I watched a program last night on Discovery's Military Channel that focused on the Continuity of Operations Plan or Continuity of Government Plan, which is something I came to know about working on the civilian side of an agency in DoD. It is pretty serious stuff this trying to safeguard information and stand up some operations if the main sites of the agency get taken out. This extends across the entire US federal government and all agencies have some variation of the COOP (as I came to know it). It was an interesting program as it gave a couple of scenarios that would cause the COOP to be put into action and it pointed out that on 9/11 it actually was utilized and actually failed to keep the President informed during a crisis or re-establish communications between secure sites. If this had been a more serious attack on the US, the COOP would have failed the federal government.
Although there are contingency plans in place for continuing government ever since this became a question and actually caused the creation of Amendment XXV which puts in an order of succession for the job of President in case the person occupying that job is incapacitated or dies. That was ratified into being in 1967 during the Cold War when the possibility of having the entire top of government vaporized at one stroke was something to be considered.
Do we really need more than that?
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 (3 USC 19) is the Public Law created by Congress to add depth to the existing schema of President and Vice-President set out in the US Constitution and in Amendments XII and XX to clear up issues on elections and Amendment XXV put in place in 1967. This ability by Congress to do such work is generated through Art. II, Sec. 1, Clause 6 which provides for the power of Congress to establish such a succession and amended by Amendment XXV Section 3. The top four people are the President, Vice-President, Speaker of the House and then President pro tempore of the Senate. This act has been amended to then start in on the Cabinet with the Secretary of State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, HHS, HUD, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veteran's Affairs and then DHS. Would you consider a government headed up by, say, the Secretary of HUD to be legitimate? How about Education? Interior?
I have problems with the Secretary of State but it is at least a major 'Hat' of the Presidential job requirements – foreign policy. Actual those hats are Head of State, Head of Government, Commander in Chief of the Armies and the Navies, and Chief Pardoner, and if you went with just the 'Hats' then you would get State, Treasury, Defense and AG which is just about where it should end, as well. Why? Any government that has suffered the loss of the President, VP, Speaker and President pro tempore has failed in ways that you cannot even begin to imagine and, really, the actual legitimacy of the government falling into appointed and approved position holders is something that even in the Cold War was questionable. You might get a 'continuity' of government, yes. The legitimacy of that government, led by unelected officials is lost because this is a Nation that upholds a representative say in selecting our government.
Then there is the part that the program didn't get into: the States. Each State has its own form of COOP in place and the actual legitimacy of the US federal government comes from the signatories to the US Constitution: the States. The States had to get approval from their citizens to sign on to the Constitution, and it is those functional governments that are the actual ones who instituted the federal government to act as an arbiter amongst them. If that arbiter and protector of all of the States cannot protect all of the States and actually has harm fall on to any State due to negligence, incapacity or inability to adequately supply protective measures to all of the States, then the federal government has failed in its main duty: protection of the States. Each and every State gets a way out of this via the US Constitution and its something to consider at this point when we look at failure of the federal government to protect the States. This is covered in Art. I, Sec. 10, Clause 3:
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
The Framers of the Constitution did not create a 'suicide pact' but put in this one vital clause which gives the State back its full Sovereign powers. The ability to do these things, are indicative not of a State but of a Nation as they are the full foreign policy and military powers necessary for the backing of a Nation. If the federal government cannot protect a number of States from, say, an EMP attack or, via neglect, allows a State or group of States to be invaded, then that State finds itself with its full powers returned to it. All of the facets of what it takes to run and independent Nation re-appear for events that are so devastating to a State that any delay in response will mean disaster or that disaster has befallen a State and the federal government has proven and demonstrated its incompetence to the point where it can no longer be considered as the trusted arbiter of the powers granted to it.
With the three days to the return of barbarism seen after Super Storm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina and the general decay of infrastructure, the States and federal government must rely on having a population ready to respond to disasters. A strong and prepared civil population is the greatest strength to the continuity of government, operations and the legitimacy of government. Fly the elected and appointed officials around as much as you want, but it is the States that hold the cards in a disaster and the trump card is the return of the powers they granted to the federal government which is so concerned about keeping itself going that it has neglected its duties to protecting the States as entities.
Even the relatively lack-luster scenario of an eastern EMP attack shows that the amount of time it takes to get the COOP running is in the days to weeks category. Talking about a President trying to impose martial law onto States that he or she has neglected, is no longer an act to restore civil order but an Act of War on those States. A Governor is put into the foreign policy arena and while accepting help from such a COOP government may call for that, it is no longer in the capacity of a Governor of a State but a Head of State: that military arrangement is a treaty and should be treated as such. At that point in time the Governor may already have had to call upon a civilian militia, utilize police forces and declare martial law, yes, but those are all internal and normal parts of a sovereign Nation to re-organize after a disaster.
The reason and rationale for letting States retain this responsibility and the power to address it, is so that the federal government is not overburdened with a function it cannot fulfill in whole, in part or at all. After no regular natural disaster has the US federal government proven to be prompt, efficient, or even capable of dealing with a catastrophe of wide ranging scope. With FEMA the federal government insists it has a role. With FEMA it is widening the scope of possibility for its own failure. FEMA isn't capable of addressing disasters and may only serve as the nucleus for creating a disaster of federal legitimacy. While it was created with good intentions during the Cold War, no one addressed the fact that the federal government doesn't have the power or capacity to actually deal with disasters, be they the nuclear one of that era or the wide-ranging problems of natural disasters and under-maintained infrastructure of the modern era along with man-made and natural disasters that can cause infrastructure to fail catastrophically. That EMP burst has all sorts of protection for the military, President, various cabinet level officials, Congress, SCOTUS... you are left SOL and then are expected to go savage and have to be suppressed under martial law.
