At one time, top-secret command posts were carved out of mountains to provide bombproof working quarters for the President and other high ranking officials. Then, as early as 1970, these “secret” facilities were discovered and have since been referred to as “the government’s worst kept secret.” Further, the government also realized that “hardened” underground sites did not provide the necessary protection because of vulnerability to sophisticated targeting techniques and the more powerful ICBMs developed by the Soviet Union.
So the doomsday planners devised an ingenious new scheme, Instead of going underground, they would go up. They decided to outfit seven Boeing 747 jumbo jets with super-sophisticated computers and communications gear to become flying bunkers for the President and other officials. Unfortunately, this solution also led to problems.
First was the cost. Defense Department spokesmen have admitted that “the contractors and the Air Force applied less than perfect management” to the flying bunker program and the cost for the seven planes soared from $428 million to $1.1 billion.
Second, it probably wouldn’t work anyway. Originally, the strategic planners assumed they would have a 30-minute warning to evacuate the President. Because of the possibility of a nuclear submarine attack, the lapse time between launch and impact has been reduced to 12 minutes. There was at least one simulated White House evacuation drill during the Carter administration that produced a response time so slow that the leader of the free world probably would have been left dead in the driveway.
Another problem demonstrates a fundamental weakness in the plan. This is known as electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or the “radio flash” of nuclear weapons exploded in space which would disrupt sensitive electronics and communications equipment. Thus, the Commander-in-Chief could well be totally out of touch with all his military forces.
SOURCE: Inquiry, 2/2/81, “Going Underground” by Robert Walters.