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16th Space Control Squadron

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

16th Space Control Squadron
Active1967–1994; 2007-Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
RoleDetect and report electromagnetic interference with satellite communications systems
Part ofAir Force Space Command
Garrison/HQPeterson Air Force Base, Colorado
Motto(s)Tutamine Victoria Latin From a Strong Defense, Victory
DecorationsAir Force Outstanding Unit Award[1]
Lt Col Ernest Schmitt
16th Space Control Squadron emblem (approved 20 July 1984)[1]
16th Space Control Squadron.png
16th Surveillance Squadron emblem[2]
16 Surveillance Sq emblem.png

The 16th Space Control Squadron is an active United States Air Force unit, stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado as part of the 21st Operations Group. The squadron protects critical satellite communication links to detect, characterize, geolocate and report sources of electromagnetic interference on US military and commercial satellites. The squadron also provides combat-ready crews to deploy and employ defensive space control capabilities for theater combatant commanders. The squadron is Air Force Space Command's first defensive counterspace unit.

From 1967 through 1994, the squadron, originally the 16th Surveillance Squadron, operated the Cobra Dane space detection system at Eareckson Air Force Base, Alaska.

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  • ✪ Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself
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>> David Ferriero: Good afternoon. I'm David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States. It's a pleasure to welcome to you the William G. McGowan Theater here at the National Archives. Whether you're here at the theater or watching us on YouTube, welcome. I'm pleased that you could join us here for a discussion of Garrett Graff's book, Raven Rock: The Story of the US Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself While the Rest of Us Die. Before we get started, I want to tell you about two other programs coming up here at the McGowan Theater. Next Tuesday, July 25th, at noon, Christopher Ullman will be here to talk about his book, Find Your Whistle. Ullman, an international whistling champion as well as a Wall Street insider, tells the story of how he found, developed, and shares his whistle with politicians, special-needs children, Wall Street billionaires, and more than 400 people on their birthdays every year, including me. He'll also be giving a demonstration of his whistling talent. In his real life, Chris is the PR person for David Rubenstein. So it will be an interesting program. On Tuesday, August 8th, at noon, journalist Thomas Oliphant will take us behind the scenes of John F. Kennedy's campaign to the White House in The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK's Five-Year Campaign. Oliphant follows Kennedy from his failed attempt to win the vice presidential nomination in 1956 to his success at capturing the presidency in 1960. Book signings will follow both programs. To learn more about these and all of our programs and exhibitions, consult our monthly calendar of events in print or online at There are copies in the lobby, as well as a sign-up sheet where you receive it by regular mail or e-mail, and you will also find brochures about other upcoming events. Using National Archives records, particularly those of the presidential libraries, Garrett Graff's Raven Rock describes the government's plan for continuity and how it was evolved since the end of the world war. In a nuclear age, public officials asked who and what could be saved so the basic functions of government might go on. Doomsday planning reached beyond governmental agencies to government cultural institutions, choosing which artifacts might be saved from destruction. In a New York Times review, Justin Voigt wrote that Raven Rock is a thorough investigation of Washington's long-lasting efforts to maintain order in the face of catastrophe. In exploring the incredible lengths and depths of what successive administrations have gone to in planning for the aftermath of a nuclear assault, Graff deftly weaves a tale of secrecy and paranoia. Carlos Lezada, writing in the Washington Post, says Graff covers every technicality of the planning for nuclear aftermath, but the book's power lies in the author's eye for paradox. Decades of planning can be upturned in a moment by reality. Here at the archives, the safety of the charters of freedom -- the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Bill of Rights -- were of top concern. In 1952 seven Months before the Declaration and Constitution were transferred here, Archives officials asked the Army chief of engineers for an assessment of our building. In our records is a summary of the meeting called the National Archives Building vs. An Atomic Attack. The answer, barring a very near miss or explosion at ground zero, we should come through in fairly good shape. If we're talking about a nominal type of bomb, not a super-duper, unquote. (Laughter.) Thankfully in the 65 years since that discussion we have not faced that kind of threat, but Continuity of Operations is still important part of planning and the National Archive's most direct role is through its operation of the Federal Register, in fact the register gets the last word in Graff's book with this statement: The rest of the nation and indeed much of the world would tune into the emergency federal website to figure out what our nation would look like after an attack. Garrett Graff is a distinguished magazine journalist and historian, covering politics, technology, and national security. He's written for Wired, Bloomberg, and the New York Times and served as the editor for the Washingtonian and the Politico Magazine, which he helped lead to its first national magazine award, and wrote several books including The First Campaign, which examines the role of technology in the 2008 presidential race, and The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War, which details counterterrorism efforts. He is currently working on an oral history of September 11 based on his Politico article