Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bush Bunker Mentality

The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration is setting up for the largest evacuation "continuity of government" exercise since the 1950's. William M. Arkin reports that on Monday, June 19, about 4,000 government workers from more than 50 different agencies will evacuate the Washington D.C. offices for bunkers in Maryland and Virginia hills. A taste of the highly critical article below.

After 9/11, The Washington Post reported that President Bush had set up a shadow government of about 100 senior civilian managers to live and work outside Washington on a rotating basis to ensure the continuity of national security. Since then, a program once focused on presidential succession and civilian control of U.S. nuclear weapons has been expanded to encompass the entire government. From the Department of Education to the Small Business Administration to the National Archives, every department and agency is now required to plan for continuity outside Washington.

Yet according to scores of documents I've obtained and interviews with half a dozen sources, there's no greater confidence today that essential services would be maintained in a disaster. And no one really knows how an evacuation would even be physically possible.

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? -- that the term has become meaningless. The intent of the government effort may be laudable, even necessary, but a hyper-centralized approach based on the Cold War model of evacuations and bunkering makes it practically worthless.

That the continuity program is so poorly conceived, and poorly run, should come as no surprise. That's because the same Federal Emergency Management Agency that failed New Orleans after Katrina, an agency that a Senate investigating committee has pronounced "in shambles and beyond repair," is in charge of this enormous effort to plan for the U.S. government's survival.

Read the entire article at the Post

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