“America is not prepared to be without water, electricity, telephones, computer networks, heating, air conditioning, transportation (cars, subways, buses, airplanes), and banking. All the benefits of our just-in-time economy would come to a deadly halt, including the production of petroleum products, clothing, groceries and medicine. Think about cities without electricity to pump water to their residents.” ~ Letter to President Obama from Americans concerned about the America created by a manmade or natural EMP event
Several months ago, Robert Laidley invited Dr. Peter Pry and me to speak about the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat at an Atlantic and Conservation Institute conference at The Explorer’s Club in New York City. A few weeks later, he invited me back for a dinner at which I met Jen Bawden, who was already a member of the EMP Coalition formed by Frank Gaffney and others at the Center for Security Policy.
The four of us—Robert, Jen, Peter and yours truly—shortly thereafter formed an ad hoc group that sought to persuade a bipartisan group of knowledgeable policy, political and technological leaders to write to President Obama, urging him to deal with the dysfunctional government in Washington—in both the Executive and Legislative Branches.
As we met with others of like mind and discussed the most effective way forward, we decided to emphasize that the President, with a stroke of his pen, could end the stagnation in Washington, which is caused in large measure because no one below him in the Executive Branch is in charge of dealing with the issue. The President can rectify this situation by issuing a Presidential Study Directive (PSD) requiring that it be accomplished.
It would deal with the reality that the Department of Defense (DOD) is the most competent organization in the Executive Branch in understanding the threat and what to do about it. For a half-century, it has developed and tested the means to assure that our strategic systems could survive and function after an attack involving the EMP from nuclear weapons. Most of that half-century, this knowledge was highly classified until Congress formed the EMP Commission to examine the threat and what could be done about it—and they eventually were authorized to make the key information available to the public in 2008—nine years ago. (Click here for still the most authoritative information on this subject.)
But in spite of this available knowledge, little if anything has happened to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from EMP. For example, the electric grid is highly vulnerable to the EMP threat and no one in the Federal Government has the assigned responsibility to deal with this vulnerability. Note its distribution across America—and imagine what its loss might mean to you.
The PSD could deal with the fact that the DoD is competent to deal with the threat, but that is not its job—even though the viability of its operations in the United States (and around the world) depends on the availability of electricity. Presumably the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should have this responsibility, but it does not even include EMP among the threat scenarios with which all Federal, State and Local government organization are supposed to contend. Others, like the Department of Energy (DOE), can play an important role—but again it does not have the charge to do so. A PSD could rectify this lack of order in dealing with the existential EMP threat.
Almost two years ago, I joined with the other Directors of the Foundation for Resilient Societies in recommending remedial actions to the “powers that be” including President Obama and all his department and agency heads with pertinent Executive Branch responsibilities. We sought no publicity for that effort—and to date, we have received not a single response to our concerns and recommendations. (Click here for our comprehensive letter and its several appendices.)
So this time, we four decided to engage a cross-section of Americans to advocate that the President deal with this issue … and this time to make our views public. The result is the following letter—shorter than that from the Foundation for Resilient Societies—signed by a cross-section of concerned Americans. We hope the public will press the “powers that be” as it continues to become more aware of the EMP threat and the nation’s failure to deal effectively with it. Hopefully this approach will bear more fruit. Click here or read below for the product.
Letter to President Obama.
May 14, 2015
President Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We need your personal intervention to provide for the protection of the American people against an existential threat posed by natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The consequent failure of critical infrastructures that sustain our lives is a major national security threat and would be catastrophic to our people and our nation.
The National Intelligence Council, which speaks for the entire U.S. Intelligence Community, published in its 2012 unclassified Global Trends 2030 report that an EMP is one of only eight Black Swan events that could change the course of global civilization by or before 2030. No official study denies the view that an EMP is a potentially catastrophic societal threat that needs to be addressed urgently. America is not prepared to be without water, electricity, telephones, computer networks, heating, air conditioning, transportation (cars, subways, buses, airplanes), and banking. All the benefits of our just-in-time economy would come to a deadly halt, including the production of petroleum products, clothing, groceries and medicine. Think about cities without electricity to pump water to their residents.
