Pentagon plans for zombie invasion

May 19, 2014 • 10:00 am

No, that’s not a joke. It’s reported on CNN, in a piece called “Pentagon document lays out battle plan against zombies,” and it’s not April 1. Moreover, there’s a Pentagon document to prove it. Yes, citizens of the U.S., these are your tax dollars at work.

You can look at the whole document, “Conplan 888“, and it’s pretty bizarre. Here’s the first page:

Screen shot 2014-05-17 at 5.24.59 AMAnd part of CNN’s summary (my emphasis):

From responses to natural disasters to a catastrophic attack on the homeland, the U.S. military has a plan of action ready to go if either incident occurs.

It has also devised an elaborate plan should a zombie apocalypse befall the country, according to a Defense Department document obtained by CNN.

In an unclassified document titled “CONOP 8888,” officials from U.S. Strategic Command used the specter of a planet-wide attack by the walking dead as a training template for how to plan for real-life, large-scale operations, emergencies and catastrophes.

And the Pentagon says there’s a reasonable explanation.

“The document is identified as a training tool used in an in-house training exercise where students learn about the basic concepts of military plans and order development through a fictional training scenario,” Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze, a spokeswoman for U.S. Strategic Command, told CNN. “This document is not a U.S. Strategic Command plan.”

. . . Nevertheless, the preparation and thoroughness exhibited by the Pentagon for how to prepare for a scenario in which Americans are about to be overrun by flesh-eating invaders is quite impressive.

A wide variety of different zombies, each brandishing their own lethal threats, are possible to confront and should be planned for, according to the document.

Zombie life forms “created via some form of occult experimentation in what might otherwise be referred to as ‘evil magic,’ to vegetarian zombies that pose no threat to humans due to their exclusive consumption of vegetation, to zombie life forms created after an organism is infected with a high dose of radiation are among the invaders the document outlines.”

Every phase of the operation from conducting general zombie awareness training, and recalling all military personnel to their duty stations, to deploying reconnaissance teams to ascertain the general safety of the environment to restoring civil authority after the zombie threat has been neutralized are discussed.

And the rules of engagement with the zombies are clearly spelled out within the document.

“The only assumed way to effectively cause causalities to the zombie ranks by tactical force is the concentration of all firepower to the head, specifically the brain,” the plan reads. “The only way to ensure a zombie is ‘dead’ is to burn the zombie corpse.”

Why on Earth would they spend all this effort designing a “training exercise” involving nonexistent beings who have to be shot in the head and then burned? What does that train you for?

h/t: Linda Grilli


65 thoughts on “Pentagon plans for zombie invasion

  1. The zombie in the picture sort if looks like those statues of Lenin you see. Zombie Lenin! They still have him pickled somewhere I think, so maybe this is a real threat! 🙂

    1. I kind of read somewhere that Pentagon actually used the zombie scenario just as a technique to explain civil defense strategies, not an actual zombie attack, because it made the exercise less boring.

    2. I saw him many years ago in Moscow, which is funny to me as it is perfectly possible that my grandfather would have passed him in the streets of Clerkenwell when Lenin lived & studied in London.

      1. If I went to Red Square, I’d visit him too even though I think the whole thing is ghoulish. Stalin has been booted out and buried. I hope they keep Lenin just because they went to such trouble pickling him.

        1. I hate it when museums get into ‘deaccessioning’ specimens; it goes along with sacking curators and research staff and hiring more and more administrators. Maybe one day old Vladimir Ilyich will end up like the Oxford Dodo, reduced to a head and a foot rescued from a bonfire.

          1. Ha! Apt comparison. Probably better than what I’ll get but I guess I didn’t institutionalize a government that then became totalitarian and repressive. I should get on that.

  2. I think the true intent of the exercise is to test the ability to react and respond to a surprise disastrous event. They could choose to respond to earthquakes, volcanos, nuclear war, nuclear plant meltdown, or an asteroid strike, but testing responsiveness by responding to a zombie invasion is simply more fun, and unlikely to offend anyone except zombies.

  3. Why on Earth would they spend all this effort designing a “training exercise” involving nonexistent beings who have to be shot in the head and then burned? What does that train you for?

    I believe the CDC did something similar, issuing a memo about how to prepare a ‘zombie apocalypse kit.’ Their goal was twofold – (1) get more people to put together disaster preparation kits for their own homes by parsing that request in a humorous and attention-grabbing manner, and (2) point out to the public that many different disasters will require the same resources, so such kits have a high chance of being useful even if some specific disaster (flood, outage, zombie) is highly unlikely.

    IF the DOD exercise is focused on operational processes like providing aid and resources to a displaced civilian community, I could see how this idea could work for the same reason the CDC one worked. But if this is intended as a military exercise in how to fight bad guys, then yeah this is really stupid and a complete waste.

