Tag Archives: electromagnetic pulse

Symposium on Law, Policy and Innovative Technologies in National Security

On the morning of the Keeper of the Flame Award Dinner – paying tribute to the life of Congressman Bill Young – the Center convened two expert panels to discuss two areas of technological development in the field of national security: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and the phenomenon of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP).  Video of the event follows.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): Legal, Policy and Innovation Trends

Moderator — Frank J. Gaffney Jr, CSP


  • Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), Chairman, Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Member, House Armed Services Committee; Member, UAV Caucus
  • Dr. Michael Keegan, President of the DC Capitol Chapter of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Dr. Keegan has worked on numerous high profile programs within Northrop-Grumman including Global Hawk and Triton. He currently works within the Ground Systems Business Unit in the Intelligence Systems Division.
  • Col. Bill Tart, director, RPA Capabilities Division (AF/A2CU), U.S. Air Force
  • Ben Lerner, Esq., Center for Security Policy

For the past several years, both the Bush and Obama administrations have deployed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with increasing technological sophistication to eliminate terrorist leaders and operatives abroad, with substantial success. This use of UAVs for both surveillance and lethal force continues to be threatened by international legal and political efforts to eliminate their use. If successful, these efforts could have serious ramifications for the use of UAVs for the remainder of the Obama administration and beyond.

In parallel to the release of its forthcoming study exploring the technology, legal and policy landscape informing this debate, the panel’s experts from government and industry will discuss trends in international law, policies and politics for UAVs, the national security impacts of stricter rules governing the use of UAVs abroad, the extent to which advances in UAV technology may drive changes in law and policy, and related topics.


Securing America from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP): Technical and Policy Challenges

Moderator — Frank J. Gaffney Jr., CSP


  • Brigadier General (ret.) Ken Chrosniak, Member of EMPact America, a firefighter with Carlisle Fire Rescue, VP of Cumberland Goodwill Ambulance (EMS) Company, and member of the FBI vetted InfraGard EMP Special Interest Group. Ken is an instructor at the Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership Development.
  • Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Chair, Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse Caucus; Member, Intelligence, Emerging Threats, and Capabilities Subcommittee; Member, Strategic Forces Subcommittee.
  • Major General (ret.) Robert Newman, Former Adjutant General of Virginia; Deputy Assistant to the Governor, Virginia; Vice Director of Operations & Logistics at US Joint Forces Command ; Deputy Director of Homeland Security at National Guard Bureau.

The backbone of the United States and its 21st Century society is our electric grid. Without it, every critical infrastructure — including food, water, medicine, telecommunications, finance and transportation — would be inoperable, with catastrophic consequences for many millions of Americans whose lives would be imperiled by the loss of such services.

Unfortunately, the U.S. bulk power system is presently vulnerable to widespread damage and possible destruction from a variety of sources. Arguably, the most serious of these is electromagoetic pulse (EMP), whether induced by natural phenomena (i.e., solar flaring and the resultant space weather) or enemy actions (e.g., localized attacks on the grid’s critical nodes- roughly 1,000 transformers- involving radio frequency weapons or strategic attacks utilizing exoatmospheric detonations of nuclear weapons). Either could have the effect of blacking out large parts of the United States for protracted periods of time.

This panel will consider the emerging consensus that such threats are real and must be remediated; examine how best to make the present and future grids resilient against these and related dangers (including cyber-warfare); and address the necessary federal-and state-level legislative and executive branch actions required to effect such changes.

Must-See TV: Your Life Could Depend on It

CONTACT: Emily Cashel

Shirley & Banister Public Affairs



Must-See TV: Your Life Could Depend on It

National Geographic Film is Not Fiction, Must be a Wakeup Call on EMP

Washington, DC – On October 27th at 9:00 p.m. ET, National Geographic will air a riveting new docu-drama entitled, “American Blackout.” It chronicles the horror that would be experienced by the country and its people in the event of a major disruption in the nation’s electric bulk power distribution system (better known as “the grid.”)  This film impresses every viewer with a fundamental reality:  Everything possible must be done to avoid the terrible consequences of a loss of critical infrastructure, suspension in vital public and private services and massive societal upheaval that would be entailed even in the kind of relatively short-duration (i.e., ten days) national blackout shown in the film – let alone one that extends far longer.

As the cyber-attack impelled scenario explored by “American Blackout” makes clear, in a circumstance where power is out nationwide for even a week-and-a-half, over 300,000 of our countrymen and women would perish. Thanks to the associated breakdown of electricity-dependent systems that supply the water, food, medicine, finance, communications, transportation etc. absolutely essential to life as we know it – particularly in densely populated urban areas – the losses may actually be considerably higher.