work, We're the Only Plane in the Sky, Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Garrett Graff. (Applause.) >> Garrett Graff: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for being here. I'm incredibly excited to be here at the National Archives and I swear they didn't pay me to start off by saying this, but this is a book project that never would have existed without the incredible national gift that is our presidential libraries and particularly the archivists who man them, staff them, and tell us what is inside of them. If you've never visited presidential libraries, I encourage you to do so. Every time I'm at one of them, I like to imagine that's where all my tax dollars go to support. (Laughter.) So this book is effectively the history of the real-life Designated Survivor programs, the Kiefer Sutherland ABC drama that's on right now. And it's something I actually came to in 2011. As David said, I have covered national security and politics in Washington for most of my journalism career. And had bumped up against these programs multiple times. Talked to people who had been evacuated on September 11th to some of these mountain bunkers around Washington. I talked to people who had been part of these plans during the Obama and Bush years. I had even gotten to fly, at one point, with the First Helicopter Squadron out of Andrews Air Force Base just south of Washington here. That practices above Washington on a daily basis to evacuate Washington officials in the event of some catastrophic event in Washington. If you're out and about in the coming days in Washington and you look up and see a blue and gold helicopter flying, it's the First Helicopter Squadron practicing for a Doomsday of some sort. What really got me interested was when I was working at Washingtonian, one of my colleagues brought in to work in the morning a government ID badge that he had found on the floor of a Metro parking garage. It was clearly a U.S. intelligence officer's badge. And he handed it to me and was like, I bet this guy is probably having a bad day without this. Figure out how to get it back to him, and I bet you can track him down. I started looking at it. And I see that there's this set of driving directions on the back of it. And I could tell it leads out somewhere into West Virginia. So I get on Google Maps, Google satellite, and I start following this driving path and get out to this place in West Virginia where there's a road that goes up a mountain, and then on Google satellite you can see there's a chain link fence, a guard shack, the road went 50 more yards, and then disappeared into the side of the mountain. I was like, this is a facility I've never heard of, not on any of the maps I can find. But these are obviously part of the plans that have been built up since 9/11. That's why I got interested in figuring out what these plans were. It ended up being, I'm biased, I think, but a fascinating excavation of the way the Cold War unfolded in a couple big ways. Much of my writing over the years has been about the way that technology transforms institutions. And this became a story of really how one very specific technology transformed one very specific institution. This is the story of how nuclear weapons changed the U.S. presidency. And what it did, as I began to understand this, is the arrival of nuclear weapons began to fundamentally reshape Washington in two big ways. Because it compressed time and space in a way that we had never had to deal with before. You know, the U.S. presidency, up until the end of World War II, was not a particularly fast institution. As late as 1935, when FDR was on the way back from the dedication of the Hoover dam, his car got lost in the canyons outside of Las Vegas. He disappeared for the afternoon. (Laughter.) No one knew where he had gone and when next he would be in touch. And as late as January 1945 when Truman took over as vice president, the vice president didn't have any Secret Service protection. He wandered around Washington unmolested for most of the day. As long as you could get in touch with him by the afternoon or the next morning, that was actually all you needed from the vice president. Well, nuclear weapons actually started to compress the decision making time, such that the president needed to be in constant communication. That the vice president needed to be locatable. And sort of on down through the U.S. government, which I'll come back to in a second. The second is we began to struggle for the first time with the question of what happens if an entire city is wiped out in an instant. Obviously, this was a new threat of the nuclear age, of the atomic age. As he was saying during the introduction, thinking about and talking about those earlier years, part of what's strange to consider now when we look back on them is that for, you know, that first decade or so of the atomic age, there was actually very much the idea that a nuclear war could be a survivable phenomenon. That it would be awful, for sure, but you were talking about bombers moving slowly through, from Soviet airspace, so you would have 8, 10, 12 hours' worth of warning, plenty of time to evacuate senior officials and even large chunks of cities. In those early years, you weren't talking about, as he said, super-duper bombs. You were talking about mini bombs. So you maybe had, yeah, the loss of maybe a dozen cities. You may have Washington get hit by one atomic bomb, which at that point wouldn't necessarily even have wiped out the entire city. So you had this sort of weird moment where the government was like, oh, well, we can actually plan and organize around how to respond to a nuclear attack. And then you have the shift from bombers to missiles, that you go from 8, 10, 12 hours of warning to just 15 or 30 minutes. Washington, if there was a sub marine off the east coast, it could be 8-11 minutes of warning. One of the weirder things I discovered in this was the Soviet embassy on 16th Street at that point, during the Eisenhower and Kennedy years, the U.S. actually believed that the Soviets had an atomic bomb in the attic on the third floor there. So you might not get any warning at all. Now, of course, the Soviet embassy, the Russian embassy, is radioactive for