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How Codes Names Are Assigned
by Paul McGinnis
We tend to use code-names such as SENIOR CITIZEN or MERIDIAN without understanding how these are assigned. I've done some research on this and here's what I've found. (Please note that this information refers to how the Department of Defense does things. It does not include how code-names are assigned by the Department of Energy or the CIA.) One source that's reasonably available is Title 32, Code of Federal Regulations, Appendix C (to Section 159a).

Based on that source and others, I've found that they are assigned by the joint Chiefs of Staff. There are actually 3 types of code-names, which are:
(1) Classified single word codewords. I had wondered why the Air Force replaced some codewords with euphemisms like "advanced program evaluation".
Here's some examples of what I mean:

Old name  -----> New name                             (same PE #)
________         ________                             ___________
CENTENNIAL       "applied technology and integration" 0305142F
OMEGA            "advanced program evaluation"        0207591F
BERNIE           "combined advanced applications"     0305172F

This has occurred with current programs, but the older historical codewords haven't yet been revised.
Apparently, the Air Force has screwed up for a few years and mistakenly listed single word codewords in budget documents. That means that the following codewords I've found in USAF budget documents since 1980 are quite sensitive:
* AURORA (this was definitely a slip up! Classified funding for the B-2, no Program Element number listed)
* OMEGA (PE 0207591F -- some kind of tactical program, possibly an aircraft).
* CENTENNIAL (PE 0305142F -- intelligence program)
* CAVALRY (PE 0305185F -- intelligence program)
* GENTRY (PE 0101816F -- the 0101xxxF program number puts it in the category of offensive strategic programs. (Ah, the nuclear glory days of a decade ago...))
* LEO (PE 0102822F -- Reagan-era strategic intelligence program for the nuclear war planners)
* MERIDIAN (PE 0603105F -- strategic nuclear program)
* OLYMPIC (PE 0603111F -- another nuclear program)
* BERNIE (PE 0305172F -- yet another intelligence program)

None of the codewords I mentioned are abbreviations, i.e., the LEO program is not "Low Earth Orbit".
Also, I'm aware that NSA uses 5-letter codewords for sensitive SIGINT programs, such as DINAR. Another example of a leak involving a codeword is when the Navy released some material to me that indicated they had censored data on a project with the codeword INFRARED (part of the new ship self defense program).

(2) Unclassified 2 word nicknames, such as SENIOR TREND or COPPER CANYON (a USAF hypersonic research program). Of particular interest is the following (found in the reference listed above):

A combination of two separate words, which is assigned an unclassified meaning and is employed only for unclassified administrative, morale, or public information purposes...A nickname is not designed to achieve a security objective.

(3) Exercise terms, such as "Red Flag" used for training at Nellis AFB. None of these are single word terms.

The guide lines for choosing 2 word nicknames, such as SENIOR RUBY (a U-2 SIGINT program) are interesting -- among the words of wisdom are:

A nickname must be chosen with sufficient care to ensure that it does not:
(a) Express a degree of bellicosity inconsistent with traditional American ideals or current foreign policy.
(b) Convey connotations offensive to good taste or derogatory to a particular group, sect, or creed.
(c) Convey connotations offensive to our allies or other Free World nations.


On another subject - as far as Groom Lake goes -- here's something to ponder: We know that Groom was used for the U-2 in the 1950s, the SR-71 in the early 1960s, and various Stealth stuff in the late 1970s and early 1980s. What was Groom used for in the late 1960s and early 1970s? In some research I've been doing with Department of Energy material, I'm picking up hints that Groom Lake was used for unknown classified experiments conducted by Los Alamos National Laboratory, during that period. This is interesting, because LANL doesn't do much with nuclear weapons design (which is usually handled by Sandia National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.)

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Copyright 2008 Tony Rogers