Monthly Archives: October 2017

U.S. Economy’s Dramatic Improvement

How has the economic outlook changed since the election?

For the bulk of the Obama presidency, a supportive media produced a consistent stream of highly questionable good news.  It was said that, following the ravages of the Great Recession, the unemployment numbers were improving.  Upon closer inspection, the truth was far, far less optimistic.  A combination of a historically dismal labor participation rate, along with the replacement of full-time, benefits-paying positions with low-paying, part time jobs providing no benefits artificially made it seem as though the labor market was doing better than it actually was. Median hourly pay rose only  7% over seven years. Those fortunate enough to actually have jobs received practically no wage increases.  It was said that inflation was low, but any trip to the supermarket contradicted that claim.  (It didn’t, however, prevent the Social Security Administration from using that as an excuse to deprive seniors of cost of living increases.) Taxes remained high, and health care premiums rose, making the squeeze on middle-income Americans dire. Non-housing debt increased.

Reuters reported in 2015 that “families in the middle fifth of the income scale now earn less and their net worth is lower than when Obama took office…the middle, the economy has shed positions – whether in traditional trades like machining or electrical work, white-collar jobs in human resources, or technical ones like computer operators.”

The decline of the middle class under Obama cannot be pinned on the Recession.  The poorly thought-out provisions of Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) actually served to encourage employers to shed full time positions in favor of part time replacements. Key middle class jobs in the energy and defense sectors were quite openly attacked. The continuation of high tax rates and onerous regulations discouraged employment growth. While vast swaths of the economy were hit with interference from Washington, the explosive growth of tuition in colleges, institutions that were overtly supportive of the Obama Administration, were allowed to continue unaddressed. Regulations made many products too prohibitively expensive to manufacture in America, and were replaced by foreign made goods. According to the financial site Seeking Alpha “The homeownership rate in 2016 was the lowest in 50 years.”

With just ten months into the new Trump Administration, (and following  the effects of three deadly hurricanes) it may be too early to make any definitive statements on how the economy will change.  However, both significant policy changes as well as some early statistics indicate that a period of growth and, particularly for the middle class, improvement in economic fortunes, is occurring.

In August, after the first complete fiscal quarter under the new White House, it was reported that economic growth reached 3%. CNN Money  has reported that in the The U.S. economy picked up steam during the second quarter…During the first full quarter with President Trump in charge, economic growth hit 3%, according to revised estimates released by the government on Wednesday.” This follows the reality that, during the entire 8 years of the Obama presidency, the U.S. economy never hit an annual growth rate of 3%, despite the expected “bounce” that generally follows a recession.

The Washington Times reports that “the U.S. economy is booming faster than any time since the late [1990s] It is undeniable. And the pace of improvement is quickening. In the last year of the Obama administration, the economy was decelerating with a dismal 1.6 percent growth rate. The economy revved up to a three percent growth rate in the April-June 2nd quarter this year…It’s easy to read too much into short term trends and, yes, they can turn on a dime. But the new bounce in the step of the economy is confirmed by many other indicators, almost all of which point straight north.The Dow Jones industrial average is up over 3,000 points (starting with the 700 point rally the day after the election) and the net wealth of Americans — mostly through their pension funds — has increased by more than $4 trillion.In August the University of Michigan, which tracks consumer sentiment, reported that confidence soared to near its highest level in at least a decade. Other surveys by the NFIB and the National Association of Manufacturers find that confidence for their members is hovering at near record highs.”

Adding to the optimism are reports that the U.S. economy has added over a million jobs in 2017.

