A new report from the U.S. Air Force Electromagnetic Defense Task Force (EDTF) calls upon the White House to take bold and immediate action to protect the nation’s electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructure from electromagnetic threats. According to the group’s report, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and other electromagnetic threats pose an unprecedented threat to U.S. military power and national survival.
Alarmed by the lack of progress being made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Federal Energy Reliability Commission (FERC), and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the U.S. Air Force launched the EDTF at a Washington-area summit in August that brought together 135 leading experts, strategists and scholars representing the Department of Defense organizations, NATO, academia and the private sector.
The EDTF’s report examined threats individually and in combination from across the electromagnetic spectrum, including nuclear and non-nuclear EMP, geomagnetic disturbance (GMD), lasers and optics, directed energy (DE) and high-power microwaves (HPM), along with management of these threats.
In developing the report, the EDTF conducted more than 2,000 hours of seminars, workshops, and wargames to evaluate and develop “actionable steps for rapid implementation at all levels of society and government.”
Some highlights of the EDTF report:
- Protracted blackout of the electric grid could cause U.S. nuclear reactors to “go Fukushima” and contaminate vast regions with radioactivity, crippling U.S. capabilities to mobilize and project military power and threatening the lives of the American people.
- U.S. military bases depend upon the civilian power grid and would be paralyzed by a protracted blackout.
- Communications, transportation, food and water that sustain both the U.S. military and the civilian population are all at risk to electromagnetic threats.
- “Based on the totality of available data, the Task Force contends the second- and third-order effects of an EMS [Electro-Magnetic Spectrum] attack may be a threat to the United States, democracy, and the world order.”
“The time for research is running out,” Ambassador R. James Woolsey, former director of CIA, declared at the August EDTF summit. “It’s time for bold action.”
Woolsey is one of the EDTF Report’s co-authors, along with USAF Major David Stuckenberg and Colonel Douglas DeMaio. Published by the USAF Air University, LeMay Center for Doctrine, Development and Education at Maxwell AFB, the report is also endorsed by Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, Commander of the Air Education and Training Command, and Major Gen. Michael Rothstein, Commander of Maxwell AFB.
The Electromagnetic Defense Task Force Report “seeks to inspire action based on an array of research spanning more than six decades. Such actions and exploits are needed to immediately deepen the defense of the United States and its allies.”
The EDTF report warns that the U.S. government and Defense Department may be blindsided by the biggest and most important threat by failing to give highest priority to EMP and other electromagnetic threats: “The EMS [Electro-Magnetic Spectrum] may be described as a ‘super domain.’ While the only internationally recognized domains are land, sea, air, space, and cyber, electromagnetic activities operate in and through all domains regulating the most critical functions therein. EMS is arguably the one domain that can rule them all.”
Moreover: “EMS is life-support to the day-to-day function and continuity of military, government, and commercial operations.”
The report notes the salience of nuclear EMP attack and natural EMP from solar storms in their threat assessment: “EMS threats that have existed since the 1960s and earlier, such as nuclear EMP and geomagnetic storms, have regained prominence. The salience of these threats has returned due to several factors, including (1) near-universal integration of electromagnetically sensitive silca-based technology into most modern hardware, (2) adversaries increased understanding of how to exploit critical vulnerabilities, (3) institutional knowledge atrophy due to retirement or transition of personnel who conducted nuclear and EMP testing, and (4) the emergence of novel technologies, many of them poorly understood.”
Very significantly, the report warned that deterrence may not work against a nuclear EMP attack, as such attacks can be performed anonymously, by a missile launched off a freighter or by satellite: “In a Western society governed by law and international standards, attribution is essential to viable deterrence. The party deterring must have the ability to identify an actor and justifiably hold an actor at risk.”
The U.S. Air Force EDTF Report is among several major official reports in recent memory — including from the Congressional EMP Commission and the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council — warning that high priority must be given to protecting the national electric grid and critical infrastructures from nuclear and natural EMP and other threats.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry served as chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee and at the CIA.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.