Amb. Henry F. Cooper, Chairman . . . Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, Founder
High Frontier . . Building Truly Effective Defenses . . Reagan’s Vision Lives
E-Mail Message 131015
Shutdown . . . Really!
By Ambassador Henry F. Cooper
October 15, 2013
Americans ponder the spectacle in Washington as their representatives collectively attempt to avoid a Government shutdown, generally thought to be a potential catastrophe. Meanwhile, another much more threatening shutdown is being ignored—possibly because it is not understood by the general public. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP), from either manmade or natural causes, is actually a much greater threat that, unless we initiate effective countermeasures, could lead to the death of an overwhelming majority of all Americans.
While alleged powers-that-be in Washington with great media fanfare allegedly work to avoid an alleged catastrophic government shutdown later this week, an all too real one goes largely un-noticed . . . and the clock ticks on toward its inevitable occurrence.
I refer to the consequences of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that can be produced by manmade causes—and will be produced by natural causes.
We know the manmade possibility is real, because our scientists and engineers observed EMP effects on high altitude nuclear tests in the early 1960s . . . and those who wish us ill also know the possibility is real. Russian authorities explicitly told our congressional representatives so almost a decade ago while emerging from the breakup of the former Soviet Union that had included EMP effects in its strategic plan to attack the United States, intended to block our ability to retaliate in response to such an attack to destroy America.
The Soviets (and Russians) have shared their knowledge with a cacophony of proliferation that assures this possibility is well known, including by China, North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, and various terrorist groups that may seek to kill as many Americans as possible.
I am most concerned about Iran gaining nuclear weapons that can be mated to ballistic missiles, even short-range ones, that can be launched from vessels off our coasts to detonate their nuclear weapon high over the United States and produce potentially lethal EMP effects—that could fry electronics within a line-of-sight and shut down the electric power grid. We are particularly vulnerable to attacks from the South. And Iranian leaders have sworn to destroy America, the “Great Satan.”
We know the natural possibility is real because it has happened before—the largest such observation on record was the 1859 Carrington Event, in which an enormous solar flare created “Northern Lights” visible at the equator and burned out telegraph systems, including the brand new undersea telegraph cable connecting the U.S. and Europe. Were that strong an event to happen today, our more vulnerable modern electronics would lead to the electric power grid being shut down indefinitely.
In either a natural or manmade event, imagine what your world would be like without electricity: No communication, no banking, no modern transportation, no water, no just-in-time food at the grocery or medicine at CVS, no elevators for high rise buildings, no pumps for the mass sewage, etc.
Now, that’s a real shutdown!
To elaborate on the impact of such an event, consider the following presentation by Dr. William Fortschen, a fellow member of the Independent Working Group, who several years ago wrote an account of what life might be like in a small North Carolina college town—actually his home town where he is a Professor of Military History. His New York Times best seller, One Second After, is a sobering tale I’d recommend to all, because he explains in easily understood layman’s language how several months to a year after an EMP might unfold. Not a comforting story, but very important.
Below are Dr. Fortschen’s pertinent reflections at a September 30, 2013 Defense of Democracy symposium on “Energy Space, and Cyber Security—Current and Future Threats,” hosted by Rachel Ehrenfeld. While I took part in an earlier symposium on EMP that Rachel promoted, I was not able to attend this one—but expect there will be additional opportunities to join forces with her. For excellent discussions on a variety of threats, I recommend that you visit her American Center for Democracy Blog.
“To Live or Not to Live” – Protecting Against EMP Attack
by Dr. William Fortschen
The point of this figure is that automobiles produced since the late 1960s have electronic ignition systems that will likely be permanently damaged by EMP.
My background was in the history of technology. And I want to spend just one minute on how I wound up in the field of EMP threat. By a coincidence, on the day that the Congressional report on the threat of Electro MP came out, which was chaired by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, and it is an honor to share this forum with Dr. Pry who was a very key moving force in that report. I happened to be in DC on the same day the report on the threat of EMP was released in 2004. And in a discussion that evening with Newt Gingrich, the comment came up that there was zero response to this report.
Newt asked me to go over to talk to Congressman Bartlett, who inspired me with a very simple observation: that the problem truly is that there’s no constituency. Mention EMP to any group of citizens, and you’re nowhere. Mention any number of other issues: The one I like to point out is (we might recall) that horrific incident about four years back of a woman who was attacked by a chimpanzee and her face was destroyed. Congress passed a law outlawing the ownership of chimpanzees. So you’re safe when you come to my house now. But the point is, what’s the probability threat there of any of us being attacked in such a manner versus the threat of EMP? When writing my novel about EMP, “One Second After,” I was inspired by the classics of my youth, particularly Alas, Babylon and On the Beach.
