By Gar­rett M. Graff, Si­mon & Schus­ter, 529 pages

Pasatiempo - - IN OTHER WORDS - Raven Rock Galac­tica, Magazine, Wash­ing­to­nian Bat­tlestar Politico Raven Rock Walk­ing Dead Raven Rock Raven Rock Raven Rock Bat­tlestar Galac­tica

Our gov­ern­ment is built to last. It may or may not be com­fort­ing for you to know that, should some end-of-days sit­u­a­tion oc­cur, the U.S. gov­ern­ment has ro­bust pro­ce­dures for main­tain­ing con­trol and evac­u­at­ing all those es­sen­tial bu­reau­cratic ma­chines every­one is so fond of to a safe, warm place.

by Gar­rett M. Graff is the ul­ti­mate guide to these plans, which he de­scribes in vivid and al­most eye-cross­ing de­tail (to the de­gree he is able, given that much of the ma­te­rial is nec­es­sar­ily clas­si­fied). The book is named after the Raven Rock Moun­tain Com­plex, a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar fortress of de­fense and com­mand in Penn­syl­va­nia from whence, if the world ends, what re­mains of Amer­ica will be de­fended by what re­mains of the Pen­tagon. In case any­thing hap­pens to the pres­i­dent, or the vice-pres­i­dent, there are rules of suc­ces­sion of power that en­sure that the U.S., though bathed in nu­clear waste, will still en­joy an En­dur­ing Con­sti­tu­tional Gov­ern­ment. The mod­ern pres­i­den­tial line of suc­ces­sion runs from the pres­i­dent to, 17 seats down, the Sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity, with (be­wil­der­ingly) the Sec­re­taries of Agri­cul­ture and En­ergy some­where above that. While there were laws about suc­ces­sion prior to the nu­clear age (with as­sas­si­na­tions, pres­i­den­tial health, etc., all com­ing into play), the con­fig­u­ra­tion we live un­der to­day was set into law in 1947, with some amend­ments to in­clude newly cre­ated cab­i­net of­fices. This sce­nario is played out most vividly in the tele­vi­sion show

where an A.I.-en­abled ro­bot at­tack re­sults in the de­struc­tion of Earth and most of its gov­ern­ment, leav­ing just a few hun­dred re­main­ing hu­man be­ings on star­ships un­der the com­mand of the Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Graff de­scribes the con­cept of the chain of lead­er­ship suc­ces­sion as we know it now as a prod­uct of the nu­clear age, the deadly speed of a mis­sile at­tack or bomb­ing mak­ing it es­sen­tial to have pro­ce­dures that can be im­ple­mented within min­utes of a threat or hours of a dis­as­ter. “The nu­clear age also trans­formed the pres­i­dency from a sin­gle per­son work­ing in the White House to a much broader idea,” Graff writes. While the world burns all around us, we as Amer­i­cans can rest as­sured that the re­spon­si­ble in­di­vid­u­als we voted into of­fice have con­tin­gency plans for es­cap­ing to un­der­ground bunkers built into the sides of moun­tains that we, as Amer­i­cans, have spent decades pay­ing for.

Graff, an au­thor, aca­demic, and jour­nal­ist whose beat has in­cluded writ­ing about tech­nol­ogy, and edit­ing both the and

is en­cy­clo­pe­dic in his his­tory of the de­vel­op­ment of these pro­to­cols — too de­tailed, per­haps, for the ca­sual reader or dooms­day en­thu­si­ast. While his de­scrip­tion of the gov­ern­ment’s plans to save it­self are good fod­der for con­spir­acy the­o­rists, the book is a work of se­ri­ous jour­nal­ism. Graff never stoops to wild con­jec­ture about zom­bie apoc­a­lypse sit­u­a­tions, and dra­matic sub­ti­tle aside, may be too dry for peo­ple look­ing for a tit­il­lat­ing real-life vibe. He dis­cusses ev­ery­thing from gov­ern­men­tal pro­ce­dures for life after the rock­ets (“As part of imag­in­ing the post-at­tack world, the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice ran stud­ies and ex­er­cises on how to cal­cu­late and levy taxes after a war”) to the del­i­cate bu­reau­cratic machi­na­tions be­hind the for­est of acronyms like FEMA and COG and SCATANA that, one hopes, will save us all from the end­times. For those with more than a pass­ing in­ter­est in the his­tory of the Cold War and its machi­na­tions, pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ingly ur­gent lens through which to fol­low the story. The book is ul­ti­mately mostly the his­tory of how and why these plans ex­ist.

Where Graff is most in­ter­est­ing is in his de­scrip­tions of the the­o­ret­i­cally quo­tid­ian tech­ni­cal­i­ties of life at Raven Rock and other such fa­cil­i­ties like Mount Weather in Vir­ginia; how they have been (or have not been) kept secret, where ev­ery­body would sleep, how much ev­ery­thing costs and would cost if it had to be used, and how many secret con­trol­base air­planes are rolling around on tar­macs ev­ery day just in case the pres­i­dent needs to es­cape a nu­clear blast from any­where in the coun­try. These bunkers (of which there are many) are al­most self-con­tained cities, rang­ing some­times miles un­der the earth. “At the cen­ter of the moun­tain [at Raven Rock] was the core of the fa­cil­ity … five par­al­lel cav­erns that each held large three-story build­ings, care­fully po­si­tioned on coiled springs to ease sway­ing dur­ing a nearby at­tack.” These will be the chthonic con­trol cen­ters from which World War III would be fought, al­though com­mand would still be with the sit­ting pres­i­dent, in the­ory, rid­ing out a nu­clear blast from one of the many ver­sions of Air Force One.

Ul­ti­mately, is not light read­ing. It is, how­ever, en­gag­ingly writ­ten for those who want to know how the sausage of U.S. gov­ern­ment is made, and how it is all likely to un­ravel in the event that the world does, as some news agen­cies would sug­gest, come to an end soon. But also begs the ques­tion: What is the essence of Amer­ica? If there are very few re­main­ing Amer­i­cans, but we still have the Con­sti­tu­tion, the pres­i­dent, and the Pen­tagon, is the torch still lit? Be­cause re­mem­ber, as it cur­rently stands, if the sce­nario does play out, the rag­tag re­main­der of the hu­man race will be un­der the rea­soned lead­er­ship of ... Betsy DeVos. — Tantri Wija

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