Bunker Mentality

As a Cold War icon, NORAD symbolized airtight invulnerability to a Soviet nuclear attack. After 9/11, it found a new sense of purpose. So why is its nerve center moving into the basement of an office building?

October 2007

On the outskirts of Colorado Springs, just off Highway 115, a road climbs west through sagebrush and scrub oak as it makes its way up Cheyenne Mountain. The foothills setting is pure Colorado, the view of the plains to the east, sublime. The road continues past a toll-booth-style guard station before opening into a large parking lot surrounded by a chain-link fence rimmed with razor wire. Just beyond it lies the tunnel entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex and its most celebrated tenant, NORAD—a vast, underground bunker where nuclear nightmares once were pondered on a daily basis.