a slightly different reason in Washington. (Laughter.) But at that point, you have not just the technology and the warning speed change, but you also have the shift from nuclear bombs to thermonuclear bombs, from atomic bombs to hydrogen bombs, and just the sheer scale of the arsenals begins to expand dramatically. So the nuclear war became something much less manageable and much less something that you could actually plan for. But for the 70 years that we have had, since the end of the Cold War, the Continuity of Government plans were some of the most highly classified, most secret plans of the U.S. government. And even people working in adjacent offices wouldn't necessarily know who was part of the plans and who wasn't. When Aaron Sorkin, the director, was doing the research of what was ultimately to become West Wing and American President, he was meeting with George Stephanopoulos. This was 1990. Stephanopoulos was the White House communications director. Stephanopoulos showed him what Aaron Sorkin thought was a bus pass in his wallet, but it was actually his evacuation pass, his sort of get out of nuclear war free card. And Sorkin actually incorporates that into a West Wing episode some of you might remember, where Josh Lyman, the deputy Chief of Staff, gets one of these passes from the National Security Council, walks around for the day with a tremendous amount of guilt. Well, Dee Dee Myers, who had been Stephanopoulos’ White House press secretary pulls Aaron Sorkin aside at the beginning of the episode -- she was on set that day -- and she said, Aaron, I think this is kind of a hokey premise because these cards don't actually exist. Aaron was sitting there and was like, wait, you never realized you wouldn't be protected in the event of the nuclear war and the person literally in the office next to you would be? (Laughter.) And this ends up being -- the story of this plan, I think, ends up being the fascinating story of an unfolding technology revolution. In many ways, these plans, which were -- with the exception of 9/11, which I'll talk about in a second -- were never really used, but ended up profoundly shaping and influencing our modern world. In many ways, our modern world is the result of the Doomsday planning that the U.S. government did and never used during the Cold War. The Pentagon's desire for a decentralized communications network that would survive a nuclear war became the first investment that eventually became the internet. It was the first chat program ever designed, sort of the forerunner of Skype, Facebook messenger, AOL messenger, was a program called Emissary, originally used by government bunkers to communicate among themselves to discuss stockpiles in the event of an unfolding catastrophe. Even when you get on an airplane reservation system like Kayak or Expedia or wherever you prefer to book airplane tickets is a dependent of Sabre that was the original program that the US designed to track in-coming Soviet bombers during the cold war to launch these evacuation protocols. Also there are some very physical legacies to this. The interstate highway system that we use on a daily basis around the country was originally conceived in part by Dwight Eisenhower to speed the evacuation of cities and the movement of relief supplies and war materials around the country. He was very obsessed with logistics and how we would actually be able to move things around the country in the event of an attack on the United States. That was part of the conception for what was, when it was originally founded, known as the interstate and defense highway system in the United States. This is also where you begin to see for the first time the U.S. government keeping mass secrets, which it has obviously a very important legacy in the modern national security state. Where you have the secrets of the atomic age were the first time that the U.S. government ever had the need to keep large numbers of secrets secret for an indefinite period of time. So before then, you had had, you know, a secret battle plan or a secret diplomatic mission, but there were not the -- there were not the technical secrets, not the infrastructure secrets that we now consider so much of the core of the modern national security state. This is a world that, through much of the Cold War, the American public had some interaction with. And that's part of the subtitle of the book, the United States government's secret plan to save itself while the rest of us die. Those of you of a certain age, you'll remember the 1950s and 1960s effort of civil defense. The Bert the Turtle, duck and cover drills in elementary schools. Where if you were just able to get under your desk in time, you would survive nuclear war. And the fallout shelter crazes of the 1950s and 1960s and the efforts to encourage people to build fallout shelters and bomb shelters in their own backyards, and the Kennedy efforts to centralize those with the brown and orange Fallout Shelter logos you can still see rusting and graying on post offices and elementary schools around the country. It was an effort to protect the civilian population. There were these national exercises known as the Operation Alert where entire cities would come to a stop. People would practice evacuations. You had, in Washington, thousands of personnel evacuate to these mountain bunkers in an overt manner. This was something the U.S. government practiced openly for a number of years. Then as the nuclear weapons got stronger and faster, the ambitions shrank to what they effectively are today, evacuating a small number of high ranking officials, including one of whom is sitting in the front row in this room, out to mountain bunkers in one place or another outside of Washington and leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves. (Laughter.) But the constellation of facilities and vehicles was larger and more complex than anything I could imagine when I began this research. That you don't just have these large bunkers The name of the book, Raven Rock, is a reference to the bunker that would have served, and would still serve, as the backup Pentagon, in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. It's literally a hollowed-out mountain with a free standing city