Wayne Allen Root, writing for Townhall, reports that “The DOW has risen almost 25% since Election Day. That’s an increase of over 4,300 points in about 11 months. That’s the biggest increase in that period of time in the history of the stock market. The S&P 500 has passed $20 trillion in value for the first time in history. President Trump is also the only President in history to oversee two nine-day or longer stock rallies (where new highs are reached each day). Included in that record is the 12-day rally ending on February 28th– matching the all-time record set by President Reagan in 1987. Since the election of President Trump, the stock market has hit 63 closing highs, with 46 since Trump’s inauguration. On the other hand, Obama had exactly -0- stock market highs in his first four years in office. In total President Trump has added over $5 trillion to the U.S. economy since his election. GDP is hard evidence of how ‘mom and pop’ are doing on Main Street. Under Obama, America suffered the eight worst consecutive GDP years in history. Obama’s eight-year GDP average was 1.3%- the exact same GDP number as the period of the Great Depression. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. GDP has now been adjusted to a remarkable 3.1% growth in the second quarter (Trump’s first full quarter as president). That’s almost THREE TIMES HIGHER than Obama’s average GDP over his two terms. That grew our total U.S. GDP to almost $20 trillion- the highest GDP in history…According to the Bureau of Labor Household Survey, the number of employed Americans increased by an amazing 906,000 for the month of September. But that’s not even the highlight. Remember that almost every single job created in eight years under Obama was a crappy, low-wage, part-time job. Well under President Trump last month, full-time jobs (the kind we all want and need) increased by 935,000- the most in one month in the 21st century.”

U.S. Role in Africa

The recent loss of four American soldiers in Niger, (Staff Sergeants La David Johnson, Dustin Wright, Bryan Black, and Jeremiah Johnson) killed during an attack by approximately fifty Islamic extremists has focused attention to the presence of the U.S. military in Africa.  However, the Pentagon has been in the region for about 20 years, working with both local governments and, in some cases, French forces. The website Task and Purpose quotes  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford’s description of American involvement as “A patchwork of ‘advise and assist’ missions…not just to fight terror groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, but to prevent them from ever emerging in the first place.”

The BBC  notes that “Islamist militant groups are active across the northern half of Africa – from Mauritania in the west to Somalia in the east – with Western countries, especially France and the US working with local security forces to counter them.”

The U.S. role has been largely that of training African troops to respond to the several different extremist groups active in the region. These include:

Al-Shabab, a Somali Jihadist organization that has  allied  with  al-Qaeda;

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an organization that had pledged loyalty to Osama Bin Laden in 2005, has been active throughout North Africa;

El-Mourabitoun, which has conducted attacks in Niger, Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and possibly Libya;.

Boko Haram (the BBC notes that the name can be translated as “Western education is forbidden.”) which gained notoriety from its kidnapping activities. It is active largely in northern Nigeria; and

Ansar al-Sharia, an extremist group largely concentrated in Tunisia.

The DW website found that extremists are “increasingly shaping the image of Islam in Africa.”

The “achievements” of each of these groups have provided uneven result. Africa Center  summarizes their recent progress:

  • Fatalities linked to Boko Haram dropped by 70 percent between 2015 and 2016 (from 11,519 to 3,499). This has led to a decline in the total number of fatalities related to militant Islamist groups in Africa, reversing 4 years of accelerating violence.
  • Al Shabaab grew more lethal in 2016, with fatalities increasing by a third—from 3,046 in 2015 to 4,281 in 2016. Al Shabaab has now surpassed Boko Haram as Africa’s most deadly militant Islamist group (in terms of fatalities on all sides associated with each group).
  • Sahelian militant groups formerly associated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have demonstrated increased organizational capacity by establishing locally based affiliates in Mali and Burkina Faso. They have also created a unified front under one al Qaeda banner, Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM).
  • The Islamic State’s self-declared African provinces in Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya have made only limited progress in rooting themselves in local communities.

A relatively undiscussed result of the rise of Islamic extremism in Africa has been increased persecution of Christians. A World Watch Monitor study found that “Islamic oppression remains the most common cause of pressure against Christians and it is rising most sharply in Africa, where more people are killed for their Christian faith than anywhere else in the world.  As extremist Islam spreads across Africa westwards from Somalia, almost every country from Kenya upwards is affected. An increasingly common form of religious persecution is the deliberate sabotage of homes, churches and villages by extremists aiming to eradicate Christianity from a particular area. This is widely seen in northern Nigeria, Syria and Iraq where, after people have been driven out, homes have been ransacked, churches destroyed and village water sources poisoned. In Nigeria, cattle are deliberately stolen and crops burned, which makes returning home all but impossible unless significant aid and investment is pumped into the area of need. In addition, frequent so called ‘lone-wolf’ attacks by extremists make those equipped to effect change, and to rebuild, fearful for their safety and the safety of their families.”

