Although only a handful of insiders know exactly how big the facility is, those who have gotten a glimpse inside Mount Weather describe a huge underground city. It is known that contained within the mountain are all the supplies necessary to keep the FEMA running for months without contact with the outside world.
Mount Weather contains a working duplicate of the Executive Branch of the Federal government, ready to swing into action at a moment's notice. Mount Weather personnel also maintain a database of information on U.S. citizens. But relatively little is publicly known about this facility.
"Mount Weather is a virtually self-contained facility. Aboveground, scattered across manicured lawns, are about a dozen buildings bristling with antennas and microwave relay systems. An on-site sewage-treatment plant, with a 90,000 gal.-a-day capacity, and two tanks holding 250,000 gal. of water could last some 200 people more than a month; underground ponds hold additional water supplies. Not far from the installation's entry gate are a control tower and a helicopter pad. The mountain's real secrets are not visible at ground level."
The mountain's "real secrets" are protected by warning signs, 10 foot-high chain link fences, razor wire, and armed guards. Curious motorists and hikers on the Appalachian trail are relieved of their sketching pads and cameras and sent on their way. Security is tight.
Mount Weather is the self-sustaining underground command center for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The facility is the operational center -- the hub -- of approximately 100 other Federal Relocation Centers, most of which are concentrated in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. Together this network of underground facilities constitutes the backbone of America's "Continuity of Government" program. In the event of nuclear war, declaration of martial law, or other national emergency, the President, his cabinet and the rest of the Executive Branch would be "relocated" to Mount Weather.
What Does Congress Know about Mount Weather?
According to the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights hearings in 1975, Congress has almost no knowledge and no oversight -- budgetary or otherwise -- on Mount Weather. Retired Air Force General Leslie W. Bray, in his testimony to the subcommittee, said "I am not at liberty to describe precisely what is the role and the mission and the capability that we have at Mount Weather, or at any other precise location."
The underground city contains a parallel government-in-waiting: "High-level Governmental sources, speaking in the promise of strictest anonymity, stated that each of the Federal departments represented at Mount Weather is headed by a single person on whom is conferred the rank of a Cabinet-level official. Protocol even demands that subordinates address them as 'Mr. Secretary.' Each of the Mount Weather 'Cabinet members' is apparently appointed by the White House and serves an indefinite term ... many through several Administrations.... The facility attempts to duplicate the vital functions of the Executive branch of the Administration."
The same source states: "As might be expected, there is also an Office of the Presidency at Mount Weather." The Federal Preparedness Agency (precursor to FEMA) apparently appoints a special staff to the Presidential section, which regularly receives top secret national security estimates and raw data from each of the Federal departments and agencies.
Play War Games
This is the main daily activity of the approximately 240 people who work at Mount Weather. The games are intended to train the Mount Weather bureaucracy to managing a wide range of problems associated with both war and domestic political crises.
Decisions are made in the "Situation Room," the base's nerve center, located in the core of Mount Weather. The Situation Room is the archetypal war room, with "charts, maps and whatever visuals may be needed" and "batteries of communications equipment connecting Mount Weather with the White House and 'Raven Rock' -- the underground Pentagon sixty miles north of Washington -- as well as with almost every US military unit stationed around the globe. All internal communications are conducted by closed-circuit color television ... senior officers and 'Cabinet members' have two consoles recessed in the walls of their office.
Civil Crisis Management
Mount Weather personnel study more than war scenarios. Domestic "crises" are also tracked and watched, and there have been times when Mount Weather almost swung into action. Officials who were at Mount Weather during the 1960s say the complex was actually prepared to assume certain governmental powers at the time of the 1961 Cuban missile crisis and the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. The installation used the tools of its 'Civil Crisis Management' program on a standby basis during the 1967 and 1968 urban riots and during a number of national antiwar demonstrations.
Studies conducted at Mount Weather involve the control and management of domestic political unrest where there are material shortages (such as food riots) or in strike situations where the FPA determines that there are industrial disruptions and other domestic resource crises.
According to Daniel J. Cronin, former assistant director for the FPA, Reconnaissance satellites, local and state police intelligence reports, and Federal law enforcement agencies are just a few of the resources available to the FPA [now FEMA] for information gathering. "We try to monitor situations and get to them before they become emergencies," Cronin said. "No expense is spared in the monitoring program."
What is Mount Weather's Ultimate Purpose?
We have seen that Mount Weather contains an unelected, parallel "government-in-waiting" ready to take control of the United States upon word from the President or his successor. The facility contains a massive database of information on U.S. citizens which is operated with no safeguards or accountability. Ostensibly, this expensive hub of America's network of sub-terran bases was designed to preserve our form of government during a nuclear holocaust.
Mount Weather is not simply a Cold War holdover. Information on command and control strategies during national emergencies have largely been withheld from the American public. Executive Order 11051, signed by President Kennedy on October 2, 1962, states that "national preparedness must be achieved... as may be required to deal with increases in international tension with limited war, or with general war including attack upon the United States."
Executive Order 11490, drafted by Gen. George A Lincoln (former director for the Office of Emergency Preparedness, the FPA's predecessor) and signed by President Nixon in October 1969, tells a different story. EO 11490, which superceded Kennedy's EO 11051, begins, "Whereas our national security is dependent upon our ability to assure continuity of government, at every level, in any national emergency type situation that might conceivably confront the nation..."
Nixon's order makes no reference to "war," "imminent attack," or "general war." These quantifiers are replaced by an extremely vague "national emergency type situation" that "might conceivably" interfere with the workings of the national power structure. Furthermore, there is no publicly known Executive Order outlining the restoration of the Constitution after a national emergency has ended. Unless the parallel government at Mount Weather does not decide out of the goodness of its heart to return power to Constitutional authority, the United States could experience a coup d'etat posing as a national emergency.
Mount Weather facility is buried in secrecy. Public awareness of the facility and its purpose would raise serious questions about who holds the reins of power in this country. The Constitution states that those reins lie in the hands of the people, but the very existence of Mount Weather suggests an entirely different reality. As long as Mount Weather exists, these questions will remain.