National Security

Lawmakers, Experts Say Texas Power Grid Vulnerable To Nuclear EMP Attack

Texas lawmakers and national security experts say the state’s electric power grid — which is independent of the rest of the nation’s power grid — is vulnerable to a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, which could have devastating effects on both the state and the nation.

Six members of the Texas state Senate, including members of both parties, are co-sponsoring legislation that — if passed — would begin taking steps to secure the state’s electric power grid from an EMP attack, an event that former CIA director James Woolsey and other national security experts have said is a real and credible threat both for Texas and for the country as a whole. (RELATED: North Korea May Be Gearing Up For A Weekend Nuke Test Or Worse)

“The electric power grid is vulnerable to what legitimate experts classify as high impact threats,” state Sen. Bob Hall, a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 83, said while introducing the bill before the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce on Wednesday — the same day Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said relations between the U.S. and Russia are “at a low point.” An EMP attack, Hall said, would be the “most debilitating to critical infrastructure because it has the ability to disrupt, disable and irreparably destroy electronics over a wide geographic area.”

“For some, the threat posed by an EMP can be hard to conceptualize,” Hall added. “However, this threat is not science fiction and its consequences cannot be overstated.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a signing ceremony following the talks with his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

Russian President Vladimir Putin REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

“Electricity is the third most important thing to sustaining life. The only two things more important to sustaining life are air and water,” added Hall, a former Air Force officer and engineer. “This bill would provide our state with a golden opportunity to ensure that when the lights go out in the rest of the country, they stay on in Texas.”

The bill would create a task force to assess vulnerabilities in the state’s electric grid and make recommendations on how to secure the grid against attack by September 1, 2018 at the latest.

“America’s adversaries recognize the advantage of electromagnetic pulse and promote it as a 21st century means of attack. Iran mentions EMP over twenty times in its military doctrine,” David Grantham, a fellow at the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis, told The Daily Caller. “Evidence suggests that North Korea even simulated an EMP attack in 2013.”

Grantham was one of several national security experts to testify on Wednesday in favor of securing Texas’ power grid from an EMP attack.

Dr. Peter Pry, chief of staff for the Congressional EMP Commission, testified in support of the bill, which he called “vital to the security of Texas as well as the nation.”

“One of the things that’s new in the EMP world is the military doctrines of our potential adversaries,” Pry said. “They don’t plan to come after us just with nuclear EMP — it’s a combination of all these threats: physical sabotage, cyberattacks and EMP.”

Pry named Russia, China, North Korea and Iran as countries that could hit the U.S. with a debilitating EMP attack.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched the ground jet test of a Korean-style high-thrust engine newly developed by the Academy of the National Defence Science in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on March 19, 2017. KCNA/via Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched the ground jet test of a Korean-style high-thrust engine newly developed by the Academy of the National Defence Science in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on March 19, 2017. KCNA/via Reuters

“The chief impediment to protecting our grid and our country from EMP is not technical — we know how to do it. We’ve known how to do it for 50 years,” Pry said, expressing frustration at skeptics of the EMP threat. “The chief impediment is political.”

He claimed that the power industry is sponsoring “junk science” and spreading “disinformation” to try and give false reassurances about the threat posed by an EMP.

Jacki Pick, another NCPA fellow, testified before the committee to “exhort the Texas legislature to take decisive action to protect and harden the Texas grid.”

“I spoke at length with congressman [Trent] Franks and other members [of Congress] before coming here today and they definitely wanted me to let everyone know that even if everything they’re doing at the federal level were successful, it is not sufficient to protect the Texas grid and Texas should act unilaterally,” Pick said.

Franks, a Republican from Arizona, has previously warned that Congress needs to take action to secure power grids from a potential EMP attack.

“The country of Iran has said as many as 22 times in a single publication that attacking the grid is their method of choice for attacking the U.S. if necessary,” Pick added. She noted that, in 2015, 23 congressmen sent a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, urging him to take action to secure the state’s electric power grid from an EMP attack in part because of the threat posed by Iran. House Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul was among the signees.

Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., testified in support the bill. “Your grid is vulnerable to physical attack in the form on sabotage, to cyber attack, to electromagnetic pulse attack, or through solar storms, intense solar storms, which will occur even if none of the others occur,” Gaffney told the committee.

In event of such an attack, Gaffney said, “the grid of Texas will go down, and it will stay down, perhaps for a very long time. The costs will be in the millions of citizens’ lives, and the economy of this state, of course, will be profoundly and perhaps permanently affected.”

Less than two weeks ago, former CIA director James Woolsey wrote an op-ed in The Hill warning that the nation as a whole is vulnerable to an EMP attack by North Korea, which he says could kill 90 percent of Americans.

“Two North Korean satellites, the KMS-3 and KMS-4, presently orbit over the U.S. on trajectories consistent with surprise EMP attack,” Woolsey said.

“Why do the press and public officials ignore or under-report these facts? Perhaps no administration wants to acknowledge that North Korea is an existential threat on their watch.”

Woolsey and several other national security experts penned another op-ed in National Review in February 2016 that said the Obama White House “has not recognized that a nuclear-armed North Korea has demonstrated an ability to kill most Americans with an electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) attack.”

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