Some signatures to this letter are from people who—like a growing number of Americans—have only recently learned about the EMP threat and find it hard to believe that our government has permitted it to continue. They joined in signing because they, in representing those same Americans, wish to show broad support for qualified experts ending this vulnerability as quickly as possible.
An EMP is like a super-energetic radio wave from natural or manmade causes that can damage and destroy electronic systems across vast regions, potentially across the entire continental United States, across Europe, or any other country that has not hardened its electric power grid. Russia and China have substantially hardened their electric grids. Other nations are beginning to harden theirs. But the United States has done little or nothing to counter this threat.
We urge you immediately to issue a Presidential Study Directive (PSD) directing your National Security Advisor to lead a focused interagency effort to provide, in connection with your current budget execution activities and future budget requests, a specific program to address this natural and manmade threat. In particular, this PSD should direct that hardening technology, well known in the Department of Defense, be exploited by all agencies with responsibility for maintaining the electric power grid. It is imperative that plans are immediately implemented to protect America’s at least 100 nuclear reactors and their co-located spent fuel storage facilities from an EMP. It should also take into account bipartisan congressional initiatives, such as the Secure High-Voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage (SHIELD) Act and the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA).
A coronal mass ejection from the Sun can generate a natural EMP with catastrophic consequences. A geomagnetic super-storm in 1859 called the Carrington Event caused worldwide damage and fires in telegraph stations and other primitive electronics, which at the time were not necessary for societal survival. In contrast, today a Carrington-class geomagnetic super-storm—expected every century or so—could collapse electric grids and destroy critical infrastructure everywhere on Earth. We know it will happen; we just don’t know when, but we know humanity can’t risk being unprepared. In July 2012, we missed a repeat by only a few days when a major solar emission passed through the Earth’s orbit just after planet Earth passed. NASA recently warned that the likelihood of such a geomagnetic super-storm is 12-percent per decade; so it is virtually certain that a natural EMP catastrophe shall occur within our lifetime or that of our children.
As we have known for over a half-century from actual test data, even more damaging EMP effects would be produced by any nuclear weapon exploded a hundred miles or so above the United States, possibly disabling everything that depends on electronics for control or operations within a line of sight from the explosion. Electricity networks could be shut down indefinitely until major repairs could be made, and this could take months, even years. Cascading failures from even a lower altitude nuclear burst over the northeastern U.S. could indefinitely shut down the electric grid that produces three quarters of U.S. electric power. Computers would be incapacitated. Supply chains would shut down. Imagine Hurricane Sandy affecting a much larger area without the immediate physical damage but also without any hope for relief supplies.
Russia and China have already developed nuclear EMP weapons and many believe others possess EMP weapons including North Korea and soon Iran—and likely their terrorist surrogates. For example, they could launch nuclear-armed short or medium range missiles from near our coasts, possibly hiding the actual sponsor from retaliation. North Korea and Iran have tested their missiles in ways that can execute effective EMP attacks from ships or from satellites that approach the U.S. from the south where our ballistic missile warning systems are minimal.
The technology to mitigate these effects is well known and used by the Department of Defense for decades to harden our strategic nuclear systems to assure that the U.S. has the ability to retaliate should we be attacked. But such technology and commitment to ongoing maintenance have not been used to harden our critical national infrastructure. In addition, our ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems have not yet been focused on this problem. For example, you could reinforce your recent Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines by jointly installing an Aegis Ashore BMD site in the Philippines—like those being placed in Romania and Poland—to support the defense of the Philippines and to provide advanced warning and information to support our homeland defense.
We urge that the above mentioned PSD assure funding to harden the critical elements of our electric power grid and especially our nuclear facilities to assure their recovery from either a natural or manmade EMP event. These efforts can be guided by a mainstream scientific consensus, first established by the congressionally mandated EMP Commission, which examined nuclear and natural EMP and delivered its first classified report to Congress in 2004 and its final unclassified report in 2008.
The National Academy of Sciences subsequently independently re-examined the EMP Commission’s warnings about the consequences of a geomagnetic super-storm and arrived at the same conclusion and endorsed the recommendations of the EMP Commission. Several other non-partisan reviews have also concurred. The EMP Commission recommended a cost-effective plan, endorsed by all subsequent U.S. government studies, to protect, within a few years, U.S. critical infrastructures from the worst effects of EMP. The Commission estimated a one-time cost of $2 billion for EMP protection of the national electric grid, which is about what the U.S. gives to Pakistan every year in foreign aid.
