If there is a question about the importance of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from nuclear weapons, consider this recent testimony by Air Force General Robert Kehler, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, which is responsible for our operations of our strategic nuclear forces as well as our missile defenses. When asked about how he perceived the EMP threat, he included in his response that:
The blogosphere picked up this important testimony, and focused on the portions where Gen. Kehler dealt with assuring the survivability of STRATCOM’s important mission of supporting the President in retaliating after the U.S. is attacked with nuclear weapons—notably providing the following picture of the E-4B flying command post being tested to ensure it can survive an EMP.
To be sure, assuring the President’s ability to retaliate should the U.S. be attacked with nuclear weapons —particularly by Russia or China — is a very important “deterrent” mission. But it certainly does not fully address Gen. Kehler’s concern that when you look for a happy ending in novels involving an EMP attack, “[I]t never comes . . .”
Who’s in Charge?
We should expect the Defense Department to protect its equities from EMP, and independent expert reviewers should carefully scrub its work, as was done during the Cold War.
But we should not expect the Defense Department to assure the viability of all critical infrastructure, when exposed to EMP effects—and it is unclear who is responsible for meeting this important objective.
Logically, one would assume the Department of Homeland Security should provide integrated guidance and a government-wide integrated approach to assuring the viability of all critical infrastructures under all stressful conditions. But DHS does not even include an appropriate scenario to encourage various government agencies to deal with EMP effects.
The Department of Energy plausibly could lead in assuring the electric power grid will survive an EMP event—but hasn’t yet made much progress in doing so. Dr. Ernest Moniz, sworn in yesterday as Secretary of Energy, promised during his confirmation hearing to learn more about EMP (see 4 minutes and 30 seconds in) from both natural and manmade causes and work to make sure the grid will survive such events. Stay tuned.
And the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, responsible for about 20-percent of the nation’s electric power, is certainly competent to assure that at least that component of our power needs is viable under stressful EMP conditions—but who says they have?
And there is a Clear and Present Danger.
Now, these are not hypothetical concerns, because the threat is quite real.
Indeed, as we have discussed in previous email messages, North Korea, Iran and/or Jihadi terrorists plausibly can attack the U.S. to produce the EMP from even a single nuclear armed ballistic missile launched from a vessel off our coasts—particular our completely undefended Gulf of Mexico. At least launches from vessels off our East and West coasts could be shot down by our Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) ships, if they are prepared and in range. But these ships do not operate in the Gulf.
If Iran and/or Jihadi terrorist get the capability of executing such a nuclear attack against the “Great Satan,” it seems unlikely that threats of retaliation will deter them. The Israelis should not be the only ones concerned about drawing a “red line,” which Iran not be permitted to cross in its nuclear arms development programs.
The “powers that be” are leaving the “back door open while trying to lock the front door” by focusing on shooting down ballistic missiles that fly over the North Pole on their way to attack us. Both Iran and North Korea have launched satellites over the South Pole which then approach the U.S. from our South—where we are ill prepared to shoot them down.
In our last email message, we emphasized that the best way to deal with this threat is to build space-based defenses—and we have no apparent program even to develop the key needed technology for that defense. Short of a serious revival of key Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) era programs killed twenty years ago, the best near term option is to give the near term challenge to the Aegis BMD program office—which has an enviable development track record. Last Wednesday evening they had their 27th successful intercept out of 32 attempts—all executed by operational crews.
And the powers that be need to wake up to this threat—including those on Capitol Hill. We are now in the third Congress since the first attempt failed to pass legislation to assure that the nation’s electric power grid can survive an EMP attack. The first time out, a single senator blocked a bill passed in a voice vote by the House; and the second time, the House was not able to get a bill out of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) is planning to try again this year—hopefully the congress, with two strikes against it, will not strike out.
A Disaster Waiting to Happen.
We are indeed courting disaster! And I haven’t even mentioned the threat form a massive solar storm which also could shut down the entire power grid—which would stop our “just-in-time” economy in its tracks for an indefinite period. Check here for Michael Maloof’s recent status report!
Authoritative estimates are that several hundred million Americans could perish if this were to happen, because of either manmade or natural causes.
What can you do?
We can use your help in spreading the word to grass roots and local authorities to press the powers that be to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do. Will you do your part?
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage, www.highfrontier.org for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter!
Flash Message 130517