New Report Highlights Excess Regulations

Ten Thousand Commandment is the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) annual survey of the size, scope, and cost of federal regulations, and how the U.S. regulatory burden affects American consumers, businesses, and the economy. it exposes the large and growing “hidden tax” of America’s regulatory state.

The 2017 report reveals:

  • regulatory compliance and economic impacts of federal inter­vention costs $1.9 trillion annually.
  • Washington agencies spent $63 billion in fiscal year 2016 to administer the federal regulatory state. Adding the $1.9 trillion in off-budget compliance costs brings the total reckoned regulatory enterprise to about $1.963 trillion.
  • If U.S. regulation was a country, it would be the world’s seventh-largest economy, ranking behind India and ahead of Italy.
  • The estimated cost of regulation is equivalent to half the level of federal spending, which was $3.854 trillion in 2016.
  • Regulatory costs of $1.9 trillion amount to 10 percent of the U.S. gross domes­tic product, which was estimated at $18.861 trillion in 2016 by the Com­merce Department’s Bureau of Eco­nomic Analysis.
  • When regulatory costs are combined with federal FY 2016 outlays of $3.854 trillion, the federal government’s share of the entire economy reaches 30 percent (not including state and local spending and regulation).
  • During calendar year 2016, Congress enacted 214 laws, whereas agencies issued 3,853 rules. Thus, 18 rules were issued for every law enacted. This “Unconstitutionality Index”—the ratio of regulations issued by agencies to laws passed by Congress and signed by the president—highlights the delegation of lawmaking power to unelected agency officials. The average for the past decade has been 27.
  • If one assumes that all costs of federal regulation and intervention flowed all the way down to households, U.S. households would “pay” $14,809 annu­ally on average in a regulatory hidden tax. That amounts to 21 percent of the average income of $69,629 and 26.45 percent of the expenditure budget of $55,978. The “tax” exceeds every item in the budget except housing. More is “spent” on embedded regulation than on health care, food, transportation, enter­tainment, and apparel.
  • Of the 3,318 regulations in the pipeline, 193 are “economically significant” rules, which the federal government defines as having annual effects on the economy of $100 million or more.
  • The five most active rulemaking entities—the Departments of the Treasury, the Interior, Transportation, Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency—account for 1,428 rules, or 43 percent of all federal regulations under consideration.
  • Public notices in the Federal Register normally exceed 24,000 annually, with uncounted guidance documents and other proclamations with potential regu­latory effect among them. There were 24,557 notices in 2016. There have been 550,489 public notices since 1994 and well over a million since the 1970s.
  • The 2016 Federal Register contains 95,894 pages, the highest level in its history and 19 percent higher than the previous year’s 80,260 pages.
  • Last year, the Obama administration averaged 86 “major” rules, a 36 percent higher average annual output than that of President George W. Bush. President Obama issued 685 major rules during his term, compared with Bush’s 505.

So far, according to CEI, President Trump has reduced the Federal Register by 32 percent.

According to the American Action Forum, (AAF)  “through the end of August, the Administration had made significant progress under President Trump’s Executive Order (EO) 13,771 establishing a ‘one-in, two-out’ regulatory program.”

The Economist reports, “The straightforward motivation for Republicans’ deregulatory agenda is their disdain for President Barack Obama’s legacy, much of which was installed through regulatory fiat. The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, required bureaucrats to write thousands of pages of new rules; the Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill did the same. When legislation was not forthcoming, the executive branch threw its weight around instead. It asserted that the Clean Air Act gave it wide-ranging powers to fight climate change, and that the Clean Water Act let it clean up many more ponds and rivers than ever before. It expanded mandatory overtime pay for workers on low salaries. It banned telecom firms from favouring any one type of internet traffic. And its ‘fiduciary rule’, set to come into force in April, will force investment advisers to act in the best interests of their clients. Republicans hate all this, saying Mr. Obama’s fondness for red tape has crushed the economy. His regulations were, on the whole, bigger and bolder than what had come before…Sometimes they rested on uncertain legal ground.”

