As of preparation of the story and podcast, The U.S. Senate nor the House have taken action to vote on the Coronavirus Stimulus Bill. However, we were just handed the revised Senate Bill that is 800+ pages long.
As we did with the original House bill, during the day today we will break down the provisions in it so that you will know what in the revised bill is good, what is bad, and what is Nancy Pelosi pork. To that topic, let me say this:
Pelosi and Schumer have weaponized the coronavirus! There is no way around it. Though I do not know deep details of this bill yet, I know that many of the provisions in the House bill you saw yesterday are included in the Senate revision. Why is that? CHUCK AND NANCY ARE HOLDING GUNS TO THE HEADS OF GOP SENATORS BECAUSE THEY KNOW YOU ARE IN DESPERATE STRAIGHTS AND NEED THIS BILL PASSED, SIGNED, AND MONEY SENT OUT!
I could rant some more about it. Let’s wait until tomorrow when I will pull out all the goodies and present them to you.
In the meantime, let’s get down with today’s business!
Think about this one horrible thought: what happens if Coronavirus whips our butts and we CAN’T STOP IT! For answers, read on:
I’m relatively comfortable that we’re going to come out of this coronavirus pandemic OK. I don’t minimize the importance of the lives lost, the companies that will shutter their operations, nor the Americans who will live through an awful financial struggle because of the virus due to no fault of their own. It’s tough but truthful to say, “Sometimes bad things happen to good people.” And that’s what is happening right now. It’s bad today and getting worse daily. How much worse can it possibly get? And what will happen?
An “Eternal” Pandemic?
God forbid that the U.S. would ever see a situation in which some “thing” could happen that could destroy all of our government infrastructure in one monstrous event. In the 60s, the fear of that materialized as a possible Russian nuclear attack. In large part, preparations for such an attack went so far as drills in which school students hid beneath their desks. In that type of horror or something even worse, much more would be required in the way of preparation if we are to expect our country to survive.
Even though President Trump said he tested negative for coronavirus, the COVID-19 pandemic raises the fear that a large number from the executive branch or even Congress and the Supreme Court could also be disabled, seriously ill and incapacitated, or even die. This would force the implementation of “continuity of government” plans that include evacuating Washington and “devolving” leadership to second-tier officials in remote and quarantined locations. Remember that television series Designated Survivor? We may be as close as we’ve ever been to that being an actuality because of coronavirus or some other cataclysmic event.
But today we’re in a different environment from those that ANY of the pandemic plans “in the can” were created to guide us through. The military is always a key piece of any of those plans. But with coronavirus, the military itself is vulnerable and the disaster scenarios being contemplated — including the possibility of widespread domestic violence as a result of food shortages — are forcing planners to look at what are called “extraordinary circumstances.”
Contingency plans already exist for what the military is supposed to do if all the Constitutional successors are incapacitated. We’d have to go pretty deep in the “line of succession” to get to that. But you never know.
Standby orders were issued more than three weeks ago to ready these plans, not just to protect Washington, but also to prepare for the possibility of some form of martial law. The various plans – codenamed “Octagon,” “Freejack” and “Zodiac” – are the underground laws to ensure government continuity. They are so secret that under these extraordinary plans, “devolution” could circumvent the normal Constitutional provisions for government succession, and military commanders could be placed in control around America. What is “devolution?”
“Devolution” is defined as the statutory delegation of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to govern at a subnational level, such as a regional or local level. It is a form of administrative decentralization. Devolved territories have the power to make legislation relevant to the area and thus granting them a higher level of autonomy.
This possibility is all-new for the Nation. We’ve had previous pandemics, wars, riots, but, thank God, no nationwide domestic attacks from other countries. But we go through numerous disasters for which the U.S. government in conjunction with its citizens has always prevailed handling every aspect of each of those. But Coronavirus is something totally different than ever seen in the U.S. How different?
Ok: want an example? Have you ever met “General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy?” No, you haven’t. And let’s hope you nor I ever will. Who is Terrence? Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy is the “combatant commander for the U.S. who would be in charge if Washington literally “goes out of business.” His would be a temporary position — one that would last only until Americans could elect a new leader.
Is it not spooky to you to think that something like this that would put a total stranger — “Terrence O’Shaughnessy — in charge of the Nation? Such a thing appears to now be more than just a “remote possibility.”
Americans are not known to be the most committed planners for government matters applicable to many years ahead. Our legislators have conditioned us to plan only four years ahead at a time.
Americans are really good at setting goals and the implementation of the processes necessary to meet goals, but only on a short term basis. Using that as an example of American preparation for an event such as this, one would hope our government has made sufficient plans for this, especially in the shadows of 9/11. A plan has been started. But it desperately needs to be completed, rolled-out, tested and put in place. Our government has NOT taken such measures.
There’s a group of Americans that shortly after 9/11 felt a call to structure plans for this in the unlikely (but very possible) Washington D.C. event which would result in no federal government at all. But in 20 years of those people pushing hard to get Congress, every Administration and even each Department of Defense engaged to formalize a plan to address our needs in the event of a pandemic, nothing has happened! Is anyone surprised at that?