  4. It says so right in your quote:
    “The document is identified as a training tool used in an in-house training exercise where students learn about the basic concepts of military plans and order development through a fictional training scenario.”

    Sounds like the teachers are simply trying to give the students an engaging example, instead of something more realistic but boring. Good on them!

  5. I think I can deal with them taking non-real threats seriously if they are not at the same time ignoring real threats (climate change, energy crises, water crises, etc). Since they are taking climate change seriously, I will look at this as “thinking outside the box” rather than “stark raving mad”.

      1. What kills me is that they’ve been taking it seriously for years, and yet the Republicans, who LOVE the military, don’t freakin’ listen!

  6. Actually, I like this planning for a zombie invasion. Considering all the things the military could be doing, this is pretty good. And probably at least a little useful for helping people think creatively about logistics. Not to mention funny!

    Let’s support a little levity in our armed forces.

  7. ‘Why on Earth would they spend all this effort designing a “training exercise” involving nonexistent beings who have to be shot in the head and then burned? What does that train you for?’

    Easy. It trains you for *putting down large-scale protest and revolt by your own population*.

    That’s the real purpose behind all this.


    1. Correct.

      Zombies in movies and TV are metaphors for the rabble, the mob. Like philosophical zombies, they are mindless repositories of vile and controllable appetites. The ruthlessness and ravening hunger are experienced in the audience as fear, deposited onto the image of the zombie, displacing them from the image of the imperiled self.

      Or, that’s why you don’t see zombies on the floor of the NYSE, the audience would have trouble telling which was which. Or why zombies are never depicted lurking behind cubicle walls.

      Philosophical zombies share in the dehumanization of others. I’m not really aware of any issues philosophical zombies raise that aren’t already raised by unconsciousness, coma, sleepwalking, dreaming, multiple personality, blindsight/phantom limb pain, etc.

      1. You should watch the British zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead. It features undead who cannot be easily distinguished from their living colleagues, and it’s hilarious.

      2. I am not so sure that the typical zombie movie or TV show is taken so seriously by its creators or the audience.

        1. I agree. It’s the ones who take their work the least seriously whose zombies are the most clearly the underclass. Thoughtlessness really lets it all hang out.

          As Rory notes above, Shaun of the Dead is hilarious. But as a comedy it is of course made with serious attention. Therefore, it mines humor in breaking the conventions.

  8. “What does that train you for?”

    It provides training for all of the various aspects and entities involved in a wide range of emergency response planning on a national scale. This does not sound unreasonable to me at all. If anything I applaud whover it was that had the idea for adding a bit of humor to a whole lot of peoples day(s).

    1. Yes, it’s largely an exercise in logistics.

      Giving it a fun hook doesn’t detract from it, and makes it more engaging. I don’t see the harm. Making a big deal out of the hook as if that’s the most important thing is typical shoddy CNN journalism.

        1. Things aren’t the same at PBS as they were for its first 3+ decades.

          The site states that corporate entities are not permitted input or control over editorial, and presumably all other programming, content.

          I’m not familiar with any situation where consistent Big Money influx does not in time result in kowtowing to Big Money “suggestion”, followed in due course to Big Money “requests” (read “demands”).

          1. I seem to remember MacNeil/Lehrer being soft on ADM, their biggest corporate “sponsor,” in the midst of ADM’s price-fixing shenanigans. And even if the megacorps (the biggest of which slobber all over PBS like there’s no tomorrow) aren’t outright buying propaganda, you can bet that they wouldn’t have bought all those advertisements in the first place unless they were confident in the value of their “investment.”


          2. Of course you’re right. I shoulda just said, “follow the money.” But that goes without saying.

  9. The real question is whether they planned for Romero/Fulci type zombies or the much more troublesome ’28 Days Later’ variety.

    1. The World War Z ones seem to be particularly difficult to eradicate as well as evidenced in the movie version where Brad Pitt just doesn’t seem to be able to stop running.

      1. I suspect it’s really just a cover for tactical exercises against possible uprisings by the Tea Baggers. After all, a zombie is a pretty good stand in for training purposes.

      1. Witlesses, nice one!

        Now, how would tactics change? Zombies knock on your door asking to eat your brain, while JW’s knock on your door asking to tamper with your brain.

  10. “Why on Earth would they spend all this effort designing a “training exercise” involving nonexistent beings who have to be shot in the head and then burned? What does that train you for?”

    Getting people interested and excited about disaster preparedness is hard. Zombies are a popular genre, so it make sense to use “zombie attack” as a hook to promote disaster preparedness.