Such a prospect is all the more likely to the extent that, as “American Blackout” suggests, a 10-day power outage would likely precipitate a widespread breakdown of social order.  The costs in dollars, to say nothing of lives, would be incalculably high.

Unfortunately, the grim picture painted by “American Blackout” may actually be an unduly optimistic one.  The vulnerabilities of the U.S. grid may result in far more enduring disruptions of power supply in the event of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) events, whether caused by enemy action (notably, via a nuclear weapon detonated in space over the United States) or due to naturally occurring phenomena.  No fewer than five federal studies have confirmed that, under present circumstances, the transformers that make up the heart of the nation’s bulk power distribution system would be damaged, if not destroyed outright, by EMP.  Should that happen, the lights will not come back on in ten days, or even ten weeks.  It may take years to reestablish the status quo ante, if it can be done at all.

“This movie is not fiction.  If anything, it understates the magnitude of the danger facing this country,” observed Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy. “As the EMP Coalition has pointed out repeatedly:  Even if the electronic devices at the heart of the nation’s critical infrastructure could be made absolutely invulnerable to cyber attacks, in the event one or more electromagnetic pulses physically destroy key parts of the grid, such computers and other equipment will not have the power they need to operate.”

For these reasons, the EMP Coalition is urging a comprehensive solution designed to “harden” the grid against all threats, including but not limited to cyber attack.  Among other initiatives towards this end, the Coalition supports the bipartisan federal Secure High Voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage (SHIELD) Act (H.R. 2417) and state-level legislation like Maine’s LD 131 enacted in June and aimed at islanding its part of the grid.

For more on the EMP threat and steps that must be taken to prevent its devastating effect – since remediation after the fact is, as a practical matter, not an option – visit the Coalition’s website, www.StopEMP.org

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Jim Woolsey: Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is existential threat to America



Washington, D.C.:  On July 29th, President Bill Clinton’s former Director of Central Intelligence, R. James Woolsey, led a panel discussion on the growing – and perhaps imminent – threat of a natural or nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to the U.S. electric grid and other critical infrastructures that sustain modern civilization and the lives of millions of Americans.  The event was sponsored by the newly established EMP Coalition, of which Mr. Woolsey is the Honorary Co-Chair along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Other participants were Ambassador Henry Cooper and Dr. Peter Vincent Pry.  Ambassador Cooper led strategic arms control negotiations with the USSR under President Reagan and served as the Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization under President George H.W. Bush.  His is currently the Chairman of High Frontier, an organization dedicated to protecting the United States from nuclear attack.  Dr. Pry served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission, as a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee and as an analyst in the CIA.  He is now the Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, a congressional advisory board dedicated to national resiliency in the face of EMP and other threats.

Highlights of the program included the following:

  • Mr. Woolsey warned that the sun can inflict localized EMP disasters, like the 1989 Hydro-Quebec geomagnetic storm that blacked out eastern Canada, causing billions of dollars in economic losses.  He noted that a recent study by insurance industry leader Lloyds of London estimated that if the 1989 geo-storm struck the east coast of the United States, 20-40 million Americans might be blacked out for as long as two years.  A rare geomagnetic super-storm, like the 1859 Carrington Event, would collapse electric grids and life-sustaining critical infrastructures everywhere on Earth, putting at risk the lives of billions.

Scientists estimate that the world is overdue for another Carrington Event, and the Sun has already entered its solar maximum that shall last through 2013, when a catastrophic geo-storm is more likely to occur, Woolsey said:

