The United States Government seems to be following ‘hope for the best but prepare for the worst’ in dealing with coronavirus pandemic. While the US president has called for social isolation and has implemented a string of measures to fight coronavirus, the Trump administration has also put in place contingency plans to possibly deal with the worst-case scenario writes William M. Akrin for the Newsweek.
“Revealed US Government documents have shown complex contingency plans codenamed Octagon, Freejack and Zodiac which have been formulated for “continuity of government” in worst-case scenarios and could see a centuries-old US Constitution somewhat circumvented to provide the most support,” writes Arkin.
The Covid-19 outbreak has raised fears that the executive branch or even the Congress and the Supreme Court could be severely affected and thereby rendered ineffective and inoperable by the virus leaving President Trump with reduced ability to help the American people.
To deal with such a grim scenario, the US Military has formulated contingency plans in case the coronavirus cripples the country and the government.
In a worst-case scenario for Government officials, Washington could be evacuated and power devolved to those in remote, protected locations. One senior official described the plans as unchartered and “new territory” which could see the country operate in an entirely new way.
The Above-Top Secret plans also revealed standby orders to execute the actions which were issued more than three weeks ago to protect Americans.
Questions have recently arisen regarding potential infection of hundreds of members of Congress. Government expert Norman Ornstein raised the issue last week, reminiscing the lack of a plan for “continuity of government” after the 9/11 terror attacks.
He expressed his concern that the story would be repeated, leaving Congress powerless and paralysed. This is why America has put a detailed action plan into place, according to Newsweek.
Seven secret plans exist to deal with extraordinary situations. The first three are related to transportation of the White House and the Federal Government. The first plan called Rescue and Evacuation of the Occupants of the White House Mansion (RESEM) plan outlines the protection of President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence – moving them out of the White House at the direction of the Secret Service, or in a catastrophe digging them out of the rubble of White House.
The second is called Joint Emergency Evacuation Plan (JEEP) and involves transportation of Secretary of Defence and other national security leaders out of Washington and to a place of safety. The third is the Atlas Plan which involves emergency relocation of Congressional leadership such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Supreme Court judges. Under the plans, top government figures could be held in a secure unit bunker, until it becomes safe to return.
The three most compartmented contingencies – Octagon, Freejack, and Zodiac – call upon various military units in Washington DC, North Carolina and eastern Maryland to defend government operations if there is a total breakdown. The seventh plan – codenamed Granite Shadow – is a manual for extraordinary domestic missions that involve weapons of mass destruction.
Trial runs of some elements of the plan have been previously executed at State of the Union addresses and presidential inaugurations. However, newer, coronavirus-centric plans are still being discussed. The plans could see Washington DC totally evacuated.
Under Defence department regulations military commanders are permitted to take action on their own, but only in extraordinary circumstances where constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation.
A top military planner told Newsweek: “In scenarios where one city or one region is devastated, that’s a pretty straightforward process. But with coronavirus, where the effect is nationwide, we’re in the territory we’ve never been in before.”
There are 7,253 confirmed cases across the United States so far. But it is thought cases could be significantly higher, as many have gone unreported. There are now cases in all 50 states of the United States. New York has the highest number of cases, at 2,480.
William M. Arkin is the author of a half-dozen books including American Coup: How a Terrified Government is Destroying the Constitution.