The Bush administration recently unveiled plans to operate a “contingency government” out of an undisclosed location in the event of a catastrophic attack on the nation’s capitol.
The details of the plan, first reported by The Washington Post, call for between 75 and 100 “senior administration officials” to be placed securely underground for lengthy periods of time. These officials could be away from their friends and families for upwards of 90 days at a time.
One thing that the plan does seem to do is to firm up the line of successors to the president’s job. Following Vice-President Dick Cheney would be House Speaker Dennis Hastert, then Sen. Robert Byrd, who is the Senate President Pro Tempore.
The plan, however, is not without controversy, as many leaders on Capitol Hill are disgruntled with the lack of information they have received. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said that “key people, the people in line of succession were briefed or offered a briefing in whole or in part,” and that “certain key staff people were made aware of it.”
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle believes that there is too much public debate on issues that are meant to be kept secretive. Daschle was one of many Democratic leaders who felt snubbed by the administration. He has since cleared the matter up with President Bush.
Contingency plans such as this one have been in place since the Cold War. Congress also has a contingency plan in store. There is debate now on whether or not to include Congress, as well as the judicial branch in this current plan.
Secretary of the Senate Jeri Thompson and Senate Sergeant at Arms Alfonso E. Lenhardt were briefed of the contingency plans on Sept. 22 while at the undisclosed locations.