There certainly are multiple emergency plans of all kinds to address the needs of the nation in the case of another 9/11 nationwide cataclysm. Even though we have in the past had epidemics, none have risen to the level of seriousness as has coronavirus. And we’re finding out we MUST find and implement new ways of dealing with future horrors that we today cannot even imagine.
As a rule, Americans (and our government) are not very proficient at preparing “for” such events. We ARE proficient at addressing aggressively “after” a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, and even 9/11. But each of these other horrors are “one-offs” that are basically localized and contained from their inception. Coronavirus has as its target every human being on planet Earth! That’s a pretty big target to try to protect from an invisible enemy.
Here are the unclassified elements of a U.S. Government plan to address the chaos at every level of a Coronavirus pandemic aftermath. This plan is in place.
The Pentagon has instituted unprecedented restrictions on off-base travel. Last Wednesday it restricted most overseas travel for 60 days, and then on Friday issued supplemental domestic guidance that essentially keeps all uniformed personnel on or near military bases. There are three absolute elements of the plan for Coronavirus actions compiled by the Pentagon. They each fall under a sub-plan that carry different names.
- CONPLAN 3400, or the military’s program for “homeland defense,” if America itself is a battlefield.
- CONPLAN 3500, “defense support of civil authorities,” where the military assists in an emergency short of armed attack on the nation.
- CONPLAN 3600, military operations in the National Capital Region and continuation of government, under which the most-secret plans to support continuity are nested.
All of these plans are the responsibility of the Pentagon’s U.S. Northern Command (or NORTHCOM), the homeland defense military authority created after 9/11. Air Force General O’Shaughnessy is NORTHCOM’s Colorado Springs-based commander. (You knew you’d learn what Gen. O’Shaughnessy’s responsibilities would be!)
On February 1, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper signed orders directing NORTHCOM to execute nationwide pandemic plans. Secretly, he signed Warning Orders (the WARNORD as it’s called) alerting NORTHCOM and a host of east coast units to “prepare to deploy” in support of potential extraordinary missions.
Seven secret plans – some highly compartmented – exist to prepare for these extraordinary missions. Three are transportation-related, just to move and support the White House and the federal government as it evacuates and operates from alternate sites. The first is called the Rescue & Evacuation of the Occupants of the Executive Mansion (or RESEM) plan, responsible for protecting President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and their families — whether that means moving them at the direction of the Secret Service or, in a catastrophe, digging them out of the rubble of the White House.
The second is called the Joint Emergency Evacuation Plan (or JEEP), and it organizes transportation for the Secretary of Defense and other national security leaders so that they can leave the Washington area. The Atlas Plan is a third, moving non-military leaders – Congressional leadership, the Supreme Court and other prominent figures – to their emergency relocation sites. Under Atlas, a still-secret bunker would be activated and cordoned, with government operations shifting to Maryland.
The three most compartmented contingencies – Octagon, Freejack, and Zodiac – call upon various military units in Washington D.C., North Carolina, and eastern Maryland to defend government operations if there is a total breakdown. The seventh plan -– codenamed Granite Shadow — lays out the playbook for extraordinary domestic missions that involve weapons of mass destruction.
Most of these plans have been quietly activated during presidential inaugurals and State of the Union addresses, the central feature of the weapons of mass destruction scenario seen in the annual Capital Shield exercise in Washington. Last year’s exercise posited a WMD attack on Metro Station. Military sources say that only the massive destruction caused by a nuclear device — or the enormous loss of life that could be caused by a biological agent — present catastrophic pressure significant enough to justify movement into extra-Constitutional actions and extraordinary circumstances plans.
“WMD is such an important scenario,” a former NORTHCOM commander stated, “not because it is the greatest risk, but because it stresses the system most severely.”
According to another senior retired officer, who said about Granite Shadow and is now working as a defense contractor, the national mission force goes out on its missions with “special authorities” pre-delegated by the President and the Attorney General. These special authorities are needed because, under regulations and the law, federal military forces can replace civil authority or engage in law enforcement only under the strictest conditions.
When might the military’s “emergency authority” be needed? Traditionally, it’s been thought of after a nuclear device goes off in an American city. But now, planners are looking at the military response to urban violence as people seek protection and fight over food. And, according to one senior officer, in the contingency of the complete evacuation of Washington.
Under Defense Department regulations, military commanders are authorized to take action on their own — in extraordinary circumstances — where “duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation.” The conditions include “large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances” involving “significant loss of life or massive destruction of property.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed these rules in October 2018, reminding commanders that they could decide, on their authority, to “engage temporarily” in military control in the circumstances “where prior authorization by the President is impossible” or where local authorities “are unable to control the situation.” A new Trump-era Pentagon directive calls it “extreme situations.” In all cases, even where a military commander declares martial law, the directives say that civil rule has to be restored as soon as possible.
“In scenarios where one city or one region is devastated, that’s a pretty straightforward process,” the military planner said. “But with coronavirus, where the effect is nationwide, we’re in the territory we’ve never been in before.”
