The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its review of the EMP threat from North Korea.
A Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency report, which concentrated on cyber attacks but could also apply to EMP, has noted that America’s electrical grid and associated control systems are vulnerable to various forms of attack. Since the late 1990’s…cost pressures have driven the integration of conventional information technologies into these independent industrial control systems, resulting in a grid that is increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attack, either through direct connection to the Internet or via direct interfaces to utility IT systems…”
A Daily Mail article warns that “North Korea could be preparing an EMP strike on the US with two satellites already orbiting above America [with] two…earth observation satellites, launched in 2012 and 2016…Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security in America, warned that North Korea is positioning its satellites in a ‘nuclear missile age, cyberage version’ of battleship diplomacy ‘so that they can always have one of them (satellites) very close to being over the United States or over the United States’. Pry, also chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, told Breitbart‘s Aaron Klein: ‘Then if a crisis comes up and if we decide to attack North Korea, Kim Jong Un can threaten our president and say, ‘Well, don’t do that because we are going to burn your whole country down.’ Which is basically what he said.
The Pew Trust notes that “Congress has commissioned reports and held hearings over the years on bills focused on protecting the grid from such catastrophic disturbances, but it hasn’t taken any action. So a number of state legislators have decided to file their own grid-related measures, and in some cases, the legislation has been adopted. ‘This is an area in which we are extremely vulnerable. It’s a real problem. What if the power doesn’t come back on?’ said Virginia Republican state Sen. Bryce Reeves, who sponsored a measure that passed last year mandating a legislative commission to study the issue and come up with ways to protect against such threats.”
While there have been numerous warnings and concerns, very little action has actually been taken. A General Accounting Office study notes: “Since 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have taken actions such as establishing industry standards and federal guidelines, and completing EMP-related research reports. GAO found that their actions aligned with some of the EMP Commission recommendations related to the electric grid. For example, DHS developed EMP protection guidelines to help federal agencies and industry identify options for safeguarding critical communication equipment and control systems from an EMP attack. Further, agency actions and EMP Commission recommendations generally align with DHS and DOE critical infrastructure responsibilities, such as assessing risks and identifying key assets…
“DHS has not identified internal roles and responsibilities for addressing electromagnetic risks, which has led to limited awareness of related activities within the department and reduced opportunity for coordination with external partners…Within DHS, there is recognition that space weather and power grid failure are significant risk events, which DHS officials have determined pose great risk to the security of the nation. Better collection of risk inputs, including additional leveraging of information available from stakeholders, could help to further inform DHS assessment of these risks. DHS and DOE also did not report taking any actions to identify critical electrical infrastructure assets, as called for in the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. Although FERC conducted a related effort in 2013, DHS and DOE were not involved and have unique knowledge and expertise that could be utilized to better ensure that key assets are adequately identified and all applicable elements of criticality are considered. Finally, DHS and DOE, in conjunction with industry, have not established a coordinated approach to identifying and implementing key risk management activities to address EMP risks.”
Recognition of the long-standing lack of action resulted in an Executive Order issued by President Trump four days after his inauguration, which provides an expedited process for “crucial infrastructure projects.” The Order specifically notes: “it is the policy of the executive branch to streamline and expedite, in a manner consistent with law, environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects, especially projects that are a high priority for the Nation, such as improving the U.S. electric grid…”