12.22.2021 1

Biden Drops Ball on Electromagnetic Pulse Security

Just as President Biden is neglecting our physical southern border, he’s also neglecting our proverbial atmospheric and electromagnetic “borders.”  And our nation as a whole, regardless of political party registration or ideology, is less safe as a result.

By Christian D. Orr

Whether one loves former President Donald Trump, hates him, or is ambivalent, there is no disputing the fact that during his time in office, he did more to secure the United States from the threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack than any other POTUS.  If only Joe Biden would follow suit.

For the benefit of those readers not familiar with EMP, here’s an explanation in layman’s terms (courtesy of Dr. Michaela Dodge and her colleagues at the Heritage Foundation):

(1) a nuclear weapon is detonated at an altitude at an altitude of 25 miles or more above the Earth’s atmosphere, releasing a burst of gamma radiation;

(2) these gamma rays impact air molecules, stripping off electrons, and driving these negatively charged particles to approximately 90 percent the speed of light (at higher altitudes, the reduced air density enables the electrons to move more freely and maximize EMP intensity);

(3) the electrons are drawn by the Earth’s magnetic poles into a corkscrew pattern, unleashing enormous levels of electromagnetic radiation onto the Earth’s surface;

(4) the power grid, along with metal within electronic devices such as computers and radios, catch the full brunt of the EMP which runs roughshod through the tiny circuits, likely destroying or severely damaging them.

Given the dependency of the overwhelming majority of the American populace on the infrastructure of the national power grid (in other words, not counting those comparatively few “off-the-grid” survivalist types that tend to be derided by mainstream society as mere paranoid tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists), a successful EMP attack on the U.S. would have catastrophic results in terms of human lives lost and economic damage.  Moreover, near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China, not to mention rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, either (A) already have the means to launch an EMP attack on the U.S. or (B), are actively seeking to acquire such means, and moreover feature EMP attack in their war plans.

Taking this threat to heart, then-President Trump’s issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13865 on 26 March 2019, directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop quadrennial risk assessments of EMP and deliver the first risk assessment of the threat within the first year.  (The full text of E.O. 13865 is available from the Federal Register, Vol. 84, 29 March 2019).

So then, what have Joe Biden and his Cabinet done to follow up since he took over the Oval Office?

I directed this question via personal email correspondence to Dr. Peter Pry, who is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, former Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, and a former professional staff member of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA.  Dr. Pry’s response wasn’t exactly confidence-inspiring:

“Chris–Biden’s Sec of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, during confirmation hearings acknowledged the EMP threat and the necessity of protecting the national power grid.  Biden has continued Trump’s “Executive Order Coordinating National Resilience Against Electromagnetic Pulses” but suspended “Securing the United States Bulk Power System” so the U.S. continues importing EHV transformers from China, making the U.S. potentially more vulnerable to EMP and cyber-attacks.  The Infrastructure Bill has millions for additional studies on how to protect electric grids and other critical infrastructures from EMP, but not a penny to actually harden any of the critical infrastructures.  DOE, the recipient of this largess, because of its corrupt relationship with the electric utilities, has been the chief impediment to national EMP preparedness.  The money will line the wasted on EPRI and other non-expert “beltway bandits” who are friends of DOE, and do nothing to protect the U.S.”

To quote Clint Eastwood as San Francisco Police Department Inspector “Dirty Harry” Callahan, “Swell.”

In the spirit of bipartisan fairness & objectivity, it should be noted that Dr. Pry had expressed hope at the 2012 Dupont Summit about then-President Barack Obama’s re-election:

“President Obama’s Presidential Decision Directive 8 has, for the first time, led to the recognition, in the Strategic National Risk Assessment developed by direction of the White House, of natural EMP from a geomagnetic super-storm as one of the greatest threats for which the nation must prepare…..President Obama’s re-election could well be fortuitous for the cause of EMP preparedness.  President Obama already knows about the EMP threat, so he will not have to learn on the job.  His inherent skepticism about the claims of industry, and his greater trust in government expertise, would serve well the cause of EMP preparedness, in our struggle with industry lobbyists and the NERC.”

Yet somewhere along the way, President Obama dropped the proverbial EMP ball during his second term, leaving it to his successor to recover the fumble; while Mr. Obama did indeed acknowledge the potential threat of natural EMP threats, i.e. solar storms (such as the so-called Carrington Event of 1859, the notion of a manmade EMP attack was somehow overlooked.

And to continue with the American football analogy, now Mr. Obama’s former Vice President doesn’t seem to be terribly interested in fielding the lateral from Mr. Trump.  Just as he’s neglecting our physical southern border, he’s also neglecting our proverbial atmospheric and electromagnetic “borders.”  And our nation as a whole, regardless of political party registration or ideology, is less safe as a result.

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer and current Air Force contractor in Germany.  He recently completed his Masters in Intelligence Studies (concentration in Terrorism Studies) degree program at American Military University (AMU).  The views expressed herein are strictly his own and do not claim to represent the opinions of his current employer, the USAF, or AMU.

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