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).
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration in the lead up to 9/11 and the failure of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to properly regulate the nuclear power industry. Now we’ve gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. Kim Jong Un has threatened to conduct a nuclear electromagnetic pulse missile test over the Pacific. Hawaii and Guam have issued warnings and distributed guidance to their citizens regarding precautions to take in the event of such an attack. The situation is dire because our government has failed to heed a decade of warnings from the Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack. A nuclear EMP attack would destroy electronics everywhere and black out our electric grid for an extended period. It would cripple the critical infrastructure necessary to maintain modern civilization. Our nuclear power plants would lose the electricity required to cool reactor cores and spent fuel pools. They would overheat and begin to spread toxins in about three weeks. The EMP Commission has said that millions of Americans would die from starvation, disease and the resulting societal collapse.
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).
Radicalization and violent extremism are topics of concern that have become much more pronounced in recent years (Sedgwick, 2010), and radicalization can be defined as the development of extremist ideologies and beliefs (Borum, 2011). Many factors influence individuals to turn from nonviolent to violent ideologies, including propaganda on the Internet (Maher, 2007), social networks and communications with other extremists (Sageman, 2004), political leaders and authority figures (Moghaddam, 2005), and intergroup conflict (McCauley & Moskalenko, 2011). Any of these factors individually, or a combination thereof, may contribute as catalysts for heightened radicalization (Bubolz & Simi, 2015).
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.
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.
Michael Woodson is a senior fellow at the American Leadership & Policy Foundation. Woodson founded the start-up Stratpass Corporation as a non-partisan, national security, and open source intelligence analysis company. His consultancy brings law, policy research, professional fact investigation, language study, and multi-disciplinary source analysis to the discipline of structural, human, and deliberative open source intelligence work. Woodson completed InfoSec Institute’s Certified Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing course in April 2016, adding technical contextual understanding to his structural analyses.