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Context of 'Early August 2003: US Military Hold Conference to Discuss Next Generation of Nuclear Weapons'

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President Bush gets off Air Force One and is taken to a command center several stories underground at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Bamford, 2004, pp. 89] At 2:50 p.m., the president’s plane landed at Offutt, home of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), which controls America’s nuclear weapons (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] About 10 minutes later, Bush emerges from the plane. [Salon, 9/12/2001] Admiral Richard Mies, commander in chief of Stratcom, along with a driver and a Secret Service agent, has come in a car to meet Air Force One on the runway. After getting off the plane, Bush gets into the back of the car with Mies. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 121; NET News, 12/27/2011; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] His staffers, meanwhile, get onto buses. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file] The vehicles are driven away from the plane and across the large base. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 121]
Bush Goes to the Underground Command Center - Bush and his staffers are then taken to Stratcom’s underground command center. [CBS News, 9/2/2003] They are taken by Mies through the center’s fire escape in order to reach it. [NET News, 12/27/2011; Omaha World-Herald, 9/9/2016] They are driven to a small, concrete building, resembling a hut, go through a door in it, and then head down a staircase. [White House, 8/12/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 147-148] “We went down and down and down, pretty far underground,” Brian Montgomery, the White House’s director of advance, will later recall. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “It’s a long way down,” Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, will describe, “and then you emerge and go through a series of hallways and special doors, blast doors… and then you enter into a conference center, which is… several stories underground.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
Exercise Means Extra People Are in the Command Center - The command center, according to author James Bamford, is “a cavernous two-story war room with banks of dark wooden desks curved away from a giant projection screen on which [is] displayed the status of military forces around the world.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 89] Eight giant video screens are loaded with data and numerous military personnel are seated at computer terminals that are hooked into satellites monitoring activities around the world. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] Stratcom was in the middle of a major training exercise, called Global Guardian, when the attacks began this morning (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001 and Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001) and consequently many more people are in the command center than would normally be there.
Bush Is Briefed on the Attacks - When Bush enters, Rear Admiral Jay Donnelly, the operations officer in the center, announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, the president.” Everyone comes to attention. Bush then tells them to sit down. Mies gives Bush a briefing in the command center. “The president sat down and I briefed him on what each of [the] screens was displaying,” he will recall, adding, “Gave him, as best I could, an update from [Stratcom’s] perspective of what was happening based on what we knew.” [Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002; NET News, 12/27/2011] After being briefed, Bush and Andrew Card, his chief of staff, will be taken to a teleconference center. [CBS News, 9/2/2003; Rove, 2010, pp. 261] There, Bush will conduct a meeting of the National Security Council in a secure video teleconference (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326; NET News, 12/27/2011]

Entity Tags: Jay Donnelly, George W. Bush, Richard Mies, Brian Montgomery, US Secret Service, Karl C. Rove, US Strategic Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Defense Department officials and representatives from the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos laboratories attend the “Stockpile Stewardship Conference Planning Meeting” called by Dale Klein, the assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to prepare for a secret conference on nuclear weapons during the week of August 4, 2003 (see Early August 2003). The purpose of the conference will be to discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including “low-yield” neutron bombs designed to destroy chemical or biological agents and “mini-nukes,” or “bunker-busters,” which could be used to destroy underground targets. Another purpose of the meeting will be to consider restarting nuclear testing and to discuss how the American public can be convinced that the new weapons are necessary. [San Francisco Chronicle, 2/15/2003; Guardian, 2/19/2003; Washington Post, 2/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Dale Klein

Timeline Tags: US Military

During the week marking the 48th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 150 people attend a secret conference at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to discuss plans to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons, including the so-called “mini-nukes” and “bunker busters,” that could be used against rogue states and terrorist organizations. The B-29 planes that dropped the atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities, Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, were both built at Offutt. Another topic to be discussed is whether the development of nuclear weapons would require a repeal of the 1992 “Spratt-Furse restriction,” which banned such weapons. Though the exact identities of the attendees are not known, unnamed sources tell the Guardian of London that the meeting is attended by scientists and administrators from the three main nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos, Sandia and Livermore; senior officers from the air force and strategic command; weapons contractors; and civilian defense officials. No representatives from Congress, however, are at the meeting. According to the Guardian, “Requests by Congress to send observers were rejected, and an oversight committee which included academic nuclear experts was disbanded only a few weeks earlier.” One congressional weapons expert tells the London newspaper, “I was specifically told I couldn’t come.” [Guardian, 8/7/2003] According to the January meeting that had planned for this event (see January 10, 2003), other issues to be addressed include the possible recommencement of nuclear testing and how to convince the American public the new nuclear weapons are necessary.

Entity Tags: US Congress

Timeline Tags: US Military

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