The potential of a devastating attack to the US power grid by nuclear states such as North Korea or Iran has prompted the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to return to its former location inside Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, Colorado, two former Reagan-era government officials write in The Wall Street Journal.
"Why the return?" write Henry F. Cooper and Peter Vincent Pry. "Because the enormous bunker in the hollowed-out mountain, built to survive a Cold War-era nuclear conflict, can also resist an electromagnetic-pulse attack, or EMP."
While the Pentagon is moving to shield its global air defense command from being knocked out by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, the Obama administration has failed to act on urgent recommendations to protect the country's civilian electronic infrastructure from a similar catastrophe, they write.
"An EMP strike, most likely from the detonation of a nuclear weapon in space, would destroy unprotected military and civilian electronics nationwide, blacking out the electric grid and other critical infrastructure for months or years," Cooper and Pry write.
"The staggering human cost of such a catastrophic attack is not difficult to imagine."
The likeliest source of such an attack would be North Korea or Iran, according to Cooper, former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, launched by the late President Ronald Reagan, and Pry, executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security and a veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Iran is a nuclear-ready state
with ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States now, Cooper, Pry and and two other Reagan administration alumni wrote in an op-ed for Newsmax in February.
In the Journal, Cooper and Pry reiterate that "Iran should be regarded as already having nuclear missiles capable of making an EMP attack against the U.S.," noting, "Iran and North Korea have successfully orbited satellites on South-Polar trajectories that appear to practice evading U.S. missile defenses, and at optimum altitudes to make a surprise EMP attack."
There is no comparable effort under way in Washington to protect civilian electronic infrastructure, even though a prolonged nationwide blackout could result in chaos and death on a massive scale, according to findings of a national EMP Commission authorized by Congress.
"Yet President Obama has not acted on the EMP Commission’s draft executive order to protect national infrastructure that is essential to provide for the common defense," Cooper and Pry write. "Hardening the national electric grid would cost a few billion dollars, a trivial amount compared with the loss of electricity and lives following an EMP attack."
The authors also fault Congress for failing to act on the recommendations of its own commission and for dropping the ball on multiple bills to fund electronic infrastructure security upgrades.
"In recent years, the GRID Act, the Shield Act, and the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act have gained bipartisan and even unanimous support in the House, yet they died in the Senate," they write.
One result, Cooper and Pry write, is that states have been left to seek solutions on their own.
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