If a small atomic bomb were to explode 400km above Chicago it could fry all electronically-based technology from Chicago to Dallas affecting the infrastructure of all major cities on the east coast and as far as South Dakota.
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack is as instantaneous as an atomic bomb blast. It moves like a wall of energy overloading, and destroying all computer based technology. Such an attack would shut down the power grid. ¬† Air traffic would be grounded, telephone, internet and other communications would be shut down. America would be reduced to the agricultural economy we had in the 1800s.
Despite having developed the technology to protect our infrastructure in the event of an EMP attack, this technology has not been integrated into our infrastructure – our infrastructure has not been hardened: backed up by non-computerized components yet. EMP is not a sci-fi War of the Worlds theory. EMP is a legitimate weapon, and a legitimate threat to the security of our nation.
Brief analysis shows that our computerized, electronically-dependent society offers any rogue nation a perfect target: an EMP-vulnerable power grid susceptible of a sucker punch to the heart of our infrastructure. On the floor of the House, Rep. Roscoe Barlett (R-Md) recounted a story of a Russian, who, prior to the G-8 meeting said “If we really wanted to hurt you, with no fear of retaliation, we’d launch an SLBM, submarine launch missile. We wouldn’t know where it came from; it came from the sea. And we’d detonate a nuclear weapon high above your country, and it would shut down your power grid and your communications for 6 months or so.‚?Ě Our enemies are well aware of what an EMP attack is, and just what precisely it would do.
The incentive to attack America through EMP is high because the cost to America would be catastrophic. As the 2004 commission report said “The current vulnerability of our critical infrastructures can both invite and reward attack if not corrected. Correction is feasible and well within the Nation’s means and resources to accomplish.‚?Ě Our electric grid systems, communication networks, financial system, fuel/energy infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, food infrastructure, and most importantly water supply would be corrupted to an un-workable extent in the event of an attack, because we have yet to make the vital corrections.
If America were hit with an EMP over the course of one year 90% of Americans would be dead. America would be reduced to third world status.
Additionally the expense to produce an EMP attack is less than a nuclear attack. Counter to logic the less developed the warhead, the more range and greater effect. An EMP attack does not require highly developed delivery technology because the effect of the attack is so widespread, although its closeness to the surface does affect its severity. Both of these factors make it easier for less developed nations to develop this technology.
Defensive deterrence coupled with decreasing our vulnerability to an EMP attack is the way to counter the high incentive to attack us.
Throughout the cold war little success was made in nuclear deterrence until the power of a nuclear bomb was neutralized with the Ballistic Missile Defense program. From its inception in the late 80’s Ballistic Missile Defense has increasingly had its budget slashed in favor of arms limitations, and non-proliferation efforts.
Key to deterring an EMP attack is a reinvestment in our Ballistic Missile Defense program. Having a multi layer defense system of land, sea, and space would utilize our technological advances to fully remove the threat of nuclear warfare — and thus an EMP attack. Sadly, and counter to the recommendation of many within the Ballistic Missile Defense program 1.4 billion was just cut from the missile defense budget. This may be the only effectual method for foreign policy deterrence of EMP development.
Domestically, substantial upgrades to our infrastructure are required to decrease our vulnerability. We need to “harden‚?Ě our infrastructure in all sectors. To harden a system is to provide a shield system, often made from steel, which will route an EMP field away from the electronic components. Hardening also entails the use of a system monitoring device which can respond like a circuit breaker to an EMP attack. Lastly hardening requires an infrastructure to be outfitted with “black start‚?Ě generators, reserved power such as independent diesel generators, hydro-electric power, and geothermal power.
Hardening specific centers of our infrastructure would permit a graceful failure and simplified recovery after an EMP attack. Most importantly decreasing our vulnerability to an attack will reduce the incentive for an EMP attack. As defense spending continues to be cut, we are building a policy that supports and provokes an EMP attack. As the 2004 Commission report said “our current vulnerability invites attack.‚?Ě
It has often been said that 9-11 was a failure of our imagination. There are certain things that our imagination, out of self-preservation resists thinking about — an electromagnetic pulse attack falls into that category. The current administration is failing to imagine, and so resists planning for an EMP attack. The government is failing in its primary task of protecting the citizens.