DHS, FBI Issue Cyber Attack Alert

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI haves issued an alert  on a threat involving an “advanced persistent threat (APT)…targeting government entities and organizations in the energy, nuclear, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors. Working with U.S. and international partners, DHS and FBI identified victims in these sectors. “

According to DHS, the threat involves “a multi-stage intrusion campaign by threat actors targeting low security and small networks to gain access and move laterally to networks of major, high value asset owners within the energy sector. Based on malware analysis … DHS has confidence that this campaign is still ongoing, and threat actors are actively pursuing their ultimate objectives over a long-term campaign.”

The alert reports that since at least May 2017, threat actors have targeted government entities and the energy, water, aviation, nuclear, and critical manufacturing sectors, and, in some cases, have leveraged their capabilities to compromise victims’ networks. Historically, cyber threat actors have targeted the energy sector with various results, ranging from cyber espionage to the ability to disrupt energy systems in the event of a hostile conflict. Historically, threat actors have also targeted other critical infrastructure sectors with similar campaigns.”

The analysis identifies distinct indicators and behaviors related to this activity.

This campaign comprises two distinct categories of victims: staging and intended targets. The initial victims are peripheral organizations such as trusted third party (TTPs) suppliers with less secure networks. The threat actor uses the staging targets’ networks as pivot points and malware repositories when targeting their final intended victims. The ultimate objective of the cyber threat actors is to compromise organizational networks, which are referred throughout this alert as “intended target.”

The threat actors in this campaign employed a variety of third parties, including:

  • open-source reconnaissance,
  • spear-phishing emails (from compromised legitimate accounts),
  • watering-hole domains,
  • host-based exploitation,
  • industrial control system (ICS) infrastructure targeting, and
  • ongoing credential gathering.

Writing for the website InfoSecurity, Tara Seals reports that “Industrial control systems (ICS) and critical infrastructure are common targets for cybercrime, with almost 40% of them facing a cyber-attack at some point in the second half of last year. According to Kaspersky Lab ICS research, the percentage of industrial computers under attack grew from 17% in July 2016 to more than 24% in December 2016. Every fourth targeted-attack detected by Kaspersky Lab in 2016 was aimed at industrial targets. The top three sources of infection were the internet, removable storage devices, and malicious email attachments and scripts embedded in the body of emails.”

The threat has been escalating for several years. Forbes’ Michael Assante disclosed in 2014 that “America’s critical infrastructure—the utilities, refineries, military defense systems, water treatment plants and other facilities on which we depend every day—has become its soft underbelly, the place where we are now most vulnerable to attack. Over the past 25 years, hundreds of thousands of analog controls in these facilities have been replaced with digital systems. Digital controls provide facility operators and managers with remote visibility and control over every aspect of their operations, including the flows and pressures in refineries, the generation and transmission of power in the electrical grid, and the temperatures in nuclear cooling towers. In doing so, they have made industrial facilities more efficient and more productive. But the same connectivity that managers use to collect data and control devices allows cyber attackers to get into control system networks to steal sensitive information, disrupt processes, and cause damage to equipment. Hackers, including those in China, Russia and the Middle East, have taken notice. While early control system breaches were random, accidental infections, industrial control systems today have become the object of targeted attacks by skilled and persistent adversaries.”

America faces Imminent, Major Threat from an EMP Attack, Part 3

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its presentation of key excerpts from the explosive testimony to Congress about the imminent threat of an EMP attack on the United States by Dr. William R. Graham, Chairman, and Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, chief of staff,  of the Commission to Assess the Threat to America from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)

In the event of a nuclear EMP attack on the United States, a widespread protracted blackout is inevitable.

Even if North Korea has only primitive, low-yield nuclear weapons, and likewise if other states or terrorists acquire one or a few such weapons, and the capability to detonate them at 30 kilometers or higher-altitude over the United States, as the EMP Commission warned over a decade ago in its 2004 Report: “The damage level could be sufficient to be catastrophic to the Nation, and our current vulnerability invites attack.”

What Is To Be Done?

We recommend establishing an Executive Agent – a Cabinet Secretary designated by the President – with the authority, accountability, and resources, to manage U.S. national infrastructure protection and defense against EMP and the other existential threats described above. Current institutional authorities and responsibilities–government, industry, regulatory agencies—are fragmented, incomplete, and unable to protect and defend against foreign hostile EMP threats or solar super-storms.

