Continuity of government

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Continuity of government (COG) is the principle of establishing defined procedures that allow a government to continue its essential operations in case of a catastrophic event such as nuclear war.


COG was developed by the British government before and during World War II to counter threats, such as that of the Luftwaffe bombing during the Battle of Britain. The need for continuity of government plans gained new urgency with nuclear proliferation.

During and after the Cold War countries developed such plans to avoid (or minimize) confusion and disorder due to a power vacuum in the aftermath of a nuclear attack.

In the US at least, COG is no longer limited to nuclear emergencies; the Continuity of Operations Plan was activated following the September 11 attacks.

By country


Canada built numerous nuclear bunkers across the country, nicknamed "Diefenbunkers" in a play on the last name of then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. In 2016, the Privy Council Office made an agreement with the Department of National Defence to open two bunkers for government officials amid the ongoing North Korean nuclear crisis. [1]


In a tunnel of Project 131 Project-131-tunnel-9756.jpg
In a tunnel of Project 131

The People's Republic of China (PRC) once operated Underground Project 131, intended to be the PLA headquarters in Hubei during a nuclear conflict. Built due to the Sino-Soviet split during that portion of the Cold War, in 1981, the Project 131 site was turned over to the civilian authorities of the prefecture-level city of Xianning, where it is located.

Czech Republic

The K-116 facility under Zlíchov hill in western Prague was designated to house the Czechoslovak government in case of nuclear attack (together with the K-9 facility in Jihlava) and might still be used as the emergency headquarters of the Czech government and military. [2]


During the Cold War, Denmark built two bunker complexes, named REGAN Vest and REGAN Øst (Danish: "REGeringsANlæg", translated: "Government Complex West and Government Complex East"), in Jutland and Zealand respectively. The idea was to have half of the government and the royal family in one bunker, and the other half in the other, allowing continuity of government, even if one of the bunkers were destroyed or cut off.


The Centre d'opération des forces aériennes stratégiques (COFAS) is a hardened command centre for French nuclear forces at Taverny Air Base in Taverny, Val d'Oise. The alternate national command center is located at Mont Verdun near Lyon.

The hardened headquarters of Force océanique stratégique (FOST), France's nuclear SSBN fleet, is at Brest, Finistère.


Germany operated a government bunker (Regierungsbunker) to house the German government, parliament and all federal personnel needed to keep the government working in the event of war or severe crisis. It was decommissioned in 1997.

Republic of Ireland

In Ireland, the National Security Committee (NSC) is the conduit for officials to communicate with the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and/or cabinet members if the normal channel of communication with their minister became unavailable. Drafts of emergency powers legislation have been drawn up in secret, including legislation to deal with circumstances such as an attack on cabinet involving numerous deaths. [3]

During the period of the Cold War, it was envisaged that cabinet ministers, senior civil servants and military advisers would use an underground nuclear bunker at Custume Barracks in Athlone in the event of a nuclear exchange. The bunker was equipped with a command and control centre with communications equipment – which had a hotline to the British government in Whitehall – a map room pointing out important areas for protection, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom facilities. [4] [5]


As of December 2003 an underground national crisis management center was being constructed at an undisclosed location in the Judaean Mountains under Jerusalem. [6] [7] Another command and control bunker is being built as part of the new Prime Minister's Office complex in Givat Ram. [8]

New Zealand

The New Zealand government believes the most likely disaster scenario to affect the government is a large earthquake in Wellington. The government has plans to move Parliament and essential staff to Devonport Naval Base in Auckland if such an event occurs. [9]


The Norwegian government operates a nuclear bunker called Sentralanlegget in Buskerud County. The bunker is meant to accommodate the Norwegian Royal Family and the government in case of a nuclear/military attack on the nation, and also function as a wartime headquarters. There is also a bunker beneath Høyblokka in downtown Oslo.

Soviet Union and Russia

Map of the Metro-2 system as supposed by the United States military intelligence in 1991. Mapmetro2.jpg
Map of the Metro-2 system as supposed by the United States military intelligence in 1991.

