Soon we will know whether congress will assure a future competent EMP Commission — and I am not hopeful.
Thus, President Trump should pay more attention to the existential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat, recently identified by North Korea as its “strategic goal” and to which the disaggregated and dysfunctional federal government is failing to counter.
On September 12, I quoted liberally from an aptly titled Boston Herald article by Jack Encarnacao: “Panel will no longer assess threat to power grid.” He quoted EMP Commission chairman, Dr. William R. Graham: “[T]he country is going to lose both the experience and the knowledge that the commissioners have brought (and) also the knowledge and support of extremely competent professional staff.”
He also reportedly said that, during the Obama administration, DoD officials “wanted to do everything they possibly could to suppress this [EMP] concern and keep the public’s attention focused elsewhere, while we were making concessions to the Iranians and the North Koreans and others.”
I agree with Dr. Graham and regret to add that the Trump Defense Department has thus far shown no significant improvement. This concern makes all the more important the pending outcome of the ongoing House-Senate Conference for the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act — NDAA 2018.
Mr. Encarnacao also reported that the EMP Commission webpage had been taken down, and so I provided links, here and here to the EMP Commission’s authoritative and informative 2004 and 2008 reports, respectively.
I warned that the House NDAA proposal explicitly disestablishes the Commission and starts over with a new charter — an unnecessary inevitably extended delay, further elaborated in my September 14 article.
I then urged that the Senate instead propose to reinstate the Commission under the charter that governed its operations since 2001, along with a recipe for replacing any future retiring commissioners, who have thus far served without compensation.
I also urged that the NDAA 2018 reinstate the Commission in an appropriate White House office with a direct pathway to the president to assure its greatest effect in correcting the current disaggregated management of federal efforts to assure the viability of our electric power grid and its related critical civil infrastructure. No one below President Trump is currently responsible for this vitally important mission.
My October 10 message lamented the EMP Commission’s 30 September demise and again urged that the Senate reinstate it with the charter proposed a month earlier.
I ended with an observation by Former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), who along Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), sponsored the first EMP Commission. He introduced his article, “Washington absolutely must save the EMP Commission,” as follows:
"Only Washington bureaucrats could be so stupid they would terminate the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, also known as the Congressional EMP Commission — just when North Korea threatened to attack the United States with EMP."
We’ll soon see if this fate is avoided. Last Wednesday, the NDAA Conference began and its progress is unknown — at least to me. The House proposal assures an extended break in the past Commission’s important role and politicization of whatever process starts over with a “new commission.”
Those developments will confront a number of challenges, which I summarized in my May 4 Testimony to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
I emphasized that because of the dysfunctional federal government, local and state authorities must learn to deal with the existential Nuclear EMP threat to the grid, briefly described in Dr. Graham’s April 20 letter to the then new Secretary of Energy Rick Perry as “the ultimate cyber weapon in the military doctrines and plans of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran for Combined Arms Cyber Warfare that they see as a decisive new Revolution in Military Affairs.”
He also advised that protecting the grid from this “worst threat” can also mitigate lesser threats, including from natural EMP from solar storms, non-nuclear EMP from radiofrequency weapons, cyber-attacks, physical sabotage, and severe weather. He observed that State electric grids can be “islanded” by installing surge arrestors, blocking devices, Faraday cages, and other devices to protect individual states against a larger regional, prolonged catastrophic blackout. This concept also applies to more localized “islands” within the grid, as is my emphasis.
Dr. Graham also warned of several key Commission concerns, most notably that the 2014 Obama administration intelligence community assessment of nuclear EMP is profoundly erroneous — perhaps the worst ever produced on EMP. It has been used to thwart efforts to protect the nation against nuclear EMP by dismissing the threat, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This failure is reflected in a number of published articles dismissing the threat to the very viability of our nation.
Dr. Graham also expressed concern about misleading and erroneous regulatory efforts that have led to gross underestimates of the “natural EMP” threat from the Sun and consequently the basis for grossly inadequate protection standards. He also referred to misleading and erroneous studies that grossly underestimated the nuclear EMP threat, then recently completed by industry’s Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), in cooperation with Obama administration Department of Energy holdovers.
Dr. Graham’s observations illustrate why the American people need an independent assessment and response to our current vulnerabilities and needed competent management of efforts to provide a viable electric power grid. The EMP Commission for 17 years has been the most competent and technically credible source of advice for accomplishing this objective — unlikely to be replaced with a better one.
Thus, I urge all who listen to seek at least two specific NDAA Conference outcomes:
- Assure that past Commissioners who want to continue are reinstated to minimize important discontinuities in such a critically important effort, and
- Put the commission in the White House with access to the president because no one is in charge of the currently disaggregated, dysfunctional federal government — a condition President Trump should not allow to continue.
In any case, President Trump can, by Executive Order, establish his own appropriately empowered EMP Commission in the White House. I believe this is the best way “to drain the swamp” of those who have ignored the Commission’s 2004 and 2008 recommendations — and no doubt will ignore those from the recently disbanded Commission, awaiting government review before the public is informed of its findings.
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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