Protecting our critical civil infrastructure against EMP threats would play an important role in deterring such an attack, and the Pentagon’s failure even to mention that role in its Nuclear Posture Review illustrates a serious gap in our overall strategy and plans to protect the American People. And the problem is bigger than in the Pentagon. The President should take this issue on by an appropriate White House initiative.
In my Newsmax article last week, my title lamented that the “Mattis’ Nuclear Posture Review Leaves Out EMP Threat.” Click here for that article, which is further elaborated below — with additional concerns about Defense Department’s lethargy if not complete omission in protecting the American people from the existential threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.
I noted my unhappiness with the Pentagon’s recently published Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), not because of what it includes but because of what it leaves out, at least in Defense Secretary Mattis’ public summary. Click here for that summary, which I generally support.
Click here for a discussion of testimony before the House Armed Services Committee by him and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul Selva. They made a strong case for upgrading our atrophying nuclear forces that were built as a significant element of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Modernization Program that repaired the then atrophying strategic capabilities he inherited.
I then had oversight responsibilities for programs upgrading all USAF strategic systems and their command, control, and communications (C3) systems — including against electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threats. And I served on the Cruise Missile Source Selection Board for air-, land- and sea-basing, which I certainly agree is due for a redo.
I also agreed with many supportive articles, e.g., click here, here, here, and here for articles by Robert Joseph; Paul Bracken; Peter Huessy; and especially a bipartisan presentation by John Harvey, Frank Miller, Keith Payne and Brad Roberts.
To reinforce the Pentagon’s argument for low yield nuclear weapons, I’d recall the neutron bomb, invented in the 1950s by Sam Cohen at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, eventually developed and produced for deployment in the 1970s. President Carter canceled its deployment to deter a major ground attack through the Fulda Gap — to the chagrin of our NATO allies, especially in West Germany. Click here for Sam Cohen’s story of important aspects of his views and involvement regarding our nuclear strategy, policies and programs of that era.
It should be emphasized that if such low yield weapons are designed to create lots of gamma rays instead of neutrons, they can create EMP effects, potentially an existential threat. And it is real and available to our enemies.
Click here for important views of the Chairman and Chief of Staff of the EMP Commission on several failures of the intelligence community, including that it has ignored the warning thirteen years ago by Russian Generals that they had “accidentally” passed to North Korea how to build “Super EMP weapons.”
Moreover, such nuclear weapons could be carried on North Korean satellites, like those launched in 2012 and 2016 and subsequently have orbited daily over the United States. So North Korean nuclear weapons, if carried by such satellites, could be detonated above the atmosphere to produce a devastating EMP attack — an existential threat to all Americans.
This threat circumvents the often overstated claim that we have time to respond to this threat because North Korea must still prove they can reenter the atmosphere and achieve more accuracy than needed.
North Korea has been testing low yield weapons for years — so commissioners have warned that North Korea might already have a Super EMP weapon.
Perhaps we should have such a capability in our nuclear stockpile? At least our nuclear scientists and policy makers should understand the role of such low-yield “Super EMP” weapons.
Moreover, North Korea has officially claimed that having such an EMP capability is a “strategic goal.” Yet Secretary Mattis’ NPR summary includes no mention of the EMP threat — nor does his National Defense Strategy (Click here.) — even though President Trump included such threats in his National Security Strategy (Click here.).
We need to deter this threat — and defend against it in case deterrence fails.
Protecting our critical civil infrastructure against EMP threats would play an important role in deterring such an attack, and the Pentagon’s failure even to mention that role in its Nuclear Posture Review illustrates a serious gap in our overall strategy and plans to protect the American People.
And the problem is bigger than in the Pentagon, as I have discussed several times over the past five years.
For example, click here for my earliest summary of the federal government’s dysfunctional arrangements five years ago in my February 25, 2013 message, “The Shield Act, Who’s on First?” I poked fun at these arrangements by recalling the famous Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First” comedy routine.
But there was, and is, little humor in recounting the USG dysfunctionality — which regrettably still is the case.
Click here for another attempt about 16 months later in my June 24, 2014 message titled, “What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?” Then click here for my discussion of this continuing frustration almost two years ago, when I again asked, “So, Who’s in Charge?”
Regrettably, nothing has significantly improved over these five years.
Therefore, President Trump should take charge of this critically important issue with an appropriate White House initiative to bring useful order out of the disaggregated arrangement of disparate departments, agencies and regulatory bodies, especially the activities of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and its non-profit partner the North American Electric Reliability Cooperation (NERC).
Click here for my January 25th Newsmax article urging that President Trump issue an Executive Order establishing, within the White House a commission like the Marsh Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, established by President Clinton in 1996 while the EMP threat was highly classified and not considered.