Very little in the public domain is known about Russia's COG plans. One sprawling underground facility residing in tunnels cut into Mount Yamantau is likely to be related to the survival of Russia's government, given its size and decades long construction history, with a construction start during the rule of Leonid Brezhnev (1964–82). [11] KGB defector Colonel Oleg Gordievsky states that an organization, known as Directorate 15, was (or is) tasked with building and maintaining a network of hundreds of underground command bunkers for the Soviet leadership; this includes the vast site beneath Yamantau Mountain, which is often called Mezhgorye / Межго́рье after the closed city that is located nearby. However, there is speculation, due to its proximity to Chelyabinsk-70, that Yamantau is a 400-square-mile underground complex which houses nuclear warheads, missiles, launch controls, and several nuclear weapons factories designed to continue production after a hypothetical nuclear war begins. [12]

The second command and control center in the Urals, after Yamantau, is similarly speculated to be underground and located near, or under, Kosvinsky Kamen. The site is believed to host the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces alternate command post, a post for the general staff built to compensate for the vulnerability of older Soviet era command posts in the Moscow region. In spite of this, the primary command posts for the Strategic Rocket Forces remains Kuntsevo in Moscow and the secondary is the Kosvinsky Mountain in the Urals. [13] The facility at Kosvinsky, finished in early 1996, was designed to resist US earth-penetrating warheads and serves a similar role as the American Cheyenne Mountain Complex. [12]

Further command centers, according to, include one near Chekhov, which is the Russian General Staff wartime command post, buried deep underground, [14] and Sharapovo(ru) about 80 kilometres (50 mi) south of Moscow, built in the 1950s, Sharapovo is believed to have been the primary backup command center for the Soviet era leadership. Both Chekhov and Sharapovo are each suggested to have the capability to accommodate about 30,000 individuals, [12] As an alternative to Sharapovo, a secondary political leadership base is located at Chaadayevka, some 650 kilometers southeast of Moscow near the city of Penza. [15]

There is also said to be as many as 12 underground levels beneath the Russian capital of Moscow to protect the government in the Kremlin, known as the Main Directorate of special programs of the President (Glavnoye Upravlenie Specialnih Program: GUSP) (ru) the direct successor of the 15th Directorate of the KGB, which was established in 1977, GUSP is said to oversee, amongst other sites, a parallel track line alongside the Moscow metro, known as the 'Kremlin line' Metro-2 or D-6 to be used in an emergency. [16] Two destinations of this system are suggested to be the old KGB headquarters, now the FSB headquarters, at Lubyanka Square, and the second being regarded as an enormous underground leadership bunker adjacent to Moscow State University. [10] Another alleged subterranean destination, apart from the aforementioned underground town at Ramenki/Moscow State University is Vnukovo-2 airport. [17] Despite official Russian state ambiguity, it is speculated that many of the Moscow bunkers are linked by an underground railway line. [12]


During the Cold War, the Klara skyddsrum ("Klara shelter" or "Klara bunker") was built underneath Stockholm. The bunker is designed to accommodate two thirds of the government and between 8,000 and 12,000 civilians in the case of a military attack on Stockholm. It is designed as a very large, two-story oval, with multiple entrances. During peacetime, parts of it are used as a parking garage. Sweden built over 65,000 fallout shelters [18] in regular houses, and every county had at least one large hard-rock underground bunker that controlled a number of smaller bunkers that were located in the municipalities. [19]

In 2015, one of Swedens largest and reputable newspapers, Dagens Nyheter , reported that the prime minister Stefan Löfven had been rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment after a trip abroad. It appeared unclear who would succeed him since the role of vice statsminister turned out to be merely ceremonial. [20]


There is little public knowledge about continuity of government in Turkey. The cabinet and presidential offices, based in the capital of Ankara, have secondary sites in İstanbul and İzmir.

United Kingdom

The primary British COG headquarters is at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. The Central Government War Headquarters was previously maintained in a quarry complex near Corsham, Wiltshire. The above-ground support facility was RAF Rudloe Manor.

Service command centres are Northwood for the Royal Navy Trident SSBN force, and RAF High Wycombe for the Royal Air Force.

United States

Continuity of the national government was first threatened in late 1776, when British forces advanced toward the Continental capital at Philadelphia. On December 9 the Continental Congress passed a resolution in anticipation of a British capture:

Resolved: That in case this Congress shall be under the necessity of removing from Philadelphia, it shall be adjourned to Baltimore.

The Congress was adjourned as planned three days later. [21] Other relocations followed during the course of the Revolutionary War.

