Journalist and author Garrett Graff presented a lecture at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library on March 14, 2018 on his recently published book Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself – While the Rest of Us Die.
Graff is a distinguished magazine journalist and historian covering politics, technology and national security. He served as editor of the Washingtonian and POLITICO magazines, authored several books including “The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War” and “The First Campaign”, and contributes to multiple publications including WIRED, New York Times and Bloomberg Businessweek. Graff currently serves as Executive Director of Cybersecurity & Technology Programs at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.
Raven Rock is the factual story of the U.S. government’s plan to survive after a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil spanning from the beginning of the nuclear age to present day. The book provides details on the U.S. government’s “Continuity of Operations” program with succession planning and infrastructure built during the Cold War.
Graff opened the lecture describing the events that led him to write the book. He indicated that a former colleague at the Washingtonian magazine gave him a U.S. Intelligence Officer’s personnel badge found on the floor of a commuter garage which had “Long Term Evacuation Directions” on the back. In an attempt to return the badge, Graff researched the directions online finding the satellite image showing the road empties into the side of a mountain, which piqued his curiosity on the topic.
Graff discussed the book’s namesake bunker “Raven Rock” which is the name of the backup Pentagon bunker in Pennsylvania built in the 1940s containing a free-standing city inside of a hollowed-out mountain. Graff shared details on other bunkers used in the continuity planning including a NORAD bunker with a working Subway restaurant.
Graff posited that nuclear weapons changed the way we view the U.S. President saying it “compressed the space and time” for Presidential decisions. He went further stating that the nuclear age contributed to the 25th Amendment and thus Gerald R. Ford’s presidency.
Graff detailed the roles of several federal agencies included in the Continuity of Operations planning such as the lead administrative agency FEMA; the U.S. National Park Rangers’ role in creating refugee camps in the National Parks; the U.S. Postal Service’s creation of Form 810 for use by nuclear attack survivors to notify any surviving family members of the nuclear war; and the Internal Revenue Service planning on how to levy taxes after nuclear war, replacing it with a value-added tax (VAT) consumption tax. Also highlighted was the Federal Reserve Bank’s stockpile of $2B reserve cash in a bunker, which is estimated to last 18 months, providing the U.S. Engraving Office enough time to create new printing presses to produce new U.S. currency.
Graff discussed the nuclear fallout shelters built throughout the country and listed the inventory which included equipment such as radios; survival manuals; and the USDA stockpile of 160 million pounds of “survival biscuits” in tin cans along with a “How To” survival manual on how to eat and live inside a fallout shelter.
Graff described the U.S. government’s succession plan which provided a list of lesser known U.S. government lines of succession outside of the personnel in Washington D.C. including the U.N. Ambassador, Ambassador to the United Kingdom and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. He also discussed the planning of the Presidential Successors Support System, which was a program to install citizens such as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and others as Emergency White House Chiefs of Staff in the event a lower level cabinet secretary needed experienced staff following a nuclear war.
Graff provided examples of technological advances resulting from the Continuity of Operations planning including the Information Superhighway/Internet, the Interstate Highway system, the first texting system built by FEMA for communications between bunkers, and how the current airport reservation system used by the industry for ticketing websites was originally created to track Soviet bombers.
Graff closed the lecture answering questions from the audience.