An extended period of devolution
The smooth flow of government and protection of the presidency began in the Eisenhower administration with the possibility emerging that Washington could be evaporated in an atomic attack. The need to plan for a nuclear decision-maker to survive even a direct attack led to the building of bunkers and a maze of secret procedures and exceptions, many of which are still followed to this day. Congress was also folded in – at least Congressional leadership – to ensure that there would always be a Constitutional successor. And then the Supreme Court was added.
Before 9/11, continuity and emergency programs were broadened beyond nuclear war preparedness, particularly as hurricanes began to have such devastating effects on modern urban society. And because of the advent of pandemics, broadly starting with the Avian Influenza, civil agencies responsible for national security, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, which is the lead agency to respond to coronavirus, were also brought into continuity protection.
Despite well-honed plans and constant testing over 30 years, the attacks of September 11, 2001, severely tested all aspects of continuous movement and communications. Many of the procedures written down on paper were either ignored or thrown out the window. As a result, continuity had a second coming, billions spent by the new Department of Homeland and the other national security agencies to ensure that the Washington leadership could communicate and move, a whole new system established to be ready if a terrorist attack came without warning. Bunkers, many shuttered at the end of the Cold War, were reopened and expanded. Matching the panic at the time, and the atomic legacy, the most extraordinary planning scenario imagined a terrorist attack that would involve an improvised nuclear or radiological dispersal device in a major American city.
The terrorist attack scenario dominated until 2006 when the disastrous government response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans shifted federal government preparedness to adopt an “all-hazards” system formally. Civil agencies, the 50 states, and local communities — particularly large cities — all began to synchronize emergency preparedness with standard protocols. U.S. Northern Command was created to harness military assistance in domestic disasters; its unified contingency plans are the product now of 15 years of trial and error.
Government at all levels now have extensive “continuity” programs to respond to man-made and natural disasters, a national response framework that has steadily grown and taken hold. This is the public world of emergency response, ranging from life-saving efforts to protect and restore critical infrastructure to drills that practice the evacuation of key officials. It is a partnership created between federal government agencies and the States, carefully constructed to guard the rule of law.
In July 2016, Barack Obama signed the classified Presidential Policy Directive establishing “essential functions” that government agencies were tasked to protect and retain. At the highest level were the National Essential Functions, those that control “the continued functioning” of government under the Constitution. To preserve Constitutional rule, agencies were ordered to have not just a line of succession but also one of “devolution,” a duplicate chain of individuals hidden secretly outside Washington available in a catastrophic emergency. Federal Continuity Directive 1, issued just days before Donald Trump became president, says that devolution has to establish “procedures to transfer statutory authority and responsibilities” to this secondary designated staff to sustain essential functions.
“Devolution may be temporary or may endure for an extended period,” the directive states. And it further directs that the devolution staff be located at “a geographically dispersed location unaffected by the incident.” Except that in the case of coronavirus, there may be no such location. This places the plans for the extraordinary into entirely uncharted territory, planners not just considering how devolution or martial law might work in a national disaster but also how those earmarked to implement these very plans have to be sequestered and made ready, even while they are equally vulnerable.
NORTHCOM stresses in almost everything it produces for public consumption that it operates only in “support” of civil authorities, in response to state requests for assistance or with the consent of local authorities. Legally, the command says, the use of federal military forces in law enforcement can only take place if those forces are used to suppress “insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.” A second test also has to be met, that such disturbances “hinders the execution of the laws of that State, and the United States within the State,” that is, that the public is deprived of its legal and constitutional protections. Local civil authorities must be “unable, fail, or refuse” to protect the civilian population for military forces to be called in, Pentagon directives make clear.
Since Hurricane Katrina in 2006, no emergency has triggered any state to even request federal military aid under these procedures. Part of the reason, the senior officer involved in planning says, is that local police forces have themselves become more capable, acquiring military-grade equipment and training. And part of the reason is that the governors have worked together to strengthen the National Guard, which can enforce domestic law when it is mustered under state control.
But to give a sense of how sensitive the employment of military forces on American soil is, when the New York National Guard arrived in New Rochelle, NY. recently, even though they were operating under the control of the governor, Mayor Noam Bramson still found it necessary to assure the public that no one in military uniform would have any “policing function.”
Local authorities around America are already expressing worries that they have insufficient equipment, particularly ventilators, to deal with a possible influx of coronavirus patients, the number of hospital beds fewer than the potential number of patients that could need them. And brawls have already broken out in stores where products are in short supply. The worst case is that shortages and violence spreads, that the federal military, isolated and kept healthy behind its own barricade, is called to take over.
Orders have already gone out that Secretary of Defense Esper and his deputy, David Norquist, to remain physically separated, and to guard against both of them becoming incapacitated. Other national security agencies are following suit, and the White House continuity specialists are readying evacuation should the virus sweep through the Executive Mansion.
The plans state that the government continues essential functions under all circumstances, even if that is with the devolved second string or under in temporary military command. One of the “national essential functions,” according to Federal Continuity Directive 1, is that the government “provide leadership visible to the Nation and the world … while maintaining the trust and confidence of the American people.” The question is whether a faceless elite could ever provide that confidence, preserving government command but also adding to public panic. That could be a virus too.