For most of its existence, the United States operated without a standing continuity plan. When British forces burned Washington in 1814, Secretary of State James Monroe received only a few hours' notice to remove the government records. Although his staff saved many valuable records, much was nonetheless destroyed, and the next administration encountered a great deal of confusion. [22]

In 1952 President Truman ordered all federal offices to develop their own continuity plans for the event of a civil defense emergency. Plans have been maintained and adapted since then, at times requiring the construction of secret facilities such as the emergency Congress facility in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The current continuity policy is defined in National Security Policy Directive 51 [23] and its implementation plan. [24] The continuity plan was activated for the first time during the September 11, 2001 attacks. [25]

The United States presidential line of succession is the order in which officials of the United States federal government assume the powers and duties of the office of president of the United States if the incumbent president becomes incapacitated, dies, resigns, or is removed from office. It was adopted in 1947, and last revised in 2006. The designated survivor is an individual in the line of succession, chosen to stay away from events such as State of the Union addresses and presidential inaugurations.

See also



Related Research Articles

Nuclear warfare Military conflict that deploys nuclear weaponry

Nuclear warfare is a military conflict or political strategy which deploys nuclear weaponry. Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction; in contrast to conventional warfare, nuclear warfare can produce destruction in a much shorter time and can have a long-lasting radiological result. A major nuclear exchange would have long-term effects, primarily from the fallout released, and could also lead to a "nuclear winter" that could last for decades, centuries, or even millennia after the initial attack. Some analysts dismiss the nuclear winter hypothesis, and calculate that even with nuclear weapon stockpiles at Cold War highs, although there would be billions of casualties, billions more rural people would nevertheless survive. However, others have argued that secondary effects of a nuclear holocaust, such as nuclear famine and societal collapse, would cause almost every human on Earth to starve to death.

Continuity of Operations (COOP) is a United States federal government initiative, required by U.S. Presidential Policy Directive 40 (PPD-40), to ensure that agencies are able to continue performance of essential functions under a broad range of circumstances. PPD-40 specifies certain requirements for continuity plan development, including the requirement that all federal executive branch departments and agencies develop an integrated, overlapping continuity capability, that supports the eight National Essential Functions (NEFs) described in the document.

Nuclear bunker buster

A nuclear bunker buster, also known as an earth-penetrating weapon (EPW), is the nuclear equivalent of the conventional bunker buster. The non-nuclear component of the weapon is designed to penetrate soil, rock, or concrete to deliver a nuclear warhead to an underground target. These weapons would be used to destroy hardened, underground military bunkers or other below-ground facilities. An underground explosion releases a larger fraction of its energy into the ground, compared to a surface burst or air burst explosion at or above the surface, and so can destroy an underground target using a lower explosive yield. This in turn could lead to a reduced amount of radioactive fallout. However, it is unlikely that the explosion would be completely contained underground. As a result, significant amounts of rock and soil would be rendered radioactive and lofted as dust or vapor into the atmosphere, generating significant fallout.

Cheyenne Mountain Complex Space Force installation

The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a Space Force installation and defensive bunker located in unincorporated El Paso County, Colorado, next to the city of Colorado Springs, at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, which hosts the activities of several tenant units. Also located in Colorado Springs is Peterson Air Force Base, where the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) headquarters are now located.

Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center civilian command facility for the Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center is a government command facility in the U.S. state of Virginia, used as the center of operations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Also known as the High Point Special Facility (HPSF), its preferred designation since 1991 is "SF."

Emergency Government Headquarters

Emergency Government Headquarters is the name given for a system of nuclear fallout shelters built by the Government of Canada in the 1950s and 1960s as part of continuity of government planning at the height of the Cold War. Situated at strategic locations across the country, the largest of these shelters are popularly referred to as "Diefenbunkers", a nickname coined by federal opposition politicians during the early 1960s. The nickname was derived from the last name of the Prime Minister of the day, John Diefenbaker, who authorized their construction. Over fifty facilities were built along several designs for various classes of service.

CFS Carp Diefenbunker, Canadas Cold War Museum in Carp, Ontario

Canadian Forces Station Carp is a former Canadian military facility located in the rural farming community of Carp in Ottawa, Ontario, approximately 30 km (19 mi) west of downtown Ottawa.

