Did you watch the president’s State of the Union speech? I was wondering how much if any attention would be paid to the necessity of securing, or “hardening” the grid in the president’s address. You know; upgrading and protecting the energy grid — would it get any notice?
I just reviewed the transcript and excerpted some of the topics covered. Here’s a quote with direct relevance to U.S. domestic national security:
“Here at home, we’ll keep strengthening our defenses, and combat new threats like cyberattacks”. Earlier in the speech, in the context of the military’s changing commitments in Afghanistan, he explained that, “our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country” [will not change.]
It seemed to me when I listened to the delivery live that climate change was classified as a greater threat to our national security than anything else. Upon reviewing the transcript, it seems some of that language I thought I heard is not so evident.
It is fairly obvious that this current Administration is not going to play-up the national security implications posed by the EMP threat to the critical electric infrastructure. And while there was plenty of topical coverage devoted to the assurance that Iran is not obtaining a nuclear weapon,
“…based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb”, the only real mention of what we are continuing to learn about modern, electronic warfare as its being waged between competing nations, is the president’s comment about combating new threats like cyberattacks.
And let’s not minimize how much importance might be implied in the brief passage that includes the quote about “strengthening our defenses”.
Still. Was I hoping that we would hear more about improving the security posture for the national grid in the State of the Union speech? Yeah. Was I surprised that we didn’t? Not really.
Where Is the Sense of Urgency When Setting National Security Priorities?
It is a little hard to square up pronouncements of the recent past with what is coming out of Washington now:
Energy security needs to be one of the first things we think about, before we deploy another soldier, before we build another ship or plane, and before we buy or fill another rucksack”. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen (now retired) (1)
Given the current state of U.S. unpreparedness of an EMP event, the Congressional EMP Commission estimates that within 12 months of an EMP event, two-thirds of the U.S. population would likely perish from starvation, disease, and societal breakdown” (2.)
You would think that when dealing with an event that could conceivably cause the untimely demise of maybe 200 million-plus American citizens there would be more political buzz around this national security concern being debated and discussed in the media and public forums.
Look. I understand that we don’t need to be advertising to our adversaries the facts regarding our particular defensive weaknesses. Maybe if the president had a way to talk with the American people without the conversation reaching an international audience, we might be privy to these more sensitive issues revolving around assuring national grid security.
But on the other hand…
Are more U.S. citizens going to write their senators to encourage them to ratify the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA HR 3410) as a result of this speech? Probably not.
Is there now a greater sense of prioritizing the enhanced security of this nation against the grave and existential threat that an EMP attack represents? Not likely.
Is there an increased and palpable buy-in by the American public, American industry and policymakers that this (EMP threat) deserves to be one of the top priorities of our national security experts?
So what gives? Well there is either a whole lot more going on than meets the eye, or it’s like — Politics as usual.
(1.) Mullen quoted in speech before Energy Security Forum (October 13, 2010)
(2.) Electric Armageddon by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry