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Losing "The Biscuit"
Old 10-22-2010, 04:35 PM   #1
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Losing "The Biscuit"

Post not intended as political...

Clinton lost nuclear launch code card: General - World - NZ Herald News

Read in amazement about such an important piece of info "lost" (funny about the cleaners at the end of article).

What are some of the important things you've lost/misplaced?

I have forgotten lock combinations in the past. For those, now I use a password manager and for the lock combinations as I trust that much more than my human memory
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Old 10-22-2010, 06:09 PM   #2
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Read in amazement about such an important piece of info "lost" (funny about the cleaners at the end of article).
I don't know who to court-martial first... the guy who was supposed to use it or the guy whose only job was to make sure his boss knew how to use it.

I bet they're running weekly drills now.

I bet the biscuit codes are also written on a piece of tape affixed to the back of the incumbent's Blackberry...
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Old 10-22-2010, 06:19 PM   #3
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Probably wouldn't have made much difference, Clinton wouldn't have used them anyway.
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Old 10-22-2010, 06:34 PM   #4
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Probably wouldn't have made much difference, Clinton wouldn't have used them anyway.
Ah, those were the years.

The boomer force was finally forced to accept PALs like the rest of the nuclear deterrence force, and they went to sea with their missiles programmed to splash down in blank pieces of the ocean instead of over the actual targets they anticipated being asked to attack.

O-4 & below staff officers at COMSUBPAC were were required to muster in the auditorium for every boomer patrol debrief in order to provide enough of an audience that the admiral wasn't embarrassed by the empty seats. Meanwhile if the word got out about an interesting attack submarine mission being presented, you couldn't even stand in the back without being at least an O-5.

We also noticed that the boomer patrol schedules began to include a portcall every 30-45 days of a 90-day patrol. (By this time missile range/accuracy was high enough to hit the target from pierside, let alone in the northern oceans.) I suspect it was added so that the crews would be able to maintain the will to live...
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Old 10-22-2010, 06:39 PM   #5
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Now you're making me nervous. I guess you've seen it all, no wonder you're retired.(heh)
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Old 10-22-2010, 07:50 PM   #6
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Ah, those were the years.

The boomer force was finally forced to accept PALs like the rest of the nuclear deterrence force, and they went to sea with their missiles programmed to splash down in blank pieces of the ocean instead of over the actual targets they anticipated being asked to attack.
I missed that. When my boat went on patrol, the missiles were aimed at real estate in the USSR. If one cared enough, one could figure out the destinations from the targeting tapes. I believe that in those days, if the whole crew had cooperated, we could have launched them on our own, although the odds of doing that were virtually nonexistent.
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Old 10-22-2010, 09:31 PM   #7
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Now you're making me nervous. I guess you've seen it all, no wonder you're retired.(heh)
It was definitely a different time, but we felt that we had a mission and it made all those long hours worthwhile.

Last statistics I heard (in the mid 1980s) indicated that only two-thirds of the boomer force would launch on order. Some boats would have the inevitable mechanical/electronic difficulties, but a surprising number of that remaining third would find a reason not to launch even if everything was working perfectly. The only perceived solution was to try to put an extra missile or two on every target, which is already pretty complicated on a multi-missile target after the first missile does its job.

Spouse says these types of stories should be my next book. The problem is getting access to the logs and the other hard evidence to corroborate what would otherwise be interpreted as libel along with a huge felonious violation of national security regulations. I wrote some of the logs & point papers but I no longer have the security clearance to read my own work, and I don't think a FOIA request is gonna cut it.

But you can read most of it in "Blind Man's Bluff" and John Craven's book. I think he's still alive (he'd be in his mid-80s) and when he wrote the book he no longer cared very much about security restrictions.

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I missed that. When my boat went on patrol, the missiles were aimed at real estate in the USSR. If one cared enough, one could figure out the destinations from the targeting tapes. I believe that in those days, if the whole crew had cooperated, we could have launched them on our own, although the odds of doing that were virtually nonexistent.
I think it happened sometime in the early 1990s, with the submariners kicking & screaming and dragging their heels on the ground. I remember that before then we had a target package loaded as soon as we went alert and the only other thing we needed was a properly formatted & authenticated message.

We used to have officer training on exactly what had to happen to be able to launch the missiles, and the number of people depended on how many you had to get rid of. (It was more than just the CO with his key and the Weapons Officer with his, although you could bypass a few circuits with two alligator clips and 12" of wire.) Of course after the first missile left the tube you had to have a pretty persuasive story for the rest of the crew to let you keep going.

The real weak spot in the system turned out to be right in COMSUBPAC's command center. The watch officer (a shore-duty lieutenant with about four years of service) and the quartermaster (an E-5 on his first shore duty, maybe on his first enlistment) had everything they needed to put out a launch order to the entire fleet whether NCA thought it was a good idea or not. That caused a little heartburn when a newly-qualifying watch officer asked a few questions and somebody put the pieces together. Presumably COMSUBLANT had the same issue, although I doubt they wanted to compare stories...
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Old 10-22-2010, 09:47 PM   #8
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I remember that before then we had a target package loaded as soon as we went alert and the only other thing we needed was a properly formatted & authenticated message.
As I recall, an authenticated EAM was just proof that you really had received a legitimate launch order. I don't recall that it actually unlocked anything. After that, it was just spin up the missiles, turn the key in the console, denote the missile and then pull the trigger. Although, to be clear, I was the battle stations OOD, so my main job was to get to launch depth and speed and stay there, regardless of fire, flooding or enemy action, so I may not have the best memory of these things. I tried hard not to know too many secrets.
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Old 10-22-2010, 10:10 PM   #9
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As I recall, an authenticated EAM was just proof that you really had received a legitimate launch order. I don't recall that it actually unlocked anything. After that, it was just spin up the missiles, turn the key in the console, denote the missile and then pull the trigger. Although, to be clear, I was the battle stations OOD, so my main job was to get to launch depth and speed and stay there, regardless of fire, flooding or enemy action, so I may not have the best memory of these things. I tried hard not to know too many secrets.
I was an EAM guy walking around holding hands with the other EAM guy on a two-person-control team, and later the Communicator. (By then I was happy to do anything that didn't involve Auxiliaries Division Officer or damage control or QA.) I remember that we definitely didn't want to still be fumbling around in Radio when the OOD and the Weps had already announced their readiness to launch.

