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Tags: nuclear posture review | mattis | emp threat

Mattis' Nuclear Posture Review Leaves Out EMP Threat

Mattis' Nuclear Posture Review Leaves Out EMP Threat
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens to questions while testifying at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, February 6, 2018, in Washington, DC. The focus of the hearing was "The National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review." (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Henry F. Cooper By Friday, 09 February 2018 05:12 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

I’m troubled by aspects of the Pentagon’s recently published Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), not because of what it includes but because of what it leaves out, at least in Defense Secretary Mattis’ public summary. And I “Have seen this play before.”

I support positions recently defended before the House Armed Services Committee by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul Selva. Indeed, the NPR has a strong case for upgrading our atrophying nuclear forces that were built as a significant element of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Modernization Program, which repaired the then atrophying strategic capabilities he inherited.

I then had oversight responsibilities for programs upgrading all USAF strategic systems and their command, control, and communications (C3) systems — including against electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threats. And I served on the Cruise Missile Source Selection Board for air-, land- and sea-basing, which I certainly agree is due for a redo.

I also agree with many supportive articles, e.g., by Robert Joseph; Paul Bracken; Peter Huessy; and especially a bipartisan presentation by John Harvey, Franklin Miller, Keith Payne and Brad Roberts.

To reinforce the Pentagon’s argument for low yield nuclear weapons, I’d recall the neutron bomb, invented in the 1950s by Sam Cohen at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, eventually developed and produced for deployment in the 1970s. President Carter canceled its deployment to deter a major ground attack through the Fulda Gap — to the chagrin of our NATO allies, especially in West Germany.

If such low yield weapons were designed to create lots of gamma rays instead of neutrons, they could create EMP effects, potentially an existential threat. Congressional EMP Commissioners were warned thirteen years ago by Russian Generals that they had “accidentally” passed to North Korea how to build “Super EMP weapons.”

North Korea has been testing low yield weapons for years — so that commissioners warned that North Korea might already have a Super EMP weapon. Perhaps we should have such a capability in our nuclear stockpile? At least our nuclear scientists and policy makers should understand the role of such low-yield “Super EMP” weapons.

Moreover, North Korea has officially claimed that having such an EMP capability is a “strategic goal.” Yet Secretary Mattis’ NPR summary includes no mention of the EMP threat — nor does his National Defense Strategy — even though President Trump included such threats in his National Security Strategy. We need to deter this threat — and defend against it in case deterrence fails.

As I wrote on January 25, leaving out the EMP threat was an astonishing omission, especially since USAF General John E. Hyten, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, has publically observed that, “[O]ur nation as a whole has not looked at EMP, we have not looked at the critical infrastructure that could be damaged by EMP, and we need to take a step back and look at that entire threat because it is a realistic threat.”

This omission is very troubling — especially in the context of how we pursued needed major renovations of our strategic systems 30-40 years ago. The EMP threat was highly classified, and we had major programs to assure we dealt effectively with it.

For example, an Army Lt. General (Hillman Dickenson) had a primary responsibility for protecting the nation’s overall command, control, and communications system from his Pentagon office. And Rear Admiral Paul Tomb directly reported to one of General Hyten’s predecessors, then commander of Strategic Air Command (SAC), to assure the systems under his command were hardened to EMP effects.

And there was a Vulnerability Task Force (VTF) formed under the Defense Science Board to independently oversee the efforts to protect our key strategic systems and their C3 systems to EMP effects and regularly report their findings to the highest levels of the Pentagon.

To my knowledge, no such technically competent independent body is charged with assuring our strategic systems are viable against EMP threat — let alone our civil critical infrastructure needed to assure survival of the American people to an EMP attack, such as announced as a “strategic goal” that already might be posed by North Korea.

That brings me to the second major concern I have about the Nuclear Posture Review: its omission of any reference to needed ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems, especially to counter the existing announced threat from North Korea. Not even in the NPR’s section entitled “Damage Limitation.”

Au contraire 30-40 years ago, when BMD systems were actively considered as a means of assuring the survival of our intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). I served on Defense Science Board and Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Task Forces that actively considered these matters in depth — under both Democrat and Republican administrations.

At the beginning of the Reagan administration, a close advisor to President Reagan, Former Air Force Secretary Tom Reed, led a summer study that found the least costly way to assure the survivability of our existing Minuteman ICBMs was a “preferential BMD system” system called LoAds. But deploying such a system was blocked by the Antiballistic missile (ABM) Treaty. There is no such excuse today and our silo based ICBMs are even more vulnerable.

As those who were around will recall, we ended up deploying MX ICBMs in silos, each carrying 10 reentry vehicles making them more attractive targets — and eventually as a part of the subsequent START negotiations, they were removed. Now we still have Minuteman ICBMs in silos and are betting on them surviving because they won’t be attacked.

To be sure the Congressionally-mandated Missile Defense Review — due shortly, may take these matters into account and make sense of it all — I certainly hope so. Stay tuned.

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 and Science Advisor to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. 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. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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I’m troubled by aspects of the Pentagon’s recently published Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), not because of what it includes but because of what it leaves out, at least in Defense Secretary Mattis’ public summary.
nuclear posture review, mattis, emp threat
Friday, 09 February 2018 05:12 PM
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