Yamantau is a mountain in the Ural Mountains, located in Beloretsky District, Bashkortostan, Russia. Standing at 1,640 metres (5,381 ft) it is the highest mountain in the Southern Ural section, and is featured within the South Ural Nature Reserve.

Metro-2 Secret metro line below Moscow between Russian government facilities

Metro-2 is the informal name for a purported secret underground metro system which parallels the public Moscow Metro. The system was supposedly built, or at least started, during the time of Joseph Stalin and was codenamed D-6 (Д-6) by the KGB. It is supposedly still operated by the Main Directorate of Special Programmes and Ministry of Defence.

Command center Place used to provide centralized command

A command center is any place that is used to provide centralized command for some purpose.

National Military Command Center

The National Military Command Center (NMCC) is a Pentagon command and communications center for the National Command Authority. Maintained by the Department of the Air Force as the "DoD Executive Agent" for NMCC logistical, budgetary, facility and systems support; the NMCC operators are in the Joint Staff's J-3 (Operations) Directorate. "The NMCC is responsible for generating Emergency Action Messages (EAMs) to missile launch control centers, nuclear submarines, recon aircraft and battlefield commanders".

National Audio-Visual Conservation Center

The National Audiovisual Conservation Center, also known as the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation, is the Library of Congress's audiovisual archive located inside Mount Pony in Culpeper, Virginia.

Central Government War Headquarters Underground complex in Wiltshire, England

The Central Government War Headquarters (CGWHQ) is a 35-acre (14 ha) complex built 120 feet (37 m) underground as the United Kingdom's emergency government war headquarters – the hub of the country's alternative seat of power outside London during a nuclear war or conflict with the Soviet Union. It is located in Corsham, Wiltshire, in a former Bath stone quarry known as Spring Quarry, under the present-day MoD Corsham. In 1940, during the Second World War, the site was acquired by the Minister of Aircraft Production and used as an underground engine factory.

<i>Arc Light</i> (novel) Thriller book by Eric L. Harry

Arc Light is the debut novel by Eric L. Harry, a techno-thriller about limited nuclear war published in September 1994 and written in 1991 and 1992.

Raven Rock Mountain Complex

The Raven Rock Mountain Complex (RRMC), also known as Site R, is a U.S. military installation with an underground nuclear bunker near Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, at Raven Rock Mountain that has been called an "underground Pentagon". The bunker has emergency operations centers for the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Along with Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center in Virginia and the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado, it formed the core bunker complexes for the US Continuity of Government plan during the Cold War to survive a nuclear attack.

Dead Hand, also known as Perimeter, is a Cold War-era automatic nuclear weapons-control system that was used by the Soviet Union. The system remains in use in the post-Soviet Russian Federation. An example of fail-deadly and mutual assured destruction deterrence, it can automatically trigger the launch of the Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) by sending a pre-entered highest-authority order from the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Strategic Missile Force Management to command posts and individual silos if a nuclear strike is detected by seismic, light, radioactivity, and pressure sensors even with the commanding elements fully destroyed. By most accounts, it is normally switched off and is supposed to be activated during times of crisis; however, it is said to remain fully functional and able to serve its purpose whenever it may be needed.

Tagansky Protected Command Point Cold War Museum, restaurant in Moscow, Kotelnichesky Lane

The Cold War Museum (Moscow) or Bunker GO-42, also known as "facility-02" (1947), CHZ-293 (1951), CHZ-572 (1953), and GO-42, and now Exhibition Complex Bunker-42, is a once-secret military complex, bunker, communication centre in Moscow, Russia, near the underground Moscow Metro station Taganskaya. It has an area of 7,000 square metres (75,000 sq ft) and is situated at a depth of 65 metres (213 ft) below ground.

The National Program Office (NPO) was an office of the United States Government, established to ensure continuity of government in the event of a national disaster. The NPO was established by a secret executive order signed on 14 September 1982 by President Ronald Reagan during the Cold War in preparation for a nuclear war, presumably with the Soviet Union.

Custume Barracks

Custume Barracks is a military installation at Athlone in Ireland.

Construction of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex

Construction of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex began with the excavation of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 18, 1961. It was made fully operational on February 6, 1967. It is a military installation and hardened nuclear bunker from which the North American Aerospace Defense Command was headquartered at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The United States Air Force has had a presence at the complex since the beginning, the facility is now the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, which hosts other military units, including NORAD.


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