Thus, I wrote the book with the intent of trying to get a popular novel out there that took a complex issue and put it into a small community, and what happens to each one of us individually. What happens to us, our parents, our children, our town? And the book was 12 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
I want to shift into some of the things that, as my background in military history and the history of technology now applies to warfare, and that is the issue of EMP.
EMP is a first-strike weapon. And it’s a technological game changer. Throughout the history of warfare, we have always seen that the losing side in a war often trumps the victor in the next conflict by rethinking the paradigm. A very simple example is Crecyand Agincourt, battles fought during the 100 Years War of the 14th & 15th century where the M-1 tanks of their time, the French armored nobility, suddenly encountered English longbow men.
Thus we see all the way to the present a technology that’s been dismissed (or recently realized) that trumps what’s considered to be the existing, dominant force on the battlefield. What is the primary issue that Sun Tzu talks about – and almost every military writer after him – regarding the opening moves of warfare? The destruction of command and control. If you can shut down the command and control of your opponent, you have pretty well won the day before battle is even joined. What is the best way, currently, to take out command and control? It would be cyber attack or EMP.
I was thinking last night about something of the issue of morale. I recently read that what really broke the morale of the average German soldier – starting around 1943 – was not necessarily their being pushed back in North Africa or the debacle on the Eastern front. It was men going home on furlough or wounded or getting letters and seeing that city after city after city was getting leveled. While they fought on the front lines, their wives, their children, their families, their homeland was being flattened. That was a crucial factor in breaking the morale of the German troops. I remember talking with a German soldier, a veteran of the Russian front, who said the most terrifying experience of his life was that he happened to be in Hamburg when it was hit. He said it shook him for the rest of the war.
He realized they were going to lose, as he put it. We see regarding command and control, a first strike via EMP or cyber attack as a decapitation of information. But it also strikes morale. And then you have societal breakdown. We need not go through an exercise here of what happens if the electricity turns off in the next minute and what happens to this city within the hour.
But, as an old hero of mine, Rod Serling, once said: “Presented for your consideration.” I present for your consideration what if on 9/11, we all saw the first minute of the impact on the second World Trade Center tower and the Pentagon. And then the entire news grid went down. Think of the panic that would have struck across the country within the hour. We have been used to ever since the age of technology – excuse me, actually since the advent of telegraphy – to having instant access to information. Particularly within the last 15 years. I’m a college teacher. If my kids walk out of the classroom (or even in the classroom) and they can’t immediately text their boyfriend or their parents, they’re throwing a panic attack. Think of the shutdown of command and control but also the communication grid of a civilian society. What happens next? It’s a grim proposition.
One of the things that I found difficult in communicating the threat of EMP and cyber attack is that the mere discussion of it often brings on a certain level of shock and resulting non-responses. A good analogy to that is what the film On the Beach created. How many of you have actually seen the film On the Beach? I read an article a while back pointing out that On the Beach was a contributing factor in the shutting down of the American Civil Defense system that had been developed in the ’40s and the ’50s. The reason being that when On the Beach came out, it presented such an overwhelming, catastrophic view of thermonuclear war as a planet-destroying event, that the attitude then became: “Why in hell are we even bothering to try and prepare our infrastructure, build command and control centers, dig bunkers in back yards? It’s all meaningless.”
The infamous line: “The living will envy the dead.” That is the problem that we here face today. How do we convince the general populus, voters, the people up on the Hill, that the cyber threats that you’re talking about – which sound sci-fi to some, how do we convince them that these are real and that in preparing for such an event we might actually prevent an enemy from attempting it? It seems so overwhelming that most people react with: “Oh, hell, somebody else will figure it out.” Or: “I’ll go back to my Xbox.”
I do see glimmers of hope. There are constituencies that are starting to react. How many of you are familiar with the fact that the state of Maine has actually passed a bill to start infrastructure hardening. The state representative who wrote the bill read my book and decided to respond protectively rather than give into passive inaction. The same is about to happen in my home state of North Carolina. I’d like to introduce my friend Sid Morris, from Charlotte, North Carolina, who is with us today. Sid’s NOAH Foundation is working aggressively with the State of North Carolina, and also with Duke Energy. I think we’re going to be on the edge of agreements both with Duke and with the governor of North Carolina and in turn our state legislators. North Carolina will thus start to prepare as well. So even if we’re not seeing success at the federal level, we are starting to see success at the state level.