See how that works?
That is not a system to enhance liberty and freedom, but one created to maintain power over you, not look to you as the source of power and legitimacy. The most chilling thing I heard was the director of FEMA saying it had the job of 'protecting our way of life'. I'm sorry, but that is the job of the citizenry and the citizenry is the creator of a way of life, and when its government fails it then continuing on in the old way of life that led to disaster is a non-starter. If the old way of life produces disaster, then any government seeking to sustain it is not legitimate and not dealing with realities and not seeking the assent of the people as the legitimizer of that power. Stepping in after a wide-spread failure of government leading to disaster has one result: Sovereign States. The legitimacy of government shifts to the more local government and if the State government fails then we are in Hamilton's Federalist No. 26:
Schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community require time to mature them for execution. An army, so large as seriously to menace those liberties, could only be formed by progressive augmentations; which would suppose not merely a temporary combination between the legislature and executive, but a continued conspiracy for a series of time. Is it probable that such a combination would exist at all? Is it probable that it would be persevered in, and transmitted along through all the successive variations in a representative body, which biennial elections would naturally produce in both houses? Is it presumable that every man the instant he took his seat in the national Senate or House of Representatives would commence a traitor to his constituents and to his country? Can it be supposed that there would not be found one man discerning enough to detect so atrocious a conspiracy, or bold or honest enough to apprise his constituents of their danger? If such presumptions can fairly be made, there ought at once to be an end of all delegated authority. The people should resolve to recall all the powers they have heretofore parted with out of their own hands, and to divide themselves into as many States as there are counties in order that they may be able to manage their own concerns in person.
You don't have to be a conspirator to create the conditions of an over-extended military or a government that seeks to impose its will into every facet of daily life. In this case it is easy to substitute unbridled government in the place of the military and come up with the same formula and result and you don't even need a conspiracy to do it. Indeed what you need is the belief that laws are forever, that government must continually grow and never recede, and that power devolves downward and is not granted upward. All of this done out in the open, often with great fan-fare, claiming that government can take care of part of your retirement, or help you in finding that first house to buy, or watch over markets that you should be keeping an eagle's eye upon. This claim can fairly be made and even demonstrated in our modern times. Alexander Hamilton proposes that in the event of the disaster of government seeking to impose its will upon the people, that the power to deal with that is not at the State level, but at the county level, the local level. The US Constitution holds the sweetened condensed version of this in Art. I, Sec. 10, Clause 3, but here Alexander Hamilton points out that if the government failure is wide enough, deep enough and thorough enough, that the only answer is to end the delegation of authority upward and reclaim it at the most local of level possible.
Still, if something like the scenario of an EMP destroying the electronic infrastructure of the eastern US did happen... you have a large number of States involved, at least 23-24 and possibly up to as many as 26-28. Out of 50. The federal government, by not helping the States and citizenry to prepare, by not informing the citizenry of what necessary preparations would be and what the likelihood of such an attack would be, would be delinquent in its responsibilities to the States and the citizens. By not having effective counter-measures, interceptors (and the scenario really does posit something an AEGIS vessel should be able to handle) nor even being able to identify the actor(s) involved, has failed in other, subsidiary duties and directly granted powers to it.
How much has the US government told you about EMP attacks? How has it helped you to prepare for them? I can name a list of things that can and most likely will happen to North America that the US federal government can't handle and they are just natural disasters. Yet FEMA isn't prepared for any of them. It can't handle a good sized large hurricane, yet that is its supposed duty, at which it fails even with small events like tornadoes ruining small towns. And yet its job is to 'protect our way of life' and that way of life is currently in a dark, dismal failure mode because it refuses to recognize that you are the greatest mover and protector of your own life and that self-government is the most secure and best of all governments as it requires self-restraint. It has failed on that score and continues to fail on that, continuously.
It isn't the people who are endangering the legitimacy of government at this point, it is the government, itself. A COOP plan to continue a failure is failure and the promotion of failure as a good thing. It isn't. It will kill you if you don't prepare for it. And failure on such absolute terms delegitimizes the concept: if it was restricted to just protecting the physical US territory then, yes, the President needs to be safeguarded. The rest? Elected officials and then appointed officials with an unelected bureaucracy. The COOP plan for that sort of thing is damned simple: help the States as they request it, ensure that free elections can be held and then find out what the NEW way of life is from people who have gone on a 'back to basics' course across a wide geographic area. If you can't do that, then you are not backing legitimacy of citizenship and the citizenry to guide their own affairs but seeking to impose a 'way of life' on them that bears little or no relationship to the actual real world circumstances. Those people in such a disaster-ridden State not only deserve to be free and independent, they have earned it via the lackluster federal system that hasn't supported them and treated them as subjects or slaves and failed in essential duties granted to it. If we ever got a CONUS EMP or a global CME, then the US just might not be a single Nation any longer but something much closer to a league of confederacies of Free States.
You can have a republic if you can keep it.
Doing that requires paring down the federal government and picking up the slack on your end. That is non-negotiable to retaining freedom and liberty as well. Want a United States to be preserved? Then prepare for disaster and hold government accountable to its misdeeds as no one can do this for you.