Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Nuclear Football is a black-colored leather briefcase always near the President of the United States. It contains a secure SATCOM radio and handset, the daily nuclear launch codes known as the "Gold Codes," and the President's Decision Book—the "nuclear playbook" that the President would rely on should a decision to use nuclear weapons be made. The National Security Agency updates the Gold Codes daily. The Football is carried by the Emergency War Officer at all times. This person is a commissioned officer in the U.S. military, pay-grade O-4 or above, who has undergone the nation's most rigorous background check (Yankee White). The "Black Book" is said to contain 75 pages of options, to be used against four primary groups: Russian nuclear forces; conventional military forces; military and political leadership and economic/industrial targets. The options are further divided into Major Attack Options (MAOs), Selected Attack Options (SAOs), and Limited Attack Options (LAOs). With the SATCOM radio and handset, the president can contact the National Command Authority (NCA) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
The concept of the Football came about in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. President John F. Kennedy was concerned that some Soviet commander in Cuba might launch their missiles without authorization from Moscow. After the crisis, Kennedy ordered a review of the U.S. Nuclear Command and Control system. The result was the highly classified National Security Action Memorandum that created "the Football."
On April 24, 1999, President Bill Clinton left NATO's 50th anniversary summit, being held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.; in a moment of carelessness, the military aide carrying the football at the time was left behind. The aide safely walked the half-mile back to the White House alone.
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