inside, capable of housing thousands of people from the Pentagon. There's a second bunker in Berryville Virginia 80 minutes west of Washington called Mount Weather, another hollowed-out mountain with a city inside. When I say free-standing city, I mean it's a city with three-story buildings with their own police departments, medical departments, facilities, cafeterias, small lakes inside the mountains that would have served for drinking water. Power plants. Everything you need to live inside the mountain for a month at a time. Colorado has Cheyenne Mountain, the NORAD facility, which some of you may be familiar with from the 1980s movie War Games with Matthew Broderick. Another mountain size bunker that is still up and running today. I was just in it a couple months ago. They're rebuilding it and reorienting it to protect from cyber attacks from rogue states like North Korea. These three large facilities were well known but represented a small portion of what were more than 100 of these facilities scattered around Washington and the United States, including regional bunkers in places like Maynard, Massachusetts and Denton, Texas, which is FEMA, the agency that still would run these plants today, the idea was the government would dissolve into these 8 bunkers around the country until the government could reconstitute itself. But each department and agency had its own bunker or relocation facility. The State Department had a cattle research center in Front Royal Virginia, an incredibly bucolic farm where their personnel would live out the nuclear war. The Federal Reserve had a bunker in Mount Pony, Virginia, down near Richmond, that had room for both the Fed chair and board of governors, but also $4 billion in cash locked away in vaults that would have served to, in their minds, bridge the gap for the nation's currency needs during the 18 months that they estimated the bureau of engraving and printing would need to get back to engraving and printing currency. You had others around the country as well, but also this strange constellation of vehicles. There was an airborne command post known as Looking Glass, which would have served as the nation's absolute last line of defense, that flew 24 hours a day from 1962 until the early 1990s. A plane flew somewhere over the plains every day of the year, and if everything on the continental United States had been destroyed, there would still be a one-star general aboard the Looking Glass plane who could launch the last remaining missiles and the communicate with our submarines around the world to launch their own arsenal. There was a special fleet of Naval ships, the USS Northampton and the USS Wright, that were floating command posts, floating White Houses, one kept off the Atlantic coast for much of the 1960s and early 1970s, where the president could have been evacuated in the event of an attack on Washington. Fun piece of Washington trivia. Bob Woodward, the investigative reporter, actually did his naval service as one of the nuclear officers aboard a Naval command ship. So if President Johnson had ever been evacuated from Washington, it would have been Bob Woodward meeting him aboard the plane -- or aboard the ship to tell him how to run the nuclear war. These were the Johnson/Nixon era plans. As satellite technology improved and it became harder to hide the Navy ships in the Atlantic, the U.S. government shifted to what continues to exist today, the presidential Doomsday planes. These planes known by the code word Nightwatch, this fleet of 747s that would have served, and still serve today, as the president's airborne command posts. As we're sitting here in Washington today, one of these planes is on the runway in the Air Force base in Omaha, Nebraska, its engines are on, it fully staffed with every type of personnel you need to run nuclear war from the sky. It could launch in less than 15 minutes to rendezvous with wherever the president ends up being. There was a whole fleet of Gulf Stream jets following the plane we know as Air Force 1 around the country no matter where the president was, always landing one airport away from where Air Force 1 was landing, and it was specially designed to land at the Mount Weather strip in Berryville, Virginia. So he would land with the Gulf Stream and be taken to Mount Whether. These plans continue to this day. Raven Rock is fully staffed, Mount Weather is fully staffed, and NORAD are fully staffed in the event that something should happen in Washington without any notice. This a plan that Part of what I found so fascinating about it is as we begin to think through these questions of what you need to preserve America, that very quickly becomes a very existential question about what is America? So are you trying to preserve the presidency? Are you trying to preserve the three branches of government? Or are you even planning to preserve, particularly relevant today, the historical totems that have bound us together, generation by generation, in America? So during the Cold War, as part of these plans, the government sat down here at the National Archives and decided that if they -- that they would save the Declaration of Independence before they saved the Constitution. In the Library of Congress, they would save the Gettysburg Address before they saved Washington's military commission. In Philadelphia throughout the Cold War there was a specially trained team of park rangers whose job it was to evacuate the Liberty Bell into the mountains in the event of a Soviet threat. I have a mental picture of rangers driving off in a pickup truck with the Liberty Bell swinging freely in the back. (Laughter.) No, no, I swear, the crack was there before we started moving it! (Laughter.) And these plans envisioned a post-apocalyptic government where every existing department and agency would have some post-Doomsday version of itself. The post office was the agency through the Cold War that was in charge of registering the dead and figuring out who was still alive. After you would show up in the refugee camps, you would be handed this postcard that said Form 810, and you would list the members of your family that had survived nuclear war with you. And on the back, you would list some other member of your family who