On President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip, on which he will travel to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, and Brussels, the “nuclear football” will follow him.

The so-called nuclear football is a black leather briefcase that contains top-secret items capable of allowing the US president to authorize a nuclear strike while away from fixed command centers, such as the Situation Room.

Officially referred to as the “president’s emergency satchel,” the unsophisticated-looking portable football is hand-carried by one of five military aides and is always within reach of the commander in chief, just in case.

According to Bill Gulley, a former director of the White House Military Office, the ubiquitous football does not contain a doomsday red-button keypad, but rather four items:

  • A 75-page black book of retaliatory nuclear-strike options printed in black and red ink;
  • Another black book with a list of classified sites to shelter the president;
  • A manila folder containing 10 pages of instructions on how to operate the Emergency Broadcast System;
  • An index card with authentication codes.

Sometimes an antenna can be seen poking out of the briefcase, which suggests that there may be communications equipment inside.


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Featured image courtesy of The Smithsonian Institute