Continuity of Government Communications Proposal






Proposed Presidential Communications Facilities at the National Level

It was the 1950’s and the cold War was becoming a large National issue, President Eisenhower and his Administration was very concerned about the threat of Nuclear War. The federal Government realized that if an attack would occur that the area around Washington had to be protected so the Government would survive. A plan was approved and implemented, the construction of a communications network, around Washington which was included in this plan for the relocation of Government Agencies, including the White House at a few locations that already existed.   

This Proposal was prepared in 1956 and presents the magnitude and scope of certain Communications available today, at the National level. Included are communications in support of the following: 

  1. The President of the United States;
  2. The Joint War Room at the Pentagon;
  3. The Secretary of State and The Joint Chiefs of Staff; at the Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC);
  4. The NATO Standing Group both in its Primary and relocation sites;
  5. The Office of Civilian and Defense Mobilization (OCDM) Continuity of Government Program.
 This Chart indicates the relative locations of the various sites involved. The sites are identified as the location of the President and his immediate stall at the White House and Camp David, Maryland, The Joint War Room at the Pentagon, the hardened Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC) at Raven Rock, Maryland, The Office of the Secretary of Defense Emergency Relocation Site at Fort Richie, Maryland, the NATO Standing Group Emergency Relocation Site at Mount St. Mary’s College, Maryland the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Maryland and High Point, the OCTM hardened Emergency Command Post and Relocation site for the Executive Branch of the Government at Mount Weather near Winchester Virginia.


Federal Relocation Arc and microwave sites
The smaller of the principal Emergency Relocation Sites (ERS) of certain other Federal Departments and Agencies, such as the Atomic Energy Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department and the Interior Department, dispersed in the Federal Relocation Arc, an area of 30 to 300 in a westerly direction from Washington, D.C.

While communications to support these activities are provided by the Department of Defense (Army) through separate arrangements between the Secretary of Defense and the Director (OCDM), the inter-relationship of these agencies served under emergency condition dictates the need for integrated communications facilities which will integrate these agencies, and tie them in with the national communications complex. Indicated on This chart are the Communications connections between OCDM at High Point, the Pentagon JWR, and Camp David , the AJCC , Ft Ritchie ,and Mt Saint Mary.

These communications are extended to provide similar services while the President is at High Point, Camp David, or the AJCC. A department of the White House Army Signal Agency is currently stationed at each of these sites. When the President is in residence at one of these sites, these detachments are augmented. When the President is traveling in Continental United States (CONUS) or overseas, detachments from this agency, with necessary equipment, precede the President to establish communications prior to his arrival.

Equipment is also provided for contact between key world-wide military, communications ground stations and the Presidential plane. This equipment affords an opportunity for key persons within the Government to keep in touch with the plane by a secure teletype service and non-secure voice.

The Presidents communications needs are frequently only a short time before the services have been required. Therefore in some instances Presidential communications are not programmed for or budgeted. Under these circumstances, resources have to be diverted from some of the lower priority objectives.

With regard to communications for the President, they are provided primarily by the White House Army Signal Agency. This Agency provides the following communications services to the President:

1.     A complex of manual telephone switchboards and related equipment which is staffed 24 hours a day to provide secure, non-secure and specialized telephone services between the President and key members of his staff – the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other important officials.

2.     Other services include all still and motion pictures, radio and television facilities for recording and documenting Presidential Messages.

3.The President also has available to him special fixed and mobile radio facilities for worldwide communications.

4. A secure teletype terminal for message communications for the President while he is in residence or in travel status.

The Presidential Retreat at Camp David

Two examples of this are:
  1. The Communications cost for President Eisenhower’s trip to Alaska, Philippines, Japan and Hawaii was $240,000. Although the President didn’t actually go to Japan, the necessary communications were installed beforehand.
  2. The former Presidents trip to South America required direct telephone and teletypewriter circuits from the White House to Puerto Rico and to other points in South America. The cost of communications for this trip was $381,000.
From the Joint War Room in the Pentagon, secure voice and teletypewriter communications are available to the unified and specified commands. With the exception of the Commander in Chief Caribbean (CINCARIB), the requisite circuits are obtained from the commercial communication companies backed up by Government-owned and operated radio operated communications. This backup is obtained from the military department operated communications system’s gateway stations at Fort Dietrich, Maryland, Cheltenham, Maryland, and Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

(OCDM) High Point at Mt Weather
The third area of communications at the National level pertains to the AJCC at Fort Ritchie. The AJCC-Fort Richie complex is the relocation site for the secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council, and elements of each of the Military Departments. The center is so designed as to provide communications support for 6,000 people during a full scale occupancy under emergency conditions. Approximately half of the people would be underground at the AJCC site itself, and the other half would be above ground within Fort Ritchie, Maryland.

ACJJ at Site R.at Raven Rock
Within the underground site, key personnel have access to a secure dial telephone system which, within the underground only, Top Secret voice Communications. The AJCC connects to the Bell Telephone, nationwide direct distance dialing system, which permits non-secure direct distance dial calls throughout CONUS and Canada without telephone company intervention.
                                        
Communications to overseas commands from the AJCC are provided primarily through the medium of the Army, Navy, and Air Force overseas networks, which includes channels in commercial ocean cables.                                                              

In the event the military radio networks or the ocean cables are not operating, the AJCC has radio facilities at the site, under its direct control for its immediate operation.

