MILITARY (1976-2008)

   UNDERGROUND WAR ROOM ON WARM STANDBY

   CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. _ Dr. Strangelove would have a heart attack: America's vaunted underground war room deep inside this granite mountain is being retired. Not only that, but Russian military men have been inside the place.

   During the long nuclear standoff with Moscow, the nation's super-secret nerve center was a symbol of both Cold War might and apocalyptic dread, depicted in such movies as "War Games" in 1983. But with the end of the Cold War, the war room is being put on "warm standby" to save money.

   "It was the place that made us feel good during the Cold War, especially after the Cuban missile crisis and the Russians had developed intercontinental ballistic missiles," said Lt. Gen. William Odom, a former National Security Agency director.

  A staff will keep it ready to resume operations at a moment's notice if a blast-hardened command center becomes necessary, but the critical work is being shifted to Peterson Air Force Base, about 10 miles away.

  "In today's Netted, distributed world we can do very good work on a broad range of media right here," Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said from his Peterson headquarters. "Right there at that desk, including one push-button to the president."

  Moreover, the U.S. military says the countries that have succeeded the Soviet Union as the main threat to this country -- hostile states such as North Korea and Iran -- do not have the weapons to take out a command center in Colorado.

  The United States and Canada spent hundreds of millions on early warning systems to detect a Soviet attack in the 1950s. All the information was funneled into a two-story blockhouse at Colorado Springs' Ent Air Force Base that could be taken out by a bazooka, NORAD historian Thomas Fuller said.

   So crews began digging in 1961 on the edge of Colorado Springs on what used to be a ranch, eventually removing 700,000 tons of granite. Two 25-ton blast doors were constructed to protect the 15 tunnel-like buildings 2,400 feet underground. Each is suspended on thousand-pound springs or, as the joke goes, "the real Colorado springs."

  The mini-city included a barbershop, medical clinic, convenience store, even a fire and police force. For 40 years, staff in the mountain kept an eye on the Soviets from a command center in a small room.

   Glitches resulted in false alerts in 1979 and 1980, neither coming close to the level pictured in the Matthew Broderick movie "War Games." ("Dr. Strangelove" and "Fail-Safe," both of which came out in 1964, two years before the Cheyenne Mountain command center opened, also famously depicted electronic war rooms.)

  The collapse of the Soviet Union was it's death knell. A few years later, Russians were invited to Peterson in case the change of the millennium caused any catastrophic computer problems.

Then came the Sept. 11 attacks. The Northern Command was created in 2002 to defend the nation from internal attacks. Its headquarters were built at Peterson and NORAD's commander was put in charge of both.

It was from Peterson where the military was able to scramble fighter planes 10 minutes after a small plane crashed into a New York City high-rise last week.

Cheyenne Mountain was a comfort for many during the Cold War. It was put in the middle of the continent for safety reasons, to help ensure that key decisions on defending the nation from a nuclear attack could be made before it was too late.

Until the later years of the Cold War, when more accurate and high-yield bombs were developed, Cheyenne Mountain could probably have even withstood a direct hit.

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On the Net:

NORAD and Northcom: http://www.norad.mil

http://www.northcom.mil










ARMY STUDY: IRAQ OCCUPATION WAS UNDERSTAFFED


  A nearly 700-page study released Sunday by the Army found that "in the euphoria of early 2003," U.S.-based commanders prematurely believed their goals in Iraq had been reached and did notsend enough troops to handle the occupation. President George W. Bush's statement on May 1, 2003 that major combat operations were over reinforced that view, the study said.


 PENTAGON BANS POPULAR WEB SITES
   DENVER — Soldiers serving overseas will lose some of their online links to friends and loved ones back home under a Department of Defense policy that a high-ranking Army official said would take effect Monday. The Defense Department will begin blocking access "worldwide" to YouTube, MySpace and 11 other popular websites on its computers and networks, according to a memo sent Friday by Gen. B.B. Bell, the U.S. Forces Korea commander.



 

    COLORADO AIR FORCE GENERAL SAYS EARLY SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCH A BAD IDEA


    PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. _ Brig. Gen. Duane Deal, a member of the team that investigated the Columbia disaster, said Monday he fears NASA is laying the framework for another catastrophe by planning a September shuttle launch.

    Deal told reporters that pressure is building to go ahead with the launch even though much more work needs to be done making sure the shuttle is safe.

    "Conditions are about to be duplicated that could lay the framework for another Challenger or Columbia," Deal said a day after the first anniversary of the Columbia disaster, which claimed the lives of seven astronauts. 

    Asked if going ahead with the September launch could lead to another disaster, he replied "conceivably."


 


    ACADEMY RAPES

    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. _  As a song lamenting the fate of a wounded soldier plays on the VFW Post jukebox behind him, Bob Campbell talks with disgust in his voice about the treatment some young female cadets say they've been getting at the Air Force Academy. "I think it is terrible that these kinds of things can happen. It should be an honor to be there," the Vietnam veteran says of reports that female cadets were punished by the academy after reporting they had been raped or sexually assaulted by upperclassmen. "I believe it is going on now _ and has been in the past," he says. 

  NEW AFA SUPERINTENDENT HAD INSIDE SOURCE ON ACADEMY RAPES

    When the Air Force Academy's sexual assault scandal exploded three years ago, Lt. Gen. John Regni didn't have to depend on the news media or fellow commanders for all the sordid details. He had an inside source. His daughter, Jessica, was a senior cadet in the Class of 2003. 
    "We kind of lived those four years with her," the silver-haired Regni recalled during a wide-ranging interview in an office overlooking the campus in the foothills of the Rockies. "When I was selected to become the superintendent I had been updated on academy life from her perspective before I got here and that is a valuable piece to have."
   Regni took command in October, declaring his goals include providing a safe environment for some 4,000 cadets.
   He arrived as the furor was dying down from the assault scandal amid reforms from newly installed commanders to make sure alleged victims weren't punished for minor infractions. The academy, however, was grappling with claims that evangelical Christians, including commanders, were harassing some of the students. The Air Force has issued interim guidelines intended to halt the problem.



     RELIGION AT ACADEMY

     DENVER - The Air Force is reviewing the conduct of the No. 2 officer at the Air Force Academy, a born-again Christian who's been criticized for promoting his religion inappropriately in memos and speeches, The Associated Press has learned. 
In a letter dated June 7, acting Air Force Secretary Michael Dominguez told a member of Congress the Air Force inspector general is looking into "allegations of improper conduct" against Brig. Gen. John Weida, the academy commandant.
   Dominguez said the review is separate from an investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general into whether an academy chaplain was transferred early for suggesting evangelical Christians wield too much power at the school.