  • Mr. Woolsey warned that an EMP catastrophe may also be imminent from terrorists and/or rogue states armed with nuclear weapons.  North Korea already has nuclear missiles, Iran nearly so, and these two are actively collaborating.  A single nuclear weapon detonated at high-altitude over this country would collapse the electric grid and other critical infrastructures and endanger the lives of millions.
  • Woolsey emphasized that the hundreds of electric utilities in the United States have thus far not acted to protect themselves from EMP, and cannot be expected to do so voluntarily as national defense and homeland security is a U.S. government responsibility.  Woolsey urged that government regulation, by passage of the Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage (SHIELD) Act now before Congress, is necessary to protect the national electric grid.
  • Ambassador Cooper noted that the world escaped an EMP catastrophe just two weeks ago, when a huge Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the path of the Earth’s orbit, but narrowly missed our planet.
  • Amb. Cooper warned that, given our nation’s current state of unpreparedness, if a natural or nuclear EMP catastrophe struck today, blacking out the electrical grid and other critical infrastructures for a year, as many as ninety percent of the American people could perish from starvation, disease and societal collapse.  This assessment is from the Congressional EMP Commission that examined the EMP threat for nearly a decade, including performing numerous scientific experiments and producing what is widely regarded as the definitive study of critical infrastructure vulnerabilities and solutions.
  • Amb. Cooper warned that North Korea may already have the capability to make a catastrophic EMP attack on the United States.  On December 2012, Cooper said, North Korea used its so-called Space Launch Vehicle like a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System – a secret weapon invented by the Russians during the Cold War to deliver a stealthy nuclear attack on the United States by orbiting a nuclear weapon over the south polar region, bypassing U.S. Ballistic Missile Early Warning radars (BMEWs) and missile defenses.  Cooper noted that the U.S. has no BMEWs radars or missile interceptors facing south.  North Korea apparently orbited a satellite over the south polar region on a trajectory and altitude consistent with making a surprise nuclear EMP attack against the United States.
  • Amb. Cooper said the needed solution would be to utilize the sensors and weapons aboard AEGIS anti-missile ships and such missiles ashore to protect the U.S. southern flank and east coast from nuclear EMP attack and to harden the electric grid by passage of the SHIELD Act.
  • Dr. Pry warned that a disturbing confluence of events suggests an EMP attack might be imminent.  Pry noted that thousands of cyber attacks using computer viruses and hacking are probing the defenses of U.S. critical infrastructures, searching for weaknesses.
  • Dr. Pry observed that the foreign military doctrines of potential adversaries such as Iran, North Korea, China and Russia, all include acts of sabotage and kinetic attacks – including nuclear EMP attack – as part of their planning for an all-out Information Warfare or Cyber Warfare Operation.  Pry noted that recently, in April, a sabotage attempt was made against electric grid transformers near San Jose, CA, that damaged five transformers with fire from AK-47 assault rifles.
  • Moreover, according to Dr. Pry, the North Korean freighter Chong Chon Gang recently intercepted and undergoing inspection in Panama under suspicion of drug smuggling, was discovered to have in its hold two nuclear-capable SA-2 missiles.  The missiles were without nuclear warheads, Pry said, but the incident is disturbingly like the EMP Commission’s nightmare scenario of a nuclear EMP attack launched from a freighter off the U.S. coast, to conceal the identity of the attacker and escape retaliation.  Pry said “connecting the dots” between cyber attacks, sabotage by AK-47s, a North Korean freighter carrying nuclear capable missiles in the Caribbean may warrant a crash program to protect the nation’s electric grid.

All panelists endorsed the SHIELD Act, urged that the Department of Homeland Security develop a new National Planning Scenario focused on EMP, and encouraged other states to follow the example of Maine, not wait for Washington, but pass state initiatives to protect their electric grids from EMP now.

Video of the event and additional information about the EMP Coalition, its partners and their efforts to secure our grid from all hazards can be obtained at www.StopEMP.org.



It’s Not Just Those Dam Hackers

Bill Gertz has an alarming piece up at today’s Washington Free Beacon on the latest revelations on Chinese hacking of U.S. critical infrastructure programs, this time aimed at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams (NID).  As Gertz reports:

“U.S. intelligence agencies traced a recent cyber intrusion into a sensitive infrastructure database to the Chinese government or military cyber warriors, according to U.S. officials.”

“The compromise of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams (NID) is raising new concerns that China is preparing to conduct a future cyber attack against the national electrical power grid, including the growing percentage of electricity produced by hydroelectric dams.”

While cyber-intrusions/attacks involving the U.S. electrical grid justifiably raise a great deal of concern, such attacks are not the only means by which our grid could be severely compromised.  An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event — whether caused naturally by a solar event or intentionally via nuclear detonation by a rogue actor like North Korea (a country with ties to China that is believed to have this capability) — could cause a devastating collapse of the electric grid.

Yet, while the federal government is focusing heavily on how to prevent cyber-attacks on our critical infrastructure, it is doing far less to harden that infrastructure against EMP.  As the Heritage Foundation observed late last year, the Department of Homeland Security testified in September of 2012 that the DHS remains unprepared for an EMP event or attack.

This is despite the fact that two congressionally-mandated commissions — the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack, and the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United State — have both previously warned of the danger of EMP.

It’s time for the federal government to walk and chew gum at the same time when it comes to protecting the electrical grid.  The EMP threat urgently needs the kind of attention that the cyber-threat, rightfully, is receiving.