[Moderator Rachel Ehrenfeld asks what NOAH is doing. Fortschen responds.]
They are working on developing survivable infrastructure. Developing command and control nodes that are survivable, addressing issues of cyber security, and hardening infrastructure against EMP. That’s the goal that the NOAH Foundation – they’re just down the road from me and they operate politically and within the community.
We’re having a remarkable experience here, today. But we’re all preaching to the choir. How do we build a broader constituency to react to make sure devastation via EMP doesn’t happen? Or better yet, to create such a sound infrastructure that an opponent dare not risk such an attack as a first strike, knowing the impact will be minimal and the response overwhelming. Thank you for the honor of being here.”
Implications for High Frontier Plans.
I, of course, applaud Dr. Fortschen’s efforts, and those of others in North Carolina, to press the powers that be, especially from the local and state level up, to harden their critical infrastructure—particularly the electric power grid—against EMP effects. Hopefully, many local and state authorities will follow the lead of Maine State Representative Andrea Boland who gained the full support of the Maine legislature in seeking to harden their electric power grid.
In particular, as I reported last week, we hope that Florida representatives will follow this lead—and go a step further in pressing for deployment of Aegis Ashore missile defense sites to defend against ballistic missiles that might be launched from vessels in the Gulf of Mexico—today, we are totally defenseless against this threat. In my meetings in the Florida panhandle a couple of weeks ago, I emphasized that we are deploying the same Aegis Ashore systems in Romania (by 2015) and Poland (by 2018)–so no additional research and development money is required—except perhaps to prepare specific site locations in Florida—such as at Tyndall AFB in Panama City and at Homestead AFB near the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. More to come.
Such defenses would build on the exceptionally impressive testing record of the Aegis system—with a total record of 28 successful intercepts in 34 attempts against short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles—and if the 2008 intercept of a satellite—flying faster than an ICBM— were included, its overall record is 29 intercepts in 35 attempts—all performed by operational crews. Such defenses would be critically important to protect against irreparable EMP damage to the key large transformers of the electric power grid—that under certain well known conditions could cause a complete failure of the electric power grid for an indefinite period. The ultimate result anticipated by credible experts is that the consequent chaos would lead to the death of several hundred million Americans within the following year.
Missile defenses will not protect against the natural EMP threat, a giant solar flare that will one day occur—the only uncertainty is when. Credible estimates suggest another Carrington event is overdue—and this time it will have catastrophic consequences to average Americans who depends entirely on a just in time economy for practically every commodity essential for survival. To deal with this event we must assure that we do not lose our electric power indefinitely. If we harden the electric power grid, then we will have a good chance of reinstating other critical infrastructure upon which our survival depends. For a more complete summary of these issues, see our August 2nd email.
In addressing these concerns, it should be emphasized that the federal government’s first duty is to provide for the common defense. Providing effective missile defenses and hardening the electric power grid as quickly as possible should be a national priority. Thus, we will continue to urge the Washington powers that be to undertake both the Shield Act to harden he electric power grid and to enhance our ballistic missile defenses, especially for our citizens on the East Coast and around the Gulf of Mexico, where U.S. citizens are completely vulnerable to ballistic missiles launched from vessels in the Gulf—or from Latin America, e.g., Venezuela.
But frankly, we doubt that Washington will act in time to counter this threat. Thus, we consider our message to grass roots America to be urgently important. Our local and state authorities need to understand these issues and what they might do if their federal representatives continue to fail “to provide for the common defense.”
We will continue to advise citizens and local authorities of their absolute vulnerability against ballistic missiles launched from the Gulf of Mexico—and what can be done about it if only their representatives do their jobs. And we are hopeful that our friends in Florida will engage to urge their state legislature to follow Maine’s initiative and also harden their electric power grid, while holding the Washington authorities accountable for their oath to provide for the common defense. Hopefully, in joining such an effort, other states will be encouraged for follow them.
And what can you do?
Join us at High Frontier in seeking to alert the public and our local and state authorities to the existential threats posed by both man-made and natural EMP events—and what can be done about these threats.
We need your help in spreading this information to the grass roots and to encourage all “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!