you are interested in trying to mail this postcard to and being reunited with. There was no postage necessary. Postage was not necessary after the nuclear holocaust. (Laughter.) And the post office would sort of collect all these cards and sort them. The refugee camps themselves would be run by the park service. The thinking was that national park land would be largely untouched by nuclear war, so you would flee from Washington out to the Blue Ridge Mountains, or in California, out to Yosemite, and your friendly park ranger would standing there to usher you into the refugee camps. The USDA was in charge of feeding everyone after the nuclear war. They made these detailed studies of how many man days -- that was the measurement they used -- how many man days of edible fish and wildlife would survive nuclear war, and how many man days of domestic pets would survive the nuclear war, so when you emerged from the fallout shelter after the two weeks recommended to stay in there, they would know how much food there was and would ration appropriately. In Kansas, they knew there was an average of a 28-day supply of coffee that would be available in the event of nuclear war afterwards, so at least for the first month after nuclear war, you could still have coffee. In the fallout shelters, meanwhile, you would be fed ultimately 165,000 tons of survival biscuits that were manufactured in the 50s and 60s by companies like Kroger and Nabisco, that had been sealed in cans and pre-located in the fallout shelters. Each person in the shelter would receive 6 crackers a day, each cracker being worth 125 calories. The very helpful documentation that came with the crackers suggested that, since there wasn't much to do in the shelter, each cracker should treated as its own meal to encourage as much activity as you could have over the course the day. The crackers, of course, were not the tastiest that had ever been designed, and the government ultimately scrapped all of them when they began to send some of the surplus crackers off to natural disaster survivors in Bangladesh and Africa, only to discover that those recipients suffered severe gastric problems from surviving on the crackers for several days. (Laughter.) Then you would have, even the IRS has very carefully considered how it would levy taxes on nuclear-damaged property. Because, of course, not even nuclear war would stop the IRS from looking to collect taxes. (Laughter.) And these plans sort of are hilarious in some ways to talk about in the abstract, but were very deadly serious activities and exercises during the time of the Cold War. To me, it's just this very fascinating and strange history of, like, a world that has never happened and we hope never actually does happen, but continues to exist just out of sight, even as we are sitting here in Washington today. I think I might stop there and take questions, because there are a lot of different directions that we could go. There are mics on either end, so if you have a question, please stand up and come to the mic so the people watching the video can hear. (Applause.) >> Thank you very much. Couple questions. First is, when someone joins the government and then gets a call or says, come over here, welcome aboard to the Doomsday club, how does that work and evolve from the perspective of who's managing the overall process and what that means to that person? It could be anything, right? You talked about everything from people talking bells away to folks that are still there working on food processing. Anything that you can comment in that regard. What I guess happens from the perspective of, if Doomsday occurred, those people's jobs today are slightly different at that time. What's the reality of that process, and who's managing that whole system that exists? Plus, you know, Doomsday. >> Garrett Graff: Yeah. So in my mind, what makes these plans so interesting is the intersection of the very carefully crafted black and white paper plans and the human psychology that would inevitably intrude into any sort of catastrophic event. So when you talk about, like, what happens when people are brought into these plans, one of the first questions that always comes up is, what happens to my family? Believe it or not, this was a problem that was literally exposed during the first exercise, Operation Alert, 1954, when Eisenhower's cabinet evacuated to the undisclosed location that we now know is Mount Weather, and they took all the secretaries and none of the wives. (Laughter.) There was a very chilly game of rummy that afternoon that the wives of the cabinet played back here in Washington as they contemplated that their husbands did not intend for them to survive nuclear war. (Laughter.) And that this is sort of a continuous problem through the Cold War. Earl Warren, when he was chief justice, sort of what happened, and this is pretty typical of how these plans unfold, you know, this guy from the forerunner of FEMA at the time shows up to his office and very somberly reads this plan to him with the evacuation path. He says, where's the path for Mrs. Warren? The man from the OEP, the Office of Emergency Preparedness, says, you're the one of the most important men in the government. The path is just for you. He says, good news, I opened up a space for another very important person. He hands the path back. He says, if there's no space for Mrs. Warren, there's no point in me attending. That was true throughout the Cold War. Part of this, I was talking to someone I know in Washington who was part of these plans during the Obama administration. And he had a designated evacuation helicopter that would have found him wherever he was in Washington and swept him off to one of these bunkers. And he said to me, I have two young daughters, and if anyone thinks if that helicopter, if it lands on a Saturday morning at her soccer game and they think I'm just going to wave goodbye to them forever and jump on the helicopter, they're crazy. That's part of the real challenge of these plans. Would any of them actually have worked? To briefly answer your question about the modern analog of this, all of these have been updated for modern threats. So the post office, they don't have Form 810 anymore. But they are the agency