With the foundations of global stability being challenged by disruptive powers such as Russia and China, and rogues like North Korea and Iran, there’s scarcely been a more dangerous time to loose faith in each other and our government system. Yet, from social issues to economy and politics to defense, the U.S. struggles to deflect deliberate efforts to speed the loss of our national identity and unity. Make no mistake, “we the people” are the target in this diabolical campaign.
The devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico has been terrifying, engaging multiple FEMA regions and significant military support to rescue, recover and rebuild. While Puerto Rico has only limited electric power, mainly due to decades old negligence of their electric grid utilities to ensure resiliency to hurricanes, we know that it will happen again if allowed to retain their aged and fragile power generation, above ground transmission and distribution lines (wooden poles).
Last month, news broke that the congressional committee studying the threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States was being forced to disband–at the same time North Korea specifically threatened an EMP attack as part of it’s alarming increase in nuclear tests. This is widely considered to be the complete opposite approach to protecting our nation’s national security in a mostly anarchic international environment. In fact, just six months ago, most experts thought North Korea’s nuclear arsenal was primitive, some academics claiming it had as few as 6 A-Bombs.
Over the weekend, in a dim corner of Washington D.C. and in a quiet recess of the Pentagon, a national security tragedy occurred with little notice or fanfare. On Sept. 30, the Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat of Electromagnetic Pulse to the United States of America (or EMP Commission) was shut down indefinitely. Since 2000, the EMP Commission, an unpaid team of leading scientists, engineers, and security experts has worked tirelessly to test, understand, and uncover risks posed to our nation’s civil and military infrastructure by Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). EMP is a well known physical electromagnetic phenomena generated by a nuclear or special weapon or coronial mass ejection (CME).
The debate surrounding the extent to which America is vulnerable to both man-made or naturally occurring electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and natural geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) has become superheated. To some, the dangers these phenomena pose are believed to be existential, while others portray EMP defense advocates as mad and believe its dangers unfounded or debatable. However, Duke Energy Corp. recently became an advocate for EMP/GMD defense by releasing its plan to link multiple power stations in an effort to create resiliency for its operations and customers. What is the root of the debate? The answer, as with many emerging national security issues, is nuanced and complex.
Texas lawmakers and national security experts say the state’s electric power grid — which is independent of the rest of the nation’s power grid — is vulnerable to a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, which could have devastating effects on both the state and the nation. Six members of the Texas state Senate, including members of both parties, are co-sponsoring legislation that — if passed — would begin taking steps to secure the state’s electric power grid from an EMP attack, an event that former CIA director James Woolsey and other national security experts have said is a real and credible threat both for Texas and for the country as a whole.
As the Trump Administration ushers in uncertain change, one of those changes must become certain if the Administration is serious about national security: a resilient U.S. electrical grid. Our continued failure to allocate the manageable expense of shoring up our grid against phasic-probability, high-impact destructive events is an unabating gamble with the survival of 350 million people and the progress of our predecessors. Some have defended the slow pace of proofing the U.S. electric grid, citing the low-probability of high-impact risks posed by Electromagnetic Pulse and/or solar Coronal Mass Ejection events. However, our nation’s resilience, defense, and security should not be left to luck. No one would step into an escape room with a 10% chance of death during the game, yet Lloyd’s of London assessed that there is a 12% chance per decade that North America will be impacted by a significant CME event. Furthermore, the insurance syndicate notes CME impact is “almost inevitable.”
We have a fascination with the birth, life and passing of civilizations. From archeology to anthropology, new science and methods such as radio carbon dating help mankind explore and probe the depths of our history. All ancient civilizations have one thing in common – they’ve passed away; some for reasons known, and some unknown. Thus, as the last flickers cast by a dying star, we are often left with traces and artifacts of brilliance and splendor lost. If ancients could return to speak to the modern world, would there be an admonition to those of us living atop the ruins of ages past? Homer may have answered this question best, “History is the oracle of truth.” Perhaps contemporary civilization should look to common threads woven through lost worlds and extract self-evident truths. In many instances, perhaps unwittingly or even unintentionally, those messages have already been presented.
American Leadership and Policy Foundation to co-host Texas Grid Security Summit to address emerging threat to national security. This summit will address the Texas electric grid’s vulnerability to electromagnetic pulse (EMP), geomagnetic solar storms and cyber attacks as well as discuss emergency preparedness and emerging protective technologies. It will also highlight current and future state and federal legislative EMP protection and electric grid security efforts.
Through global reach and global power, we have the ability to hold the interests of any adversary in the world at risk within minutes. But, there is one vulnerability that threatens to significantly degrade our ability to not only project power abroad, but protect our own homeland – electromagnetic pulse. The American Leadership and Policy Foundation has produced objective, vetted research that exposes the vulnerabilities of the United States’ power grid and, more specifically, the nuclear power grid and associated generation facilities. While the threats of EMP caused by a high-altitude nuclear detonation, or the similar force of massive geomagnetic disturbance event, are neither novel nor probable, they represent a real existential threat that could render useless all means of offensive and defensive actions in all domains of military operations.
In 2012, a solar super storm, the most powerful in 150 years passed within hours of Earth. According to NASA, “If it had hit, we [the U.S.] would still be picking up the pieces.” The close call underscored the very real risk EMP poses to the U.S. power grid. Had the pulse impacted North America, it is possible that the effects would have interrupted critical cooling functions at nuclear generation facilities. The risk of meltdown from EMP disruption of cooling is real and could impact multiple stations simultaneously.
A large variety of jamming devices – illegal to market and sell in the U.S. – are available on the Internet. Their use could lead to interference with the reception of signals from our Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) satellites (GPS). Through frequency interference and manipulation, criminals, terrorists, and hostile powers can deny or scramble information in a manner that will damage communication, transportation and function of most digital technologies in the private and public sectors.