During his first three days in office, President Joseph Robinette Biden signed approximately 30 executive orders, many of which rescinded former President Trump’s executive orders.
An important survivor has been President Trump’s March 26, 2019 Executive Order No. 13865 for "Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses," to be led by the National Security Council.
This particular executive order was a significant step in fulfilling President Trump’s campaign promise to deal with the existential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat; a threat making up a part of the military doctrine of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.
The nation’s electric power grid is vulnerable to these manmade EMP threats and also a vulnerable to a natural EMP threat; one which will one day come when one of the Sun’s irregularly occurring major solar emissions intersects the Earth’s orbit coincident with us.
Yet, only the time of such a "Geomagnetic Disturbance" (GMD) is uncertain — the last such event was the 1859 so-called Carrington Event, named after astronomer Richard Carrington who documented it.
In 1859, we were not dependent on electricity for survival — but imagine how we would function today (or not function) without electricity.
The probability of a GMD happening is estimated to be about 12% per decade.
By that accounting we are overdue and have not prepared for this scenario.
The congressional EMP Commission years ago authoritatively reported that most Americans would die within months after either a major EMP attack or a Carrington event — due to starvation, disease, and societal collapse.
The good news is that we have long known how to protect against this existential threat.
We have used that knowledge for decades to protect our most important military systems against it.
But the bad news is that we have not used that knowledge to protect the critical civil infrastructure that is essential to our survival in today’s world with our dependence on electronics.
As I discussed in Appendix B of the National Disaster Resilience Council (NDRC) book, "Powering Through, Building Critical Infrastructure Resilience," the Lake Wylie Pilot Study demonstrated that protecting the electric power grid is quite affordable.
In that case, we estimated that low risk protection of the vital elements of the Distribution Grid in York County, South Carolina (including Rock Hill, the fourth largest South Carolina city) would cost less than $100 per York County citizen.
That reflects a one-time cost.
Limited annual funding would be required for maintenance.
Thus, the main impedance to addressing this issue is political, not technical — and certainly not financial.
A key prescription of EMP environments against which the viability of our electric power grid and other critical infrastructure should be protected has been provided by former-President Trump’s Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, meeting a very important requirement of our nation's 45th commander in chief's executive order.
This Jan. 11, 2021 deliverable specifies benchmarks similar to those used by the Defense Department in protecting our most important military systems.
Hopefully, the Biden administration will follow through in applying that knowledge to assure the viability of our electric power grid against EMP effects — of course as well as continuing to protect our strategic nuclear systems and their supporting command, control and communications systems.
Thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 — in an amendment championed by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., President Trump’s executive order is now a "law of the land."
Thus, it's not so easily frustrated by a potentially subsequent executive order.
Hopefully, Congress will assure that the Biden administration "powers that be" meet that standard.
In this context, it will be important to consider the Biden administration’s first Nuclear Posture Review. I hope it will deal better with the existential EMP threat than did the Trump administration’s initial Nuclear Posture Review that omitted it entirely, even though it was well understood as demonstrated by the comprehensive Congressional EMP Commission 2004, 2008 and 2017 reports.
Please stay tuned! Our survival is at stake.
Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Previously, he served as the Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Deputy Assistant USAF Secretary, Science Adviser to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory and a USAF Reserve Captain. In the private sector he was Chairman of Applied Research Associates, a high technology company; member of the technical staff of Jaycor, R&D Associates and Bell Telephone Laboratories; a Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy; and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson and a PhD from New York University, all in Mechanical Engineering. Read Ambassador Cooper's Reports — More Here.
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