designated with distributing medical countermeasures in the event of a chemical, biological, or public health pandemic in the United States. And there's a very careful, detailed plan of how the post office would distribute, you know, vaccines or antidotes nationwide, with the thinking that the post office is the one agency of the U.S. government that can visit ever house in a single day. These are the things you should think about when you next calculate the tip for the postman. (Laughter.) You want to make sure you're one of the first houses on the block to receive the Ebola vaccine. >> What's the plan for the continuity of Congress? Second question, a follow-up to that one, what if there's a smaller -- what if someone crashes a plane into the White House or terrorists get access to a small technical nuclear bomb, so it's not the whole country that's blown up, but a smaller emergency that affects the operations of the federal government? >> Garrett Graff: Yeah. So part of this story is the extent to which the United States, under almost any of these scenarios, would be transformed into a presidential dictatorship. That, you know, we know the presidential football, the president's nuclear brief case that follows him wherever he goes. Well, during the Cold War, there was also the attorney general's emergency football that followed the attorney general around, that contained all of these prewritten executive orders suspending civil liberties, suspending habeas corpus, instating martial law. One listed thousands of suspected subversives that the FBI would arrest after signing a massive arrest warrant, with no cause, just that you were on J. Edgar Hoover's list. There were thousands of people the FBI would sweep up in an event like this. That sort of carried through a lot of these plans, in that there wasn't really much of a role for Congress. There wasn't much of a role for the Supreme Court. Congress had its bunker at the Greenbrier, which probably many of you know, is in West Virginia. It's a rare facility that still is maintained and exists in the form that it existed in the Cold War. You can go tour it. If you get the chance, it's a really fascinating tour. You can see the room where the House of Representatives would have convened or the Senate would have convened. That is all predicated on the 8, 10, 12 hours of warning, that Congress would have been brought from the Hill to a special train that would have taken them to West Virginia. I uncovered as part of the research that members of Congress weren't actually told where the relocation bunker was, to the question of how these plans were actually communicated. There were so many people coming in and out of Congress all the time, they didn't want to tell each member and have this sort of whole pool of ex-members who knew where the evacuation plans would go. (Laughter.) So if nuclear war came when Congress was in recess or on a weekend or something, the plan was literally, members of Congress were supposed to find their local FBI field office, and there were sealed letters in each FBI field office for each nearby member of Congress telling them where to report for their, you know, their evacuation facility. Now, the modern analog of this plan becomes very interesting in the Congressional sense. The modern sense of this plan, particularly the way the three branches interact, is known by the term Enduring Constitutional Government, ECG, and it's the most highly classified set of these plans. We don't really have any idea what those plans actually mean today. What we do, what we can surmise out of them, and part of the fun and challenge of speaking to a Washington audience is there might be someone in this room who, like, wrote the ECG plan who knows I'm entirely wrong about this. Feel free to speak up if that's the case. (Laughter.) But what we think the ECG plan entails is, basically, some set of special powers that preserves not the letter of the Constitution, but the spirit of the Constitution. And empowers some small, rump Congress to act in the stead of the full Congress. Why we think this -- I mentioned at the beginning Designated Survivor -- the presidential survivor. Since 2001, since 9/11, there has been a designated Congressional survivor, who is hidden away during high-profile events. That makes no sense in the context of ordinary Congress. You can't get anything done with one member of Congress under normal circumstances. The whether you can get anything done with 535 members is another question. (Laughter.) The only reason it would make sense to save one member of Congress is if they had special emergency powers to act until Congress itself is reconstituted. The terrible, tragic shooting here at the softball game a few weeks ago brought these issues up in part because Congress still has no way to reconstitute itself if large numbers of members are incapacitated, not killed. So if there's a chemical or biological attack that injures or puts a large number of members of Congress in a coma, Congress would be paralyzed, and there's no procedure for Congress to continue operating like that. >> What if there's a more targeted attack, like on the White House? >> Garrett Graff: That's where a lot of the plans are now focused. Less around evacuation and more around devolution, in part because of the 9/11 experience, but you may also remember there was a sarin gas attack by a cult in Tokyo on the subway there. Those events, in the late 1990s and 2001, focused the government on keeping these facilities running 24 hours a day, because in the modern context, actually the most likely threat is that something happens in a very localized way in Washington, but then leaves, you know, the other 329 million Americans, you know, completely fine, but leaderless. So that's why these mountain bunkers are still manned today, 24 hours a day. >> Thank you. >> I'd like to ask two questions. First, as you described, in a moment of national emergency, only a small number of artifacts can be preserved. The Declaration of Independence and not the Constitution, for example. But I imagine a lot more can be preserved digitally. I wonder if there are provisions for the digital preservation. >> Garrett Graff: Yeah. A lot of these plans are also