    As an educator and an eloquent writer, you likely know that data and dry lectures are not necessarily the best way to educate and motivate people. People enjoy narratives and vivid stories which can aid in making learning fun and memorable.

    I think you have been hasty in your judgement, much as when Republicans pounce on what they think is ridiculous sounding research, such as when Sarah Palin ignorantly condemned spending tax dollars fruit fly research.

  11. What a complete and utter waste of time. Aren’t they aware that the great Jerusalem zombie uprising of 33 A.D. passed off with hardly anyone noticing? If it wasn’t for some guy called Matthew we’d never have heard about it. The fact that the Roman authorities didn’t even have to mobilise the local legionary garrison suggests that invasions of the undead are much less troublesome than you’d imagine.

    1. Yes, the zombies themselves weren’t much of a problem…but just look at all the wannabes they inspired — running around everywhere, spreading like wildfire, almost as bad as actual undead….


    2. Yes, but the Lost Book of Matthew tells us that the zombies ate regions of the brain that are now known to be vital to logic and reasoning. It is these people who established Christianity and further spread the zombie attacks until they reached Constantine; the rest is history.

  12. What does that train you for?

    Like using targets shaped like a human outline, this is all part of desensitizing soldiers to firing on real people.

    1. I can’t see it. That happens in boot camp and other basic training anyway. Presumably any soldiers involved in this exercise would already have been trained to fire at real people.

    2. Seriously? It’s a planning exercise. The only thing it desensitizes soldiers to is firing emails at people, perhaps with powerful, spam-filter piercing PowerPoint attachments.

  13. “Why on Earth would they spend all this effort designing a “training exercise” involving nonexistent beings who have to be shot in the head and then burned? What does that train you for?”

    The training methodology is sound. The target is not credible on purpose. If they’d done a training document on an invasion by North Korea, there’d be a leak and people would assume that any protestations that it was a training exercise was just denial.

    As my workmate pointed out, they probably considered aliens or zombies, then realised that aliens would cause even more of a problem than North Korea.

  14. Why on Earth would they spend all this effort designing a “training exercise” involving nonexistent beings who have to be shot in the head and then burned? What does that train you for?

    For one thing it trains you on how to design a training exercise.

  15. Well, they probably know better than we what their colleagues in the bio lab next floor are working on.

  16. I agree with many of the other posters that the criticism is a bit harsh. CNN could do a similar article about how millions of dollars are wasted at universities because instructors have their students spending most of their time working on made-up problems. In fact, usually the instructor already knows the answer before he assigns the problem, and lets the students waste hours or days figuring out what the instructor already knows.

    Since it’s a training exercise, introducing a little humor seems like a good idea. There is no rule that says learning has to be boring.

  17. BTW, the explanation in the document itself seems pretty good. It explains why the topic was chosen and what the purpose of developing the plan was. It’s right on page 1, just below where the title page was cropped in in the original post.

  18. No doubt a pork-barrel initiative by the same sort of congressmen who’ve brought us the men who stare at goats.

  19. Ohmahgawd; the evil Zionist-conspiracy military is at it again: don’t you see? Jest substitue, “patriot” for evertahm they say, “zombie”, an’ yu’ll figger out the code!

  20. Oh good grief, relax already.

    It’s a training exercise. As such, it’s supposed to teach critical thinking skills. Work your way all the way through a problem instead of just superficially covering it.

    Training. Does not have to be boring.

  21. In one class in grad school we got a homework problem asking us to work out everything we could about the physics of Flatland. It was a chance to practice our technical skills, but also made us think carefully about what we could and couldn’t assume. Not a dumb problem at all.

    The zombie exercise has a similar flavor. Textbook military solutions don’t work on the mindless undead, so the students are forced to think creatively, questioning the received wisdom. Some things will be similar to the proverbial “last war” (e.g. logistics) but others will require new approaches (e.g., care of wounded who are possibly infected) Surely getting soldiers to think in unconventional ways is smart, no?

  22. I’m sure there’s numerous scenarios where training to hit a zombie precisely in the head is useful. The Captain Phillips saga is one that I can think of off the top of my head. If those snipers couldn’t take out the pirates with precision, there’d be unwanted casualties. Even having to plan the attack on zombies involves careful planning and critical thinking, both value skills to have.

    And, of course, this has all happened before, around 2000 years ago, so why not be prepared? “The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;” (Matthew 27:52) Suppose the next round of zombies gets raised by Lucifer, we need to be ready to take them out, and take them out fast!

  23. And now for the required link to funniest zombie song ever by Jonathan Coulton, and his immortal Re: Your Brains. My favorite is accompanied by American Sign Language.

  24. Why not? Zombies are just about as real as most of our supposed ‘enemies’ the government has chosen to wage preemptive war against.

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