In a presentation to Congress in 1997, George W. Ullrich (deputy director of the Defense Special Weapons Agency) pointed out many issues regarding EMP (electromagnetic pulse) and HEMP (high-altitude electromagnetic pulse) weaponry.
In addition to discussing the potential damages an EMP bomb could wreak on the U.S., he stated:
0EMP protection is also affordable. If accomplished during the design phase, the cost of EMP protection is a small fraction – 1 percent to 5 percent – of overall system development costs. Done after the fact when the unprotected system has already been fielded, it can be significantly more expensive.
This leads to the question of whether or not corporate assets like call centers and data centers are adequately protected against this type of threat.
What about the utilities and companies providing infrastructure? Do municipalities safeguard their 911 centers or fresh water and wastewater treatment plants? Have many organizations even considered implementing any safeguards against an EMP threat? These are all questions that raise concern.
Should Homeland Security Require Testing?
After the dismal government response in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, you wonder how prepared all levels of government are in responding to a widespread crisis. In the case of an EMP attack, it is not a matter of who will be left standing. It is a matter of who will still have power to conduct business along with the operation of government.
This includes keeping the critical electronics that control emergency services, water purification and other services up and running so society doesn’t deteriorate into roving bands of individuals scavenging for food and water. This comes from a Christian Science Monitorarticle:
While U.S. military standards often require electronic components to be protected against an EMP, commercial standards do not. While our power grid is shielded against things such as lightning strikes, it is not tested for protection against an EMP.
Upgrading to shield against an EMP would entail using more robust shielding materials especially for the cords, cables and/or wires that connect devices to external entities. Cables and wires act as antennas through which an EMP travels directly into a device.
The only way to know the extent to which an EMP would knock out electronics is to conduct testing with EMP simulators. Since the end of the cold war, most EMP simulators in the U.S. have been closed, according to Radasky.
The few that remain open are for military use [rather than] civilian use. Businesses and government agencies should install EMP protection at the system level. This also would provide protection against other electromagnetic disturbances such as lightning.
One positive development is the increasing use of fiber-optic cables. Most of them do not contain metal and they are invulnerable to an EMP, according to Radasky. The more common they become, the less exposed systems are to an EMP.
No Significant Launch Mechanism is Required
An EMP bomb is an explosive weapon that is shot into the atmosphere and exploded 100 miles above the earth. This creates an electromagnetic pulse that fries any unprotected electronics device and/or power grid within a large geographic area.
An EMP was used in the film “Ocean’s Eleven” and a “fire sale” – different from the desperate selling of a company – in the new film “Live Free or Die Hard” explores a similar outcome following a three-stage computer attack on the U.S.
It does not require a sophisticated GPS guidance system or an on-board navigation system. It just needs to be shot up and exploded into the general vicinity of people. This creates an umbrella effect of chaos that could stretch miles and miles in diameter.
In 2005, Joseph Farah stated:
The EMP threat is not a new one considered by U.S. defense planners. The Soviet Union had experimented with the idea as a kind of super weapon against the U.S.
“What is different now is that some potential sources of EMP threats are difficult to deter. They can be terrorist groups that have no state identity, have only one or a few weapons and are motivated to attack the U.S. without regard for their own safety,” a commission report [stated].
“Rogue states – such as North Korea and Iran – may also be developing the capability to pose an EMP threat to the U.S. [They] may be unpredictable and difficult to deter.”
[There is a] potential “cascading effect” of an EMP attack. If electrical power is knocked out and circuit boards fried, telecommunications are disrupted, energy deliveries are impeded, the financial system breaks down and food, water and gasoline become scarce.
That rapid breakdown of social order is very important to understand.
It would not be too big a stretch of the imagination to envision the breakdown of society into something like in the movie “Mad Max” where people are fighting for basic necessities. That may sound very improbable to those who don’t think society would quickly break down in the event of a major disaster.
For those who have their proverbial head in the sand, just look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Anyone thinking the local and state government is really going to protect you with a rapid response is sadly mistaken. Protection from an EMP attack should be on any mission-critical application in both the public and private sector so there is the possibility for some type of response.
Carlinism: Some weapons need pinpoint accuracy to be effective. An EMP just needs to be aimed at a general vicinity to be effective.