In addition, we urge that your PSD include near-term improvements to our operating ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems to assure they can defend against the manmade EMP threats as quickly as possible—before the electric grid can be hardened. Our already operating Aegis BMD systems (over 30 ships at sea and Aegis Ashore Sites in Hawaii and being deployed in Romania and Poland) and Ground-Based Interceptors (on Vandenberg Air Force Base, California) can be used to counter the threats from the South and from vessels off our coasts, with minor modifications and if their crews are trained to do so. No additional development costs are necessary and deployment costs would be less than approved for our overseas deployments to defend our European allies against Iranian ballistic missiles.
Mr. President, both Republicans and Democrats have known how to deal with this issue for at least thirty years but have done nothing about it. Bipartisan efforts in Congress have failed in spite of the fact that neither technology nor expense should be an issue. Dealing effectively with this issue is a matter of achieving the needed political leadership and will.
The American people need you to lead the efforts to protect our nation from an EMP catastrophe. We write to urge you to pursue our request.
Dr. George Baker – Former U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency EMP Program Director, Professor Emeritus on Critical Infrastructure Protection, James Madison University.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) (Rtd.) – Father of the Congressional EMP Commission
Jen Bawden – Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Member of the Steering Committee of the Secure the Grid Coalition
Senator Rudy Boschwitz (R-MN) (Rtd.) – Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission, President G.H.W. Bush’s Emissary to Ethiopia (1991)
Ambassador Henry F. Cooper – Former Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, Chief U.S. Negotiator in the Geneva Defense and Space Talks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Strategic and Space Systems
Thomas Donnelly – Co-Director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI.
Fritz Ermarth – Former Chairman National Intelligence Council, Director of National Security Programs, Nixon Center.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. – Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy
Jerry Goodwin – President of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) New York Metropolitan Chapter
Dr. William R. Graham – Former Chair of the EMP Commission, Science Advisor to President Reagan, Director of White House Science and Technology Policy, and NASA Administrator
Professor Sam Hayes (Rtd.) – Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking, Emeritus , Harvard Business School
David Hunt – Former CIA Senior Clandestine Service Officer and Former FBI Chief of Station, NYC
John Kappenman – Space Weather Consultant to Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and EMP Commission; Designer ACE Satellite and EMP Blocking Devices; President, Storm Analysis Consultants.
Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) (Rtd.) – Co-chair of AEI’s American Internationalism Project
Robert Laidley – President, The Atlantic and Conservation Institute
Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) (Rtd.) – Co-chair of AEI’s American Internationalism Project
Herb London – President of the London Center for Policy Research, New York
Vice Admiral Robert Monroe (Rtd.) – Former Director U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency.
Major General Robert Newman (Rtd.) – Former Adjutant General of Virginia
Michael O’Hanlon – Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, specializing in defense and foreign policy issues.
Dr. Robert L. Pfaltzgraff – President of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis Inc. and Shelby Cullom Devis Professor of International Security Studies, The Fletcher School, Tufts University
Danielle Pletka – Senior Vice President for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry – Former Congressional EMP Commission, Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, House Armed Services Committee, CIA, Executive Director Task Force on National and Homeland Security.
Dr. Gary J. Schmitt – Co-Director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI
Dr. George Schwab – President of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy
Admiral James Stavridis (Rtd.) – Dean of the Fletcher School. Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander (2009-2013)
Ambassador Kurt Volker – Former United States Ambassador to NATO
The Hon. David M. Walker – Former U.S. Comptroller General
Rep. Curtis Weldon (R-PA) (Rtd.) – Former Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee; and Co-chair of the Duma-Congress Study Group, the official inter-parliamentary relationship between the United States and Russia; Sponsor of the 1998 EMP Commission Legislation
John Whitehead – Former Senior Partner and Co-Chairman Goldman Sachs, Chairman Emeritus Brookings Institution, Former Deputy Secretary of State, Former Chairman AEA Investors, Former Chairman The International Rescue Committee, Former Chairman The Asia Society, Director of The Nature Conservancy, and Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Died February 7th, 2015
Ambassador James Woolsey – Former Director of Central Intelligence
Copies to Administration Officials:
The Hon. Joseph Biden, Vice President of the United States
The Hon. John Kerry, Secretary of State
The Hon. Ashton Carter, Secretary of Defense
The Hon. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy
The Hon. Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security
Possible Quibbles—A Distinction without a Difference.
