Nuclear Football

The nuclear football (also known as the atomic football, the president's emergency satchel, the button, the black box, or just the football) is a briefcase, the contents of which are to be used by the President of the United States to authorize a nuclear attack while away from fixed command centers, such as the White House Situation Room. It functions as a mobile hub in the strategic defense system of the United States and has been in service since Eisenhower.

It was a greatly important plot device in White House Down.


If the President (who is Commander-in-Chief) decided to order the use of nuclear weapons, he would be taken aside by the "carrier" and the briefcase opened. A command signal, or "watch" alert, would then be issued to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The President would then review the attack options with the aide and decide upon a plan which could range from a single cruise missile to multiple ICBM launches. These are preset war plans developed under OPLAN 8010 (formerly the Single Integrated Operational Plan). Next, using whatever communications technology the satchel has, the aide would then presumably make contact with the National Military Command Center or, in a retaliatory strike situation, multiple airborne command posts (who likely fly Boeing E-4B) and/or nuclear armed submarines.

Before the order can be processed by the military, the President must be positively identified using a special code issued on a plastic card, nicknamed the "biscuit". The United States has a two-man rule in place and, while only the President can order the release of nuclear weapons, the order must be confirmed by the Secretary of Defense (there is a hierarchy of succession in the event that the President has been killed in an attack). Once all the codes have been verified, the military would issue attack orders to the proper units. These orders are given and then re-verified for authenticity.

The football is carried by one of the rotating presidential military aides, whose work schedule is described by a top-secret rota (one from each of the five service branches). They are occasionally physically attached to the briefcase via a security cable around the wrist. 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). These armed officers are required to keep the football readily accessible to the President at all times. Consequently, an aide, football in hand, is always either standing or walking near the President or riding in Air Force One, Marine One, or the presidential motorcade with the President.

Inaccuracies and suspension of disbeliefEdit

  • Missiles cannot be launched on sight. Approval must be done with the people at the silos.
  • Sawyer's handprint wouldn't have been able to access the nuclear football because Raphelson was the president at the time. Of course, this is difficult to label as an inaccuracy as this has never happened before.