Over the next couple of years American citizen awareness of the EMP threat to the electric grid will have become common knowledge. Oh Really?
It’s not hard to make a projection of this sort considering the inter-connectedness we all have through the growing universal accessibility of broadband internet. Smartphones coupled with social media– sharing connectivity, can launch political movements like wildfire, spreading information between peoples at light-speed. Just in the last few years, we’ve been eye-witnesses to social media orchestrated street demonstrations aired on the evening news.
When word-of-mouth hits a level of critical mass, something “goes viral” and suddenly gets shared by the masses all over the internet. Real-time, street-smart savviness becomes unstoppable as Wi-Fi, linked-in netizens now broadcast the news on their own devices, nearly eliminating the need or time-delay of going through conventional, corporate-owned, media outlets..
The EMP scientific, phenomenon is right on the verge of edging close to critical mass in collective humanity’s knowledge base. Why? Simply put, there are a growing number of educated, credible, activist reporters/bloggers already moving the dials now to tune this topic into the collective consciousness of the citizenry.
The window of time for this happening, especially in the impending run-up cycle for electing the next U.S. President is wide open now that the Congress has passed a Resolution to get this prioritized on the national security agenda. (1.)
Need we mention that sites like protectgrid are already proliferating on the web, designed to alert people to the hidden danger that could catch us off-guard if we don’t address the EMP vulnerability of the grid that currently exists?
But how did the information concerning this critical risk to the integrity of the nation’s bulk power distribution system stay out of public view for so long?
The Public Right to Know: When does Classified Information Reach the Citizenry?
Scientists and the military first became introduced to the electromagnetic (EMP) phenomenon in 1962. Both U.S. and Soviet atmospheric nuclear weapons test programs were being conducted in that year.
Our scientific community was surprised to observe after a nuclear detonation at an altitude of about 400 kilometers above Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean, that electronic systems were affected in the Hawaiian Islands some 1400 kilometers distant.
Later that same year the Soviets detonated at least 3 separate bursts of 300 kiloton weapons at varying heights above the earth’s surface. They observed similar electrical and electronic anomalies as had the Americans.
Since then, the U.S. scientific and defense community as well as their counterparts in Soviet Russia – and now modern Russia — have incontrovertibly established by means of nuclear and non-nuclear, radio frequency weapons tests, EMP simulators and computer modeling, that an EMP attack (or HEMP—High Altitude nuclear blast) could cause catastrophic damage to the electronic/electrical systems over broad regions of either country’s landmasses.
In fact, it has been calculated by our National Security experts that any missile, including short range missiles that can deliver a nuclear warhead to an altitude of at least 40 kilometers or more (about 6.5 miles and up) can cause a devastating and crippling breakdown of our nation’s energy grid. (2.)
Modern EMP Vulnerabilities to the Commercial, Civilian Infrastructures
Due to a nuclear test ban treaty signed by the major nuclear powers since the early 60’s, a real world demonstration of what a modern “Super-EMP” nuclear weapon can actually achieve in destroying today’s electronics has not been witnessed. (Our hope is that we never have to witness a live demo!)
Keeping that in mind, it would be very instructive to look closer into the reasons why we as a nation find ourselves in the EMP predicament. Why now? Why didn’t the experts take care of this years ago? Why has it taken so long for our political and government leaders to fix this problem?
While there are multiple factors to be considered to approach a complete answer, there are 3 fairly straight-forward explanations that put things into perspective for us:
- The military kept this information classified effectively until 2004. (3.)
- When EMP phenomena were first observed in the early 60’s, electronic components were relatively primitive and robust (and thus far less vulnerable) compared to the microelectronics and microprocessors of today. Also, society was far less dependent on electronics then.
- It was assumed during the era of the cold war that a nuclear 1st strike by the Soviet Union would involve thousands of warheads. In the context of such a large-scale nuclear apocalypse, it made little sense to harden the civilian infrastructures against EMP when many industrial centers would be in ruins.
Now it is generally conceded that terrorists or rogue states could pull off a relatively low tech. attack with one or a few nuclear weapons that would devastate the critical civilian electrical infrastructure.
And today, after over 50 years since those first tests demonstrated the EMP phenomena, microprocessors and semiconductors are used everywhere in countless critical applications. These components are especially vulnerable to EMP and run virtually everything in modern industrialized nations.
Modern microelectronics, smaller, more efficient; with ever more complex circuitry and chip sets running ever faster on lower voltages, are estimated to be millions of times more vulnerable to EMP than the electronics of decades past. (4.)
The U.S. at a Crossroads; Assuring Energy Security
Secrecy is ingrained in the military’s DNA. Institutionally, and reflexively, the military likes to keep things under wraps. It’s usually the work of Congressional oversight committee members who deal directly with military personnel that gets matters of National Security De-classified and published for the public record. (Where appropriate, of course.)
Most policymakers and American citizens have remained largely uninformed about the EMP threat to the critical infrastructures that support both our civilian population and the nation’s military bases as well.
The Congressional Commission tasked with researching the vulnerability of the U.S. power grid to an EMP event, whether natural or man-made, did not publish its final report until 2008. (5.) Though its fact-findings were unclassified and available to the general public, still its publication was not widely circulated.
In the years following the Commission’s report, a number of Resolutions were introduced in Congress by House members familiar with this area of crucial vulnerability to the National Security. For various bureaucratic and political reasons, the House and Senate were unable to ratify the required legislation to help launch a nation-wide, coordinated effort to improve the resilience of the U.S. bulk power distribution systems.
Importantly, as reported in an earlier post, The U.S. House of Representatives passed a Resolution (HR 3410) that if enacted by the Senate and then signed by the President will direct the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement a comprehensive plan to protect and prepare the critical infrastructure of the American homeland against EMP events.
Our task here at protectgrid is to monitor the progress of how we collectively meet and achieve the national goals proposed in HR 3410. And while the Federal Government has a pivotal role to play in this great enterprise of upgrading our National Energy Security, each of us, including you who are reading this, can get more proactive by enhancing our personal and surrounding community’s resilience.
(1.) Announced Dec.2, 2014 Source: Center for Security Policy. See related post on this site.
(2, 3, 4, 5) Electric Armageddon by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry Published Aug. 2014 ISBN 9781482348217