artifacts of their time. So one of the things that the government was most concerned about in, you know, the '40s, '50s, and early '60s were maps. They built all of these, like, redundant map storage facilities around the country because of the fear of, you know, maps at that point only existed in paper. And so you only would have, you know, if something happened to the Pentagon, like you would lose all of the maps of Eastern Europe. And so, you know, that's no longer that much of a concern. And much of this is now focused on digital backups and -- more distributed document preservations than existed back then. >> So much of what's in this building is preserved in 1s and 0s? >> Garrett Graff: Yeah. >> And the second question is, you mentioned Greenbrier. As you described it, I gather it's no longer an active facility but something people can tour. Was there a story of how it was discovered and could then no longer be used as a facility? A reporter found out about it? >> Garrett Graff: Yeah. A Washington Post reporter by the name of Ted Gup announced the facility to the world 25 years ago, actually this May. It was two months ago. And in reality, the facility had largely served its purpose by that point anyway, I mean, the Cold War was winding down. The extent to which the Russians, the Soviets, knew of these facilities has always been a semi open question. There was a point during the, I think there was the Nixon administration -- it might have been Johnson -- where the Soviets announced that they wanted to buy a weekend vacation house for their diplomats that just so happened to be located atop Mount Weather. (Laughter.) And they swore it was just a total coincidence. The State Department ended up nixing it. But the expectation was that the Russians knew of many of these facilities anyway. We actually now understand that actually Robert Hanssen, when he was spying for Russia and the Soviet Union, actually delivered a set of Continuity of Government plans to the Russians at one point. But there's sort of an interesting question about the Greenbrier specifically. Because the thinking is -- and we don't know who Ted Gup's original source was -- but that that was part of a bureaucratic tussle at the time about whether these facilities should be wound down anyway. And indeed it very quickly was. I tell the story in the book of how the morning after these -- after the Washington Post story ran. So the bunker was run by a front company that purported to be the audio/video techs for the Greenbrier, this company called Forsythe Associates. So the Forsythe Associates staff, the morning after the Washington Post story, are out on the loading dock of the bunker, drilling through the computers, and the first thing actually came was a truck to take away the small arms locker that had been at the Greenbrier during the Cold War. The people stood on the loading dock, like, what are you doing? And the guy who headed Forsythe Associates, sort of the head FEMA worker on site, said, do you want to try to explain to members of Congress who we would have been using these weapons against in the event of the evacuation of this bunker? So they really hustled to close that thing down pretty quickly. >> Thank you. >> Garrett Graff: All right. Last question down here. Or maybe I'll take two quickly. >> What year did Clarence Thomas give the oath of office to Barack Obama? >> Garrett Graff: I don't think he did. Wasn't it John Roberts? >> Thank you. >> My question. What happened to the badge you found with driving directions to West Virginia? (Laughter.) >> Garrett Graff: We got it back, actually, to them. It was a funny, typical story. What happens when you call secret facilities in Washington is they don't answer with -- they just tell you the extension number of reached. So like 3793. So we called the watch number on the badge, and we're like, yeah, we've got this badge. He was like, how did you get this number? (Laughter.) I'll take one last question here. >> Remember 9/11, when we sort of didn't know where Dick Cheney was for a while? Was that part of a man? Why was Cheney seemingly more protected than Bush? >> Garrett Graff: Bush was in Florida at that elementary school and was put aboard Air Force 1 and sort of hid out on Air Force 1 for the day. It's this great moment that illustrated the central paradox of a lot of these plans, which is the challenge of these plans is you can either be secure or you can be in control. And most of these plans, you can't do both. So Bush was secure, hidden aboard that plane, doing, by the way, and I wrote a whole piece about being aboard Air Force 1 that day, and am absolutely convinced that President Bush made the right decision as the commander in chief of the United States in that moment. But he received, as we all remember, tremendous criticism for not doing the Rudy Giuliani thing and marching straight down to Ground Zero. We saw that ripple through government, where Donald Rumsfeld, his first reaction to being at the Pentagon when it was struck on 9/11, was he went to the crash site and helped carry wounded people out on stretchers who were wounded in the attack. It was a tremendously courageous thing that bonded him with the military in a very profound way at that moment. But it was absolutely the wrong thing for him to do as the secretary of defense and a key member of the national command authority. Because during the 90 minutes that were the central moment of that attack, he was still in danger at the Pentagon. You know, the right thing for him to do, according to every protocol for 70 years, some of which, by the way, Rumsfeld wrote when he was defense secretary the first time around in the 1970s, was to get on a helicopter and get out of the Pentagon. In fact, that's what Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, did. He evacuated to Raven Rock that day. And Cheney was at the White House bunker under the north lawn of the White House and as we remember him disappearing to a lot of undisclosed locations that fall. A lot of that was Camp David and Raven Rock, among other facilities that he went to. All right. Thank you very much. (Applause.) >> There will be a book signing in the National Archives bookstore. We'll be there in a few moments.