Secure and non-secure teleprinter, voice, and non-secure facsimile are available to both overseas and CONUS from the facility.

The WHCA Microwave Network remained in service until 1970, when a large portion was deemed obsolete and several towers were decommissioned.

Continuity of Government Communications

In the event the military radio networks or the ocean cables are not operating, the AJCC has radio facilities at the site, under its direct control for its immediate operation.

Secure and non-secure teleprinter, voice, and non-secure facsimile are available to both overseas and CONUS from the facility.

Cactus Tower at Camp David
To enable the Government to continue to function in the event of an emergency or enemy attack, the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization initiated the Continuity of Government Program. A major element of this program as previously mentioned, is the Emergency relocation plan which provides for the dispersal of essential elements of the Federal Government within the Federal Relocation Arc.

Presidential approval of the emergency relocation plan was dependent upon adequate communications between the emergency relocation sites. Because little or no reliable communications were available in the emergency relocation arc, the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization asked the Department of Defense for the Army Signal Corps to plan, design, engineer, install and maintain the communications services. The Secretary of Defense agreed to the U.S. Army Signal Corps would be responsible for, planning, designing, engineering, installing and maintaining the communications to support this Program at the National level.

Cannonball Tower on Cross Mountain  
Cowpuncher Tower on North Mountain WV
The Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization would provide policy guidance concerning aspects of emergency relocation planning and for the necessary funding support.

A plan for a communications system was developed to meet the following requirements of OCDM:

  1. To provide pretested communications between the Civilian Command Post at High Point and the heads of their agencies in their Emergency Relocation Sites (ERS).
  2. To provide communications between the agencies themselves.
  3. To have access to military and other Government Systems.
  4. To have access to commercial telephone telegraph common user systems.
  5. And finally to provide minimum communications for policy direction and control of executive departments and agencies in the program.
Crystal East and West Towers located at Mt Weather
Primary reliance of the OCDM Communications System was to be placed upon commercial upon commercial facilities. This is necessary in order that the resources of trained communications personnel of the commercial companies might be utilized for the operation of the communications system since military personnel would not be available to operate this system in an emergency.

The urgency of this project was such that time would not permit immediate implementation of the OCDM system. This was due primarily to a leak of communications facilities in the relocation arc.

Creed Tower on Raven Rock part of ACJJ 
It was, therefore determined that the system would be developed in three phases:

Phase I was to provide such communications as could be made available on short notice for OPERATION ALERT 1955.

Phase II was to provide an interim communications system by 1 April 1956. This interim system was to be operated until such time as additional communications could be made available.

Phase III was to provide a pretested communications system based on the area communications concept as soon after OPERATION ALERT 1956 as it could be made available without expediting costs.

The FIRST PHASE amounted to the communications that local telephone companies could provide. Facilities provided were very sparse, the communications capabilities of the present interim OCDM system.

The SECOND PHASE include: A leased private line telephone system which inter-connects the main site and the participating governmental agencies, this enables voice communications between the main site and the agencies, between agencies themselves, entrance into the nation-wide commercial bell network, and connection into the Government Code Dial Tandem System in Washington D.C.

The interim system also includes a leased private wire message communications or TWX facilities so that agencies have a means of passing record communications to and from the main site and between the agencies themselves.

The system includes a cryptographic network which consists of point to point or two way circuits between the main site and 20 of the more important agencies of the Government. 

All circuits and terminal facilities are leased, cryptographic equipment is Government owned. This network provides direct channels for exchanging classified messages between High Point and the 20 specified agencies.

This system also includes a one way broadcast system which provides for simultaneous transmission of classified and unclassified Executive Orders, Damage Reports, etc. from High Point and 40 agencies within the relocation arc.

 Corkscrew Tower on Lambs Knoll in Boonsboro MD
Cartwheel Tower in Fort Reno MD
Finally this system also includes: A microwave system connecting sensitive agencies.

This consists of leased and Government owned facilities to provide a pretested system between High Point, and the emergency relocation sites of the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Atomic Energy Commission, Department of Defense and Camp David. Circuits routed over this system include the Presidential secure voice network.
Non secure voice circuits from High Point to the sensitive agencies.

Secure Teleprinter circuits between the President and the heads of the sensitive agencies.
The broadcast network previously mentioned.

The Government owned portion of this microwave system which connects High Point and Camp David is operated and maintained by the White House Army Signal Agency. The remainder of this system is maintained by a commercial contractor.

A three channel mobile radio telephone system provides communications to and from the heads of key agencies while traveling in their automobiles in the area bounded by High Point, Washington and Fort Richie. In addition to the President, this system support 75 mobile subscribers, of which 56 are currently being served, included are the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretaries and the Chiefs of Staff of the Military Departments. This System is used on a daily basis. It provides telephone services to the Washington-High Point-Fort Ritchie Complex and provides interconnection to the Government code dialing system, as well as the commercial dial system.

Communications in support of the relocation site for the NATO Standing Group requires a complement of 47 people and an annual budget of $30,000 for full time operation.

The White House, including Camp David, requires 320 people and 2.5 million dollars annually.

The AJCC, Fort Ritchie complex, requires 537 people and an annual budget of 6.6 million dollars.

The OCDM program requires 329 people and 11 million dollars; however, the OCDM justifies and defends the amount required for its support.

This project was approved in 1955 and completed in total in 1962. The Microwave Network operated at full strength until 1970 when Crystal, Cowpuncher, Cannonball and Creed were deactivated.

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