One year we had a Defense Nuclear Surety Inspection, where they send the Air Force officers over to check up on us. (Presumably Navy reciprocates in the missile silos and the aircraft.) During a launch drill an AF major was sitting in the Missile Command Center watching the Weps and his senior chief go through the process. After they'd "launched" six or eight of the 16, some mechanical problem occurred that required the Weps' presence at the tube. He tossed the firing key to the E-8, said "Continue the launch as soon as we fix this, Senior Chief", and beat feet to the scene of the casualty.

It was quiet in MCC for a few minutes while the Weps and his techs decided what needed to be done. Finally the AF officer decided to check the senior chief's procedural knowledge and said "So, if the Weps fixes the problem and they're ready to launch before he gets back here, then you're just going to launch the missiles before he gets back?" The senior chief replied in the affirmative. The major said "You know, in the Air Force you'd have to be a major to do that." The senior chief didn't skip a beat: "Sir, if I was in the Air Force I'd be a major."

It was even quieter when the Weps got back, but the inspection team never wrote it up...
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Old 10-22-2010, 10:21 PM   #10
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Oh, you guys must be talking about the rumored other leg of the triad. Some said it existed, others doubted. We were assured that Curt LeMay's team would provide everything the party really required.
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Old 10-22-2010, 10:35 PM   #11
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I see you quote Robert Heinlein, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1929.
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Old 10-22-2010, 10:52 PM   #12
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On a related note--I wonder if it would be possible to/if anyone has done an accurate simulation of how the first month of the much anticipated "Fulda Gap" scenario would have played out. It's been long enough that I'm sure the actual plans from both NATO and the WP are available (or have been leaked in memoirs), and the computer power allows us to do a lot that would have been impossible in simulations at that time. Sure, much would depend on the assumptions made when building the model, and on unknowable factors of chance, but surely some general findings could be produced. After all, as quickly as things would have unfolded, all the branches and sequels were already written and in the approrpiate plans.

Likewise for the SIOP, though I think the endstate (regardless of the intervening details and timing) is a lot more certain.

So much human talent, time, and treasure was devoted to this for so many decades. Every sane person is ecstatic that we never saw the game through to completion, but it's just natural to wonder about the validity of the preparations and planning.

Regarding the interservice stuff--from reading about their lives and manners, one has to wonder if LeMay and Rickover weren't somehow related. One has to stand in awe of their singleminded dedication and the amazing organization/culture they built. And both probably as mad as hatters.
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Old 10-22-2010, 10:59 PM   #13
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On a related note--I wonder if it would be possible to/if anyone has done an accurate simulation of how the first month of the much anticipated "Fulda Gap" scenario would have played out. It's been long enough that I'm sure the actual plans from both NATO and the WP are available (or have been leaked in memoirs), and the computer power allows us to do a lot that would have been impossible in simulations at that time. Sure, much would depend on the assumptions made when building the model, and on unknowable factors of chance, but surely some general findings could be produced. After all, as quickly as things would have unfolded, all the branches and sequels were already written and in the approrpiate plans.

Likewise for the SIOP, though I think the endstate (regardless of the intervening details and timing) is a lot more certain.

So much human talent, time, and treasure was devoted to this for so many decades. Every sane person is ecstatic that we never saw the game through to completion, but it's just natural to wonder about the validity of the preparations and planning.
As I recall, British General Sir John Hackett wrote a book speculating about the course of such an event.

The Third World War: The Untold Story - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 10-23-2010, 01:06 AM   #14
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We were assured that Curt LeMay's team would provide everything the party really required.
I think LeMay scared the hell out of the Russians more than Stalin or Beria scared the hell out of the Russians.

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On a related note--I wonder if it would be possible to/if anyone has done an accurate simulation of how the first month of the much anticipated "Fulda Gap" scenario would have played out. It's been long enough that I'm sure the actual plans from both NATO and the WP are available (or have been leaked in memoirs), and the computer power allows us to do a lot that would have been impossible in simulations at that time. Sure, much would depend on the assumptions made when building the model, and on unknowable factors of chance, but surely some general findings could be produced. After all, as quickly as things would have unfolded, all the branches and sequels were already written and in the approrpiate plans.
So much human talent, time, and treasure was devoted to this for so many decades. Every sane person is ecstatic that we never saw the game through to completion, but it's just natural to wonder about the validity of the preparations and planning.
Last week I was reading an odd book called "Dirty Little Secrets of WWII". It said that much of the detailed WWII analysis grew out of history books that were picked up by gamers and then used to generate strategic studies. Tom Clancy's novels grew out of similar interests. 1980s PCs just made it all that much easier. (Well, except for the unfortunately titled "War Games" movie.) As more documents are released, declassified, translated, and become public knowledge, I'm sure the gamers will feed that back into new simulations.

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Regarding the interservice stuff--from reading about their lives and manners, one has to wonder if LeMay and Rickover weren't somehow related. One has to stand in awe of their singleminded dedication and the amazing organization/culture they built. And both probably as mad as hatters.
I think today they'd be diagnosed with a combination of OCD and Asperger's. Either that or they'd found a company selling computer operating systems and software productivity suites...
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