The Mega Threat:
EMP Attack
By Frank Gaffney, author WAR FOOTING
Feb. 13, 2006

Introduction

There is reason to believe the Iranian regime is working toward a capability that could destroy America as we know it. A report to the Congress last year found a single nuclear weapon detonated in space high above the U.S. could unleash an immensely powerful electromagnetic pulse (EMP). An EMP wave would damage or destroy the electrical grid upon which our society utterly depends.

The Problem

A massive current of EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) could be unleashed with catastrophic effect on the United States if a nuclear weapon is detonated high above the earth's atmosphere. The energy of this pulse would interact with the Earth's magnetic field, affecting - and possibly destroying - every piece of unshielded electronic gear and power grids in line-of-sight of the detonation, all at the speed of light.

What is more, the higher the altitude of the weapon's detonation, the larger the affected area would be. At a height of 300 miles, the entire continental United States would be exposed to EMP attack, along with parts of Canada and Mexico.

As a result, America could be transformed from a 21st Century superpower into a pre-industrial society almost instantaneously.

This sounds unbelievable. But a blue-ribbon commission created by Congress confirmed this danger in a report submitted in August 2004. Thanks to the almost unimaginable power of an EMP wave unleashed by a properly configured nuclear weapon - approximately a million times as strong as the most powerful radio signals on earth - the devastation caused could make the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina look modest by comparison.

Given the magnitude of the danger it is astonishing that EMP is hardly ever mentioned when threats to this country from Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) are discussed. This might be considered the ultimate WMD - yet practically the only people aware of its potential for harm are our enemies.

In fact, the congressionally chartered commission discovered that knowledge about EMP is widespread in such places as: China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia. Several of these nations, and perhaps terrorists that they sponsor, could launch a nuclear-capable ballistic missile from a ship - the sort of attack that poses an especially grave threat to the United States.

What Needs To Be Done

EMP attack poses a clear and present danger to our national security, our technological society, and our democratic and cosmopolitan way of life. The EMP Threat Commission has presented a blueprint for protecting both US military forces and the United States homeland from EMP attack.

The Commission's plan includes three focused efforts.

1. Deter EMP attacks. Make it difficult and dangerous to acquire the materials to make nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. This will require:

* vastly improved intelligence
* the capacity to perform clandestine operations, throughout the world
* assured means of retaliation in the event of attack

2. Defeat EMP attacks.

* Protect critical military capabilities and civilian infrastructure from EMP effects. We must re-build our neglected scientific and technical base for conducting EMP tests of military and civilian equipment.
* Deploy a comprehensive defense against ballistic missile delivery systems.We know that a catastrophic EMP attack can be mounted only by putting a nuclear weapon into space over the United States - using a ballistic missile.
* Enhance the capability of existing defenses. We need widely to deploy anti-missile defenses on the Navy's fleet of more than sixty AEGIS air defense ships.

3. Reduce our vulnerability to EMP attacks. We must prepare for the consequences of an EMP attack, in the event that deterrence and protection fail. The EMP Commission plan provides detailed recommendations for protecting the nation's critical infrastructures, in four key areas:

* Electric power grid
* Telecommunications
* Transportation
* Food and Water

This will require close collaboration between government at all levels and the private sector. We must also ensure that we have, on-hand and properly protected, the equipment and parts needed to repair EMP-damaged systems.

4. Extend the life of the EMP Commission for four years. The Commission's report has so far received little serious attention - from the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, the Congress, or the media. With a renewed mandate and public and official support, the Commission can play a vital role in overseeing the implementation of the required corrective actions.

View video about the EMP threat

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About the Author
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the founder and President of the Center for Security Policy, established in Washington, D.C., in 1988. Mr.Gaffney acted as the assistant secretary of defense for international security policy under President Reagan. In that capacity, he served as chairman of the High Level Group of NATO. He also served as a professional staff member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee under its then-chairman, John Tower, and as an aide to Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson. Mr. Gaffney is a weekly contributor to the Washington Times and numerous online publications. Mr. Gaffney holds a B.S. in foreign service from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and an M.A. in international studies from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Ed. Note: The United States' 1962 nuclear test code-named "Starfish" involved a high-altitude atmospheric detonation. Its unexpected electromagnetic pulse effects caused disruptions in electrical systems and equipment in Honolulu 700 miles away. (Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the US from EMP Attack)

Contributors: Reps. Curt Weldon and Roscoe Bartlett


DISCLAIMER: All of the provided information is believed to be accurate, however errors are possible. The opinions in the Commentary section do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Swiss America. Past performance of any investment is no guarantee of future performance. All investments have risk.

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