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  • CNN Debate Draws Attention to EMP Threat

    Talk of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack at the Republican National Security Debate, hosted on CNN by The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, sparked CNN to interview Heritage’s James Carafano last week to discuss the devastating impacts of an EMP. Unfortunately, the United States remains unprotected from the effects of an EMP.

    As the video explains, an EMP is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by a rapid acceleration of charged particles. An EMP can disrupt all electronic devices within its zone of impact by burning circuits and immobilizing electronic components and systems. It addition, the EMP would flow through the electricity transmission network, damaging power distribution centers and lines.

    Experts have identified that detonating a singular nuclear weapon at a high altitude would create an EMP large enough to envelop the entire continental United States. The nuclear weapon could be delivered by a long-range ballistic missile from Iran, China, Russia, or North Korea. Even a short-range nuclear-tipped missile launched off U.S. shorelines in international waters could cause a devastating EMP effect to a region.
    Terrorists could also detonate a non-nuclear or improvised EMP device that would have the same disastrous effects on a localized scale. Though it would need to be detonated close to the target, this type of device could be made from readily available or manufactured materials and is easy to hide and maneuver. This makes it all the more worrisome that our critical infrastructure is not protected.

    What is more unknown to the public is that an EMP could be caused by a large solar flare. Called the Carrington effect after the man who observed it in 1859, it shocked telegraph operators unconscious and their machines caught fire as the electromagnetic forces from the flare surged through the transmission lines.

    These effects of an EMP on the United States today would be catastrophic. According to Carafano, “everything would be disabled.” This would lead to the collapse of America’s transportation, communication, and electrical systems, as “not even a global humanitarian effort would be enough to keep hundreds of millions of Americans from death by starvation, exposure, or lack of medicine.”

    The U.S. should take several steps to guard against the crippling effects of an EMP attack. First, the U.S. should build and adequately fund a robust missile defense system composed of Aegis ballistic missile capable ships, and Aegis Ashore, the land-based ballistic missile component. Second, public and private sectors should harden vital infrastructure to make it more resilient and resistant to an EMP—to hedge against an attack or prepare for a solar flare. Third, the U.S. should develop a national plan to respond to EMP emergencies. This would involve educating federal, state, and local officials and the public about the risks of an EMP and response options.

    Jackson Marsteller is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to CNN Debate Draws Attention to EMP Threat

    1. Mark Whiting says:

      What can a missile defense system do to help protect the electric grid from the effects of a severe solar storm? Forget missile defense and just harden the grid.

    2. reagangirl says:

      If it were not for the tireless efforts of Dr. Carafano and others at The Heritage Foundation, this would still be a hugely ignored issue. The danger of EMPs has been known for years and many have written about it, but it is the persistence of a few awesome crusaders that is bringing this to the public consciousness. I mean crusaders in the good way, not like the Spanish inquisition way, well, you know what I mean. :))

    3. datacenterpro says:

      Great post. And you’re absolutely correct that more attention needs to drawn to the issue of EMPs. However, I’d like to point out that there are some serious differences between an EMP from a solar flare (or CME) and an EMP from a nuclear weapon.
      I covered this last month when a large solar flare struck the Earth. You can read about it in more detail here http://wp.me/p1L35n-W
      I also published an article that appeared on the cover of Mission Critical Magazine on space weather and the threat of solar flare damage. You can read that here: http://www.missioncriticalmagazine.com/articles/s

    4. AmandaK says:

      EMP is extremely scary to think about. But with good prepping beforehand, it can relieve a little stress I think. I always listen to this radio show on EMPactRadio.org. They talk about a bunch of helpful things having to do with EMP. This Wednesday the 29th a man named Chuck Manto will be on their show. If you want to check it out, I'm sure it's going to be helpful, here's the link: http://empactradio.org/archives/episode-90-chuck-

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