201. Presidential Directive/NSC–581


  • The Vice President
  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Director, Office of Management and Budget
  • The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • The Director of Central Intelligence
  • The Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • The Director, White House Military Office


  • Continuity of Government/C3I (U)

I have reviewed the recommendations of the Special Coordination Committee for improving our Continuity of Government system. It is essential that we establish and maintain a capability for the Presidency, under the most stressing conditions, to be able to:

survive a nuclear attack, even one which involves repeated attacks over a long period of time;
direct, as Commander-in-Chief, our strategic and theater nuclear forces, and all other aspects of a general war;
conduct, as Head of State, negotiations with adversaries and with our allies during the conflict;
control, as Chief Executive, domestic affairs during the conflict and the national recovery after the war has ended. (S)

To support the development of a system to meet these requirements, I direct that the following actions be taken:

The concept put forth in the Special Coordination Committee paper on Continuity of Government (Tab A) is approved as the initial direction for program development.2 (C)
The responsibilities of the various agencies, the development concepts, and the public posture will conform to section VI of the Special Coordination Committee paper. (C)
An interagency steering group, chaired by the NSC staff, and consisting of representatives of the White House Military Office, the [Page 858] Secretaries of State and Defense, and the Directors of Central Intelligence, FEMA, and OMB, will oversee the development and validation of the recommended concepts. (C)
A Joint Program Office will be established under the Secretary of Defense. It will work in close cooperation with the Director of FEMA to refine, develop, validate, and implement this concept, responsive to the requirements of the Secretary of Defense and the Director of FEMA. (C)

The Joint Program Office will:

define overall responsibilities for development, management, and operation of a deployed system;
prepare a detailed program for use of FY 1981 and FY 1982 funds;
develop and refine the operational requirements;
supervise the development of a series of tests and exercises to validate the concept;
plan for the program to be fully operational to support at least five successors by 1984 and at least ten by the late 1980s;
submit alternate program plans and budgets, a proposed exercise program, and recommendations concerning the division of funding responsibilities between FEMA and DOD and the degree of program classification to the Special Coordination Committee for review within three months. In the interim, program details will continue to be classified. (C)

5) Consistent with the above guidance, and in close cooperation with the JPO, FEMA will:

continue to improve, pending development of a new system, the current capability [less than 1 line not declassified] to disperse and support [less than 1 line not declassified] successors in [less than 1 line not declassified] facilities;
continue to develop procedures and capabilities, in coordination with the Department of Defense, for locating, communicating with, identifying, and authenticating dispersed successors, as a basis for determining legal succession to the Presidency;
coordinate the efforts of other government agencies to insure that their specific survival plans are compatible with the system for the Presidency. (S)

Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 2, PD/NSC 33–63 [2]. Secret.
  2. Attached but not printed is the paper resulting from the June 12 SCC meeting; see the attachment to Document 198.