We encourage the President to work with Congressional leaders to stand-up an ad hoc Joint Presidential-Congressional Commission, with its members charged with supporting the Nation’s leadership and providing expertise, experience, and oversight to achieve, on an accelerated basis, the protection of critical national infrastructures. The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) have for nearly a decade been unable or unwilling to implement the EMP Commission’s recommendations. A Presidential-Congressional Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection could engage the Free World’s preeminent experts on EMP and Combined-Arms Cyber Warfare to serve the entire Government in a manner akin to the Atomic Energy Commission of the 1947-74 period, advising the Administration’s actions to attain most quickly and most cost-effectively the protection essential to long-term national survival and wellbeing. The United States should not remain in our current state of fatal vulnerability to well-known natural and man-made threats.

We highly commend President Trump’s new Executive Order “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure” signed on May 11, 2017. We strongly recommend that implementation of cybersecurity for the electric grid and other critical infrastructures include EMP protection, since all-out cyber warfare as planned by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran includes nuclear EMP attack. However, current institutional arrangements for protecting and improving the reliability of the electric grids and other critical infrastructures through the U.S. FERC and the NERC are not designed to address major national security threats to the electric power grids and other national critical infrastructures. Using FERC and NERC to achieve this level of national security is beyond the purpose for which those organizations were created and has proven to be fundamentally unworkable. New institutional arrangements are needed to advance preparedness to survive EMP and related threats to our critical national infrastructures.

We recommend that U.S. military forces and critical national infrastructures be protected from EMP as outlined in the EMP Commission’s classified reports and unclassified reports provided in 2004 and 2008. EMP protection of military systems and civilian/military critical national infrastructures can be achieved cost-effectively by a combination of operational procedures and physical hardening. It is not necessary to harden everything. Selective hardening of key critical nodes and equipment will suffice. Threat parameters are 200 kilovolts/meter for E1 EMP and 85 volts/kilometer for E3 EMP. Critical national infrastructures are already adequately protected from E2 EMP, equivalent to lightning.

We recommend, given the proximity and enormity of the threat from EMP and CombinedArms Cyber Warfare, the President exercise leadership to implement immediate, midterm, and long-term steps to deter and defeat this existential threat:

Immediately:

We recommend that the President declare that EMP or cyber-attacks that blackout or threaten to blackout the national electric grid constitute the use of weapons of mass destruction that justify preemptive and retaliatory responses by the United States using all possible means, including nuclear weapons. Some potential adversaries have the capability to produce a protracted nationwide blackout induced by EMP or Combined-Arms Cyber Warfare by the use of nuclear or non-nuclear means. A Defense Science Board study Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat (January 2013) equates an all-out cyber-attack on the United States with the consequences of a nuclear attack, and concludes that a nuclear response is justified to deter or retaliate for cyber warfare that threatens the life of the nation: “While the manifestation of a nuclear and cyber-attack are very different, in the end, the existential impact to the United States is the same.”

We recommend that the President issue an Executive Order, provided to the previous White House, titled “Protecting the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)”. Among many other provisions to protect the nation from EMP on an emergency basis, the Executive Order would instantly mobilize a much needed “whole of government solution” to the EMP and combined-arms cyber threat: “All U.S. Government Departments, Agencies, Offices, Councils, Boards, Commissions and other U.S. Government entities…shall take full and complete account of the EMP threat in forming policies and plans to protect United States critical infrastructures…” Protecting the electric grids and other critical infrastructures from the worst threat—nuclear EMP attack—can, if carried out in a system-wide, integrated approach, help mitigate all lesser threats, including natural EMP, man-made non-nuclear EMP, cyberattack, physical sabotage, and severe terrestrial weather.

We recommend that the President direct the Secretary of Defense to include a Limited Nuclear Option for EMP attack among the U.S. nuclear strike plans, and immediately make targeting and fusing adjustments to some of the nuclear forces needed to implement a nuclear EMP attack capability.

We recommend that the President direct the Secretary of Defense to use national technical means to ascertain if there is a nuclear weapon aboard North Korea’s KMS-3 or KMS-4 satellites that orbit over the United States. If either or both of these satellites are nucleararmed, they should be intercepted and destroyed over a broad ocean area where an EMP resulting from salvage-fusing will do the least damage to humanity.

