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  • Time for an EMP Recognition Day

    As we mentioned earlier this morning, today is the 27th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) speech; the speech that paved the way for our nation’s successful missile defense program. However, America faces another threat, one that requires Congress’s immediate attention: an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. Heritage fellow Jen McNeill makes the case for raising recognition of this new threat by making March 23rd EMP Recognition Day:

    The likelihood of an EMP attack is disconcerting. Nearly 30 countries currently possess ballistic missile capabilities. Indeed, some have extensive knowledge of EMP and its effects. North Korea currently possesses a large arsenal of missiles and has been publicly testing its ballistic weapons. It has also been reported that Russian scientists have worked with North Korea on developing an EMP weapon. Countries and non-state actors are also exploring improvised or non-nuclear EMPs as a means of harnessing the destructive power of EMP without the need for missile capabilities. EMP has even been seen to occur naturally during a solar flare event (the last of which happened in the late 1800s).

    Despite such concerns and repeated warnings from the congressionally mandated EMP Commission, the President’s budget does not place a great enough emphasis on missile defense, let alone the EMP threat. For instance, the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 budget requested $9.9 billion for missile defense, a $600 million decrease from FY 2009 (although a $900 million increase over FY 2010). Neither Congress nor the White House has looked extensively at hardening critical infrastructure against EMP or revising recovery plans or disaster planning scenarios to be reflective of this unique threat.

    Given the increased likelihood that the U.S. could suffer an EMP attack in the near future, the time has come for Congress to recognize the danger that EMP poses and act to address this threat. If, just for one day, Congress simulated even a fraction of the impact such an attack would have, the scope of the danger would be clear. To do so, Congress should establish an EMP Recognition Day.

    You can read McNeill’s full WebMemo, here.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to Time for an EMP Recognition Day

    1. James Izumi, Lakewood, CA says:

      Everyone deems electronics as essential to our civilization and the defense of the power grid as imperative. But, why?

      Other technologies can and have driven our economy, and electronics is the only one that is vulnerable to EMP. So, why do electronics permeate our infrastructure? Market forces. People like what electrical things do, so manufacturers build them, without considering that people might, also, buy non-electric things that perform the same functions. Also, style and fashion come into play. “Electronics” is a buzz word and you’re “Stone Age” without it.

      Our best defense against EMP is broadening our technology base and only using electronics for, inherently, electrical applications such as electroplating and electron microscopes. This would limit what needs to be defended. But, getting the nation to change is a marketing problem.

      Congress and Homeland Security are already ignoring the factual, horrific scenarios of national paralysis and mass starvation from an EMP attack. In the field of advertising, they’d call this horrific factual argument the “hard sell.” A “soft sell” might be more effective. That means selling EMP defense by making it desirable.

      For example, if DoD issued Military Specifications for new equipment that mandated non-electric operating modes, it’s suddenly desirable for defense contractors to develop non-electric, and therefore EMP invulnerable, equipment. Changing the landscape so “non-electric/EMP invulnerable” is desirable is a soft sell. The supply (output of contractors) will be influenced by demands of the market (DoD).

      To get DoD to listen and consider changing specifications, you’d have to show them working prototypes of “non-electric/emp invulnerable” devices that perform the same functions as electrical devices. Changes to MilSpecs can be leverage to change the direction of business and consumer markets for whom the military is often an opinion and fashion leader.

      EMP is a physical effect with, potentially, devastating ramifications for our infrastructure. But, the solution to the problem will start with influencing markets so producers supply the solutions that consumers, businesses and the military demand. The American economy is the solution to the problem.

    2. John Goodman, Sterli says:

      The risk of an successful EMP attack on the United States is real and the consequences would be devastating with the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans at stake. I, for one, certainly agree with the above recommendations that the government (Congress, Executive Branch, State and local) need to include the EMP threat as part of a coordinated response and recovery plan. Also, with a risk of this magnitude, it is imperative that we begin a vigorous program to "harden" and protect our electrical and electronic infrastructure. However, even if our so-called leaders wake up and take action, any EMP defense plan (including missile defense as well as improved survivability of electronic infrastructure) will require a substantial amount of time to implement. Therefore, in my opinion, we also need a clear means of deterrance that will preclude an enemy attack before we are able to implement effective EMP defenses. It seems to me that we have only one means of deterrance. A clearly stated policy and system that given an EMP attack on the United States would result in an automatic retaliation of both EMP and conventional nuclear weapons sufficient to cause world-wide disruption of technology and physical distruction of nations whose technological level is such that EMP alone would not be effective enough to serve as a sufficient deterrance. In essence, the entire world would experience the same level of devastation as the United States.

      The policy of mutual annihilation has served the world as an effective means of deterrence since the beginning of the nuclear age and it seems to me that it is the only short term means of dissuading our many enemies and our "fair weather" friends from taking advantage of a weakness born out of our national reliance on electronic technology.

      To some it might seem overly harsh to extend a retaliation for such an attack to the entire world and thus punish billions of innocent and uninvolved people. Unfortunately, it is quite possible that the source of an EMP attack would not be readily apparent. It is also unfortunate that no nation on this planet is immune from greed and the lust for power. Therefore, even nations who might be totally innocent of any involvement would soon become a part of the pack of vultures looking to scavenge territory and resources from a helpless and defenseless U.S. populace. Also, only the threat of world wide devastation is sufficient to encourage nations with dubious motivations and uncertain loyalties to cooperate in supplying critical intelligence that could be vital in preventing certain fanatical terrorists groups from plunging us back into the Middle Ages.

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