My recommendation would have the new Marsh Commission include the EMP threat and also account for the fact that the federal government is dysfunctional, with no one below the President responsible for providing an integrated effort to deal with that existential threat.
The Marsh Commission established a pertinent precedent worth emulating. Click here for the 1997 Marsh Commission report that set the stage for many of the efforts dealing with cyberattack today — but without an overlay of the then highly classified EMP effects, which were then, and since have been, ignored. Our critical civil infrastructure, particularly our electric power grid, remains largely unprotected.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense (DoD) continues to apply well known methods to protect its key strategic systems against the EMP threat. But it considers protecting our critical civil infrastructure not to be its job, even though our military bases and operations are dependent on that same civil infrastructure. And it is withholding key information the private sector needs to protect its critical infrastructure upon which the American people depend.
That Secretary Mattis omits completely the EMP threat in his Nuclear Posture Review is astonishing, especially since USAF General John E. Hyten, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, has publically observed that, “[O]ur nation as a whole has not looked at EMP, we have not looked at the critical infrastructure that could be damaged by EMP, and we need to take a step back and look at that entire threat because it is a realistic threat.”
This omission is very troubling — especially in the context of how we pursued needed major renovations of our strategic systems 30-40 years ago. The EMP threat was highly classified, but the DoD had major programs to assure we dealt effectively with it. For example;
- An Army Lt. General (Hillman Dickenson) had a primary responsibility for protecting the nation’s overall command, control, and communications system from his Pentagon office. And Rear Admiral Paul Tomb directly reported to one of General Hyten’s predecessors, then the commander of Strategic Air Command (SAC), to assure the systems under his command were hardened to EMP effects.
- And there was a Vulnerability Task Force (VTF) formed under the Defense Science Board to independently oversee the efforts to protect our key strategic systems and their C3 systems to EMP effects and regularly report their findings to the highest levels of the Pentagon.
To my knowledge, no such technically competent independent body is charged with assuring our strategic systems are viable against EMP threat — let alone our civil critical infrastructure needed to assure survival of the American people to an EMP attack, such as announced as a “strategic goal” that already might be posed by North Korea. This strategically important function could and should be considered by a reinstated Marsh Commission.
Moreover, the current federal dysfunctionality also can be traced to when in the late 1970s our Civil Defense plans and programs were removed from the DoD (where they had been treated as strategically important functions since during World War II) and through a series of transitions now resides in a largely ineffective mode in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — now within the unwieldly Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bureaucracy, that has been ineffective in dealing with the existential EMP threat.
Thinking about Civil Defense brings me to the second major concern I have about the Nuclear Posture Review: its omission of any reference to needed ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems, especially to counter the existing announced threat from North Korea. Not even in the NPR’s section entitled “Damage Limitation.”
Au contraire, 30-40 years ago — when BMD systems were actively considered as a means of assuring the survival of our intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). I served on Defense Science Board and Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Task Forces that actively considered these matters in depth — under both Democrat and Republican administrations.
At the beginning of the Reagan administration, a close advisor to President Reagan, Former Air Force Secretary Tom Reed, led a summer study that found the least costly way to assure the survivability of our existing Minuteman ICBMs was a “preferential BMD system” called LoAds. But deploying such a system was blocked by the Antiballistic missile (ABM) Treaty. There is no such excuse today and our silo based ICBMs are even more vulnerable.
As those who were around will recall, we ended up deploying MX ICBMs in silos, each carrying 10 independently targeted reentry vehicles making them more attractive targets — and eventually as a part of the subsequent START negotiations, they were removed. Now we still have Minuteman ICBMs in silos and are betting on them surviving because they won’t be attacked.
To be sure the Congressionally-mandated Missile Defense Review — due shortly, may take these matters into account and make sense of it all — I certainly hope so. Stay tuned.
To deal effectively with the EMP threat and the currently dysfunctional activities of the Executive Branch, President Trump should issue an Executive Order to establish in the White House a Marsh II Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, this time to include EMP effects.
Reportedly, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has returned the first draft Missile Defense Review (MDR) — laying out the Trump DoD’s plans for meeting BMD requirements — to the staff for improvements. Hopefully, the rewrite will rectify important omissions in the National Defense Security and Nuclear Posture Review that should have dealt with EMP and missile defenses, including a role for space based defenses.
Meanwhile, congress just kicked the can on funding the government until March 23rd, no doubt leading to distractions for festivities on that 35th anniversary of President Reagan’s speech that initiated the SDI program, including with his memorable question — at least for me: “Wouldn’t it be better to save lives than to avenge them?”
We’ve since lost our way. Sad.
What can you do?
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Encourage them to review our past email messages, posted on www.highfrontier.org, to learn about many details related to the existential manmade and natural EMP threats and how we can protect America against them. I hope you will help us with our urgently needed efforts, which I will be discussing in future messages.
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