As you consider our above letter and discuss it with others, I want to acquaint you with one item of possible controversy. It is associated with the May 1st Wall Street Journal article by Peter Pry and myself on this important issue. It may come up in your future discussions.
I discussed in my May 5, 2015 message (“Well Known Things that Ain’t True”) that many of the Journal’s normally well informed readers indicated, in their on-line comments, a lot of confusion about the nature of the EMP threat. Since then, an additional source of confusion has been added—and you may have to contend with it as you discuss our letter above with others.
Our friends at the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command/Northern Command (NORTHCOM) in their discussions with the Press initially took issue with our first paragraph’s reference to moving the “headquarters … back into Cheyenne Mountain … a decade after having largely vacated the site.” NORAD never completely moved out and the “Formal NORAD Headquarters” will remain at Peterson AFB with the mountain as a back-up as has always been the case, so far as I know. Perhaps we should have called it a “backup headquarters” but that would no doubt have led to other questions that could have missed the main point of our article.
In our reference to the “mountain headquarters” we never said everything was moved out. Furthermore, ADM Keating, NORAD Commander in 2006, noted that as they moved out whatever it might be called, they were putting operations there on “warm standby.” Our point was—and is–that because of current concerns about EMP, NORAD is moving important equipment and operations back into Cheyenne Mountain to support the NORAD mission—because of concerns about EMP threats to that mission.
As we discussed in my April 14, 2015 message, this EMP concern was emphasized by current NORAD Commander in a recent Pentagon Press Conference. ADM William Gortney also expressed concern about the lack of room in the mountain to support all his important missions. And he specifically noted the EMP threat from North Korea and possibly Iran. Very important observations.
Furthermore, it is important that NORAD/NORTHCOM does not dispute our EMP concerns—and the reported $700 million being spent to deal with the EMP threat. This investment seems to be for the NORAD mission of tactical warning of ballistic missile attack to support the President’s decisions to employ our strategic forces, particularly in providing options to retaliate for a ballistic missile attack.
Our most important point was that we also need to support ADM Gortney’s NORTHCOM mission to protect the American people from the EMP threats to our critical infrastructure—and we collectively are not addressing that critical mission. Part of the problem is that DoD does not assume that to be its job—for which it would support DHS if they led. But DHS does not even include EMP among its major threat scenarios—and the public suffers from the resulting dysfunctionality. No one seems to be in charge of dealing with this critically important problem.
Washington’s failures is why state and local authorities are beginning to deal with the issue, a welcome sign insofar as I am concerned. And hopefully it is a sign that our letter to President Obama my in fact be quite timely. An appropriate Presidential Study Directive would be a major step forward.
What do you think?
Near Term High Frontier Plans.
We will continue working with South Carolina folks to build a coalition to engage constructively with private citizens and their local and state representatives and other authorities to work with the SC National Guard in understanding and responding to this serious threat. We will expand this effort to neighboring and other states. We expect support from Cong. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) whose district includes my SC farm—who is a member of the Congressional EMP Caucus seeking legislation to counter the EMP threat.
Our message is getting the attention of a number of folks around the nation who share our concerns about the lack of action on many fronts in Washington and the need for local folks to get engaged. Hopefully, the increasing opportunities for me to share High Frontier’s message will bear fruit that manifests itself in action—both in Washington and locally. Both are needed for America to “be all it can be” toi borrow a phrase from the U.S. Army.
We will be working with members of the EMP Coalition and others who are seeking to take our message across the country—especially with Bob Newman, a former Adjutant General of Virginia to help us link our SC plans more broadly and especially into the National Capital region.
What can you do?
Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.
Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.
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.
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. Click here to make your tax deductible gift. If you prefer to mail a check, Please send it to 500 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.
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