteen U.S.-flag internationally trading vessels within the VISA program were either reflagged to a foreign country or scrapped without replacement due, in large part, to the reduction in demand. This loss of U.S.-flag vessels represents a net decrease of over 327,000 square feet of roll-on/roll-off force projection capacity and over 600 U.S. merchant mariner jobs. The reduction of U.S.-flag vessels is forcing USTRANSCOM’s commercial sealift partners to make adjustments to the services they provide by either removing liner capacity or expanding alliances with other carriers to take advantage of larger vessels. Government-owned organic fleets are also facing challenges. Due to the age of vessels in the United States Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Ready Reserve Force, this fleet will begin to lose capacity in the mid to late-2020s, with significant losses in the 2030s.