Saturday, December 26, 2015
Billy Long: We must protect ourselves against EMP attacks
Recent terrorist attacks around the globe have people on edge and have refocused national attention on how best to avoid another attack here in America. In recent weeks, Congress has taken steps to protect Americans from radical Islamists and others who would attempt to sneak into the U.S. through our immigration systems. I am proud of the measures we’ve taken but believe that we must also look at other threats to America as well, such as electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.
An EMP could come naturally in the form of a massive solar flare or from an attack caused by the detonation of a single nuclear weapon in the atmosphere over America. Either could black out our power centers and electrical grid for months or years. No matter the origin of the pulse, it would obviously be devastating to our way of life and military readiness. In a 2008 report by the Congressional EMP Commission, estimates showed that tens of millions of Americans could perish from starvation and societal breakdown following an EMP attack.
It is already known that nations like Russia and China already have the capability to launch an EMP attack. Less stable actors like North Korea and rogue states in the Middle East may not be far behind. If these types of nations were able to build this technology, it would increase the threat that the capability for such an attack could fall into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or other terrorist organizations.
The U.S. has become the world’s leading energy producer, but our pipelines and electric grid haven’t kept pace with the rapid transition. To protect against an EMP threat, energy and electric industries have some measures in place to protect critical assets against the threat of EMP attacks, which includes preparation, prevention, response, and recovery plans. Additionally, the Pentagon moved the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) communications center back into the EMP-resistant Cheyenne Mountain facility this past April to protect military operations from EMPs.
In Congress, we have taken steps to harden the electric grid and make it more resilient in the North American Security and Infrastructure Act, which passed the House earlier this month. This bill improves the transmission, distribution, and storage of energy to meet the modern challenges of a potential EMP attack, whether it happened on the ground or in the air. It also hardens our transformers and creates a Strategic Transformer Reserve to store large mobile transformers to quickly replace damage from an EMP attack.
Though these precautions are a step in the right direction, they aren’t enough to fully protect the American people from this threat. We need a total review and new approach to how America can best deter these threats. Going forward, I will continue to fight for better intelligence gathering, implementing clearer standards of how systems and equipment are tested, and the maintaining of periodic evaluations for the condition of central electric grid infrastructures.