The 16th Space Control Squadron operates space control capabilities to achieve space superiority in support of theater campaigns and United States Strategic Command's space superiority mission. To achieve this, 16th operates the Rapid Attack Identification Detection Reporting System (RAIDRS) central operating location and up to six RAIDRS fixed ground stations and three deployable ground segments. The unit detects, characterizes, geolocation and electromagnetic interference for satellite communications systems, supporting combatant commanders. 16th SPCS operators can remotely control and task the fixed and deployable antenna suites from Peterson Air Force Base. Additionally, the three deployable systems are capable of sustained autonomous operations if connectivity is lost.[3]


Cobra Dane operation

The squadron was first organized at Shemya Air Force Station, Alaska as the 16th Surveillance Squadron and assigned to the 73d Aerospace Surveillance Wing of Air Defense Command.[1] The unit’s mission was to operate the Cobra Dane long-range early warning radar system, used to track Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile launches. In April 1967, the 73d Wing was inactivated and the 16th was assigned directly to Fourteenth Aerospace Force.[1]

The 16th continued its mission under Air (later Aerospace) Defense Command until the command was disestablished in December 1979. Strategic Air Command assumed responsibility for strategic space defense assets and assigned the squadron to its 47th Air Division.[1] The unit was again reassigned in 1983, when the Air Force brought its space defense and communications units under Air Force Space Command, which assigned the squadron to the 1st Space Wing. In 1991, it was reassigned to the 73rd Space Surveillance Group. In 1992, the unit was designated the 16th Space Surveillance Squadron. It was inactivated in 1994.[1]

Rapid Attack Identification Detection Reporting System

The unit was reactivated at Peterson Air Force Base., Colorado in May 2007 under the 21st Space Wing[1] to operate the Air Force’s Rapid Attack Identification Detection Reporting System (RAIDRS).

The RAIDRS prototype, designated the "Satellite Interference Response System" (SIRS), was initially deployed to United States Central Command (USCENTCOM)'s area of responsibility for a 120-day proof of concept. When the proof of concept proved to be a success, SIRS was redesignated RAIDRS Deployable Ground Segment-0 and has been continually deployed to USCENTCOM since then. In 2011, the Bounty Hunter system was delivered to USCENTCOM for added capability and the two comprise Operation Silent Sentry. Airmen from the 16th and its reserve associate, the 380th Space Control Squadron provide the preponderance of the required manpower for this mission.[4]


  • Constituted as the 16th Surveillance Squadron and activated on 1 November 1966 (not organized)
Organized on 1 January 1967
Redesignated 16th Space Surveillance Squadron on 15 May 1992
Inactivated on 1 October 1994
  • Redesignated 16th Space Control Squadron on 4 May 2007
Activated on 16 May 2007[1]


  • Air Defense Command, 1 November 1966 (not organized)
  • 73d Aerospace Surveillance Wing, 1 January 1967
  • Fourteenth Aerospace Force, 30 April 1971
  • Alaskan Air Defense Region, 1 October 1976
  • 47th Air Division, 1 December 1979
  • 1st Space Wing, 1 May 1983
  • 73d Space Surveillance Group (later 73d Space Group), 1 September 1991 – 1 October 1994
  • 21st Operations Group, 16 May 2007 – present[1]



Award streamer Award Dates Notes
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 January 1974-31 May 1975 16th Surveillance Squadron[1]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 July 1980-30 June 1982 16th Surveillance Squadron[1]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 May 1983-30 April 1984 16th Surveillance Squadron[1]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 September 1989-31 August 1991 16th Surveillance Squadron[1]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 6 April 1993 16th Surveillance Squadron[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Robertson, Patsy (July 13, 2009). "Factsheet 16 Space Control Sq (AFSPC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  2. ^ "Approved insignia for: 16th Surveillance Squadron". National Archives Catalog. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  3. ^ "Peterson AFB Library Factsheets: 16th Space Control Squadron". 21st Space Wing Public Affairs. Archived from the original on May 2, 2009. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  4. ^ "Peterson AFB Library Factsheets: 16th Space Control Squadron". 21st Space Wing Public Affairs. 10 July 2015. Archived from the original on 4 November 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2018.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

External links

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