An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack on the United States, whether manmade or naturally occurring, could result in the deaths of nine out of ten Americans through starvation, disease and the collapse of modern society, warned Dr. Vincent Peter Pry, a member of the congressional EMP Commission and executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security.
“A natural EMP catastrophe or nuclear EMP attack could blackout the national electric grid for months or years and collapse all the other critical infrastructures — communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water — necessary to sustain modern society and the lives of 310 million Americans,” Pry this week told the House Committee on Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies.
The subcommittee herd testimony from a variety of experts during a hearing to examine the potentially catastrophic impact of an EMP attack on America’s largely unsecured electrical grid and critical infrastructure.
An electromagnetic pulse is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy that is capable of severely damaging or destroying the electronic systems that make modern society possible. Natural occurrences, like a solar storm, as well as manmade events like a nuclear attack, can generate EMP. Either way, the results could be devastating.
“Some would say it’s low probability, but the damage that could be caused in the event of an EMP attack, both by the sun, a solar event, or a man-made attack, would be catastrophic,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).
In 1859, a geomagnetic storm known as the “Carrington Event” resulted in fires in telegraph stations and burnt out the just-laid transatlantic cable. Since electronic systems were not a critical component of society at the time, the event was not disastrous. Scientists estimate that the same event today would devastate essential infrastructure. They predict that we are long overdue for another geomagnetic storm, and the next one — the first in the modern era — would be catastrophic.
“NASA and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a blue-ribbon study independently confirming the warning of the EMP Commission about the threat posed by a great geomagnetic storm,” said Pry, a former CIA intelligence officer. “The EMP Commission and the NASA-NAS reports, and several subsequent independent studies, conclude that if a great geomagnetic storm like the 1859 Carrington Event happened today, millions could die.”
Subcommittee Vice Chairman Scott Perry (R-Penn.) said China and Russia already have the technology to launch an EMP attack, and that Iran and North Korea may also be developing EMP weapon technology.
According to an assessment by the EMP Commission, Russia may be developing a “Super-EMP,” a nuclear weapon designed to generate extradorindarily high EMP fields with the ability to cause catastrophic damage to the US power grid.
“The threats are not merely words,” Pry told lawmakers. “The EMP Commission assesses that Russia has, as it openly declares in military writings, probably developed what Russia describes as a ‘Super-EMP’ nuclear weapon — specifically designed to generate extraordinarily high EMP fields in order to paralyze even the best protected US strategic and military forces. China probably also has Super-EMP weapons. North Korea too may possess or be developing a Super-EMP nuclear weapon, as alleged by credible Russian sources to the EMP Commission, and by open source reporting from South Korean military intelligence.”
In order to mitigate the EMP threat, Rep. Franks (R-Ariz.), chair of the Congressional EMP Caucus, is pushing legislation that would secure critical infrastructure against an EMP attack. The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA) would enable the Department of Homeland Security to implement practical steps to protect the electrical grid.
CIPA “enhances the Department of Homeland Security’s threat assessments for geomagnetic disturbances and electromagnetic pulse blackouts which will enable practical steps to protect the electric grid that serves our Nation,” Franks explained.
With 99 percent of critical infrastructure controlled by civilians, Franks believes the federal government must compel the private sector to harden systems against EMP attack. Through CIPA, he hopes to raise awareness of the threat of EMP, which will be crucial in mitigating future attacks on critical infrastructure.
“All of the civilian critical infrastructures that sustain the economy of the United States, and the lives of 310 million Americans, depend, directly or indirectly, upon electricity and electronic systems,” Pry said.
Passage of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act is the single most important thing Congress could do to protect the nation from the EMP threat, Pry said. Raising awareness of the EMP threat and how to prepare for it would help emergency planners and local responders in launching initiatives to protect the electric grid and implement the recommendations of the EMP Commission.
“Passage of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act would immediately mobilize thousands of emergency planners and first responders at all levels of government, and educate millions of others about the EMP threat and how to prepare for it,” Pry said.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), Vice-Chairman
Rep. Michael McCaul
SOURCE : www.hstoday.us