The American President’s nuclear briefcase – the “nuclear football”

The ‘nuclear football’ – the deadly briefcase that never leaves the
president’s side

Donald Trump’s views on nukes may be the scariest thing about his candidacy. But how does Potus launch an attack at a moment’s notice? And what happens when you send the codes to the dry cleaners by mistake…
Guardian,   , 22 Aug 16 “……..As for the nuclear football, it comes into active service when the president leaves the White House. It is the nickname for a large leather, aluminium-framed briefcase weighing 20kg which is hefted by a military aide who shadows the US commander in chief.

It is, as former Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs calls it, “the ultimate power accessory, a doomsday machine that could destroy the entire world”. The late Bill Gulley, a former director of the White House Military Office, described what’s inside the nuclear football in his 1980 memoir Breaking Cover. “There are four things in the football. The Black Book containing the retaliatory options, a book listing classified site locations, a manila folder with eight or 10 pages stapled together giving a description of procedures for the Emergency Broadcast System, and a three-by-five inch card with authentication codes.”

The nuclear football has an antenna protruding from it, likely indicating that inside there is a communication system with which the president can maintain contact the Pentagon’s National Military Command Centre which monitors worldwide nuclear threats and can order an instant nuclear response. “The football,” says Dobbs, “also provides the commander-in-chief with a simplified menu of nuclear strike options – allowing him to decide, for example, whether to destroy all of America’s enemies in one fell swoop or to limit himself to obliterating only Moscow or Pyongyang or Beijing.”…….

Why is the briefcase nicknamed the nuclear football? According to former US secretary of defence Robert McNamara, it was so-named because it was part of an early nuclear war plan code-named Operation Drop Kick.

In Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 nuclear black comedy Dr Strangelove, there is also an Operation Drop Kick. It denoted a nuclear exercise that goes wrong when the unhinged US general played by Sterling Hayden orders a first strike on the Soviet Union. All the president’s men strive to recall the bombers to prevent nuclear politics……..

Aides who carry the nuclear football have extensive psychological evaluations to assess whether they’re up to the task. Metzger discloses that he underwent extensive vetting by the Defense Department, the secret service and the FBI before he was given the job. The incoming president, whether it is Trump or Clinton, will undergo no such checks as to their mental stability. There is, though, one consoling thought. Even if Trump did nuke Europe, he’d probably spare part of Aberdeenshire – he wouldn’t want to destroy his golf resort. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/22/nuclear-football-donald-trump

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