We recommend that the President direct the Secretary of Defense to post Aegis ships in the Gulf of Mexico and near the east and west coasts, to search for and be prepared to intercept missiles launched from freighters, submarines, or other platforms that might make a nuclear EMP attack on the United States. U.S. National Missile Defenses (NMD) are primarily located in Alaska and California and oriented for a missile attack coming at the U.S. from the north, and are not deployed to intercept a short-warning missile attack launched near the U.S. coasts.

We recommend that the President direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to harden the FirstNet emergency communications system against EMP.

We recommend that the President initiate training, evaluating, and “Red Teaming” efforts to protect the U.S. and in the event of an EMP attack to respond, and periodically report the results of these efforts to the Congress.

Mid-Term:

We recommend that the President direct the Secretary of Defense to deploy Aegis-ashore missile interceptors along the Gulf of Mexico coast to plug the hole in U.S. missile defenses. The U.S. has no Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radars or missile interceptors facing south, and is largely blind and defenseless from that direction, including to missiles launched from submarines or off ships, or from a nuclear-armed satellite orbiting on a south polar trajectory.

We recommend that the President direct the Secretary of Defense to develop a spacesurveillance program to detect if any satellites orbited over the United States are nucleararmed, and develop space-interception capabilities to defend against nuclear-armed satellites that might make an EMP attack.

We recommend that the President direct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to launch a crash program to harden the over 100 nuclear power reactors and their spent fuel storage facilities against nuclear EMP attack. Nuclear power reactors typically only have enough emergency power to cool reactor cores and spent fuel rods for a few days, after which they would “go Fukushima” spreading radioactivity over much of the United States.

Long-Term:

We recommend that the President through his Executive Agent protect elements of the national electric grids, the keystone critical infrastructure upon which all other critical infrastructures depend. Priority should be given to elements that are difficult and timeconsuming to replace. Such elements can be protected from EMP at very low cost relative to the costs of an EMP catastrophe, and paid for without federal dollars by a slight increase in user electric rates. We recommend that a similar approach be taken to key elements of the national telecommunications infrastructure and other national critical infrastructures.

We recommend the development and deployment of enhanced-EMP nuclear weapons and other means to deter adversary attack on the United States. Enhanced-EMP nuclear weapons, called by the Russians Super-EMP weapons, can be developed without nuclear testing.

We recommend strengthening U.S. ballistic missile defenses—including deployment of space-based defenses considered by the Strategic Defense Initiative— and that these be designed and postured to also protect the U.S. from EMP attack.

America faces Imminent, Major Threat from an EMP Attack Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government continues its presentation of key excerpts from the explosive testimony to Congress about the imminent threat of an EMP attack on the United States by Dr. William R. Graham, Chairman, and Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, chief of staff,  of the Commission to Assess the Threat to America from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)

EMP Threat From Satellites

While most analysts are fixated on when in the future North Korea will develop highly reliable intercontinental missiles, guidance systems, and reentry vehicles capable of striking a U.S. city, the threat here and now from EMP is largely ignored. EMP attack does not require an accurate guidance system because the area of effect, having a radius of hundreds or thousands of kilometers, is so large. No reentry vehicle is needed because the warhead is detonated at high altitude, above the atmosphere. Missile reliability matters little because only one missile has to work to make an EMP attack against an entire nation. North Korea could make an EMP attack against the United States by launching a short-range missile off a freighter or submarine or by lofting a warhead to 30 kilometers burst height by balloon. While such lower-altitude EMP attacks would not cover the whole U.S. mainland, as would an attack at higher-altitude (300 kilometers), even a balloon-lofted warhead detonated at 30 kilometers altitude could blackout the Eastern Electric Power Grid that supports most of the population and generates 75 percent of U.S. electricity. Or an EMP attack might be made by a North Korean satellite, right now.

A Super-EMP weapon could be relatively small and lightweight, and could fit inside North Korea’s Kwangmyongsong-3 (KMS-3) and Kwangmyongsong-4 (KMS-4) satellites. These two satellites presently orbit over the United States, and over every other nation on Earth– demonstrating, or posing, a potential EMP threat against the entire world.

North Korea’s KMS-3 and KMS-4 satellites were launched to the south on polar trajectories and passed over the United States on their first orbit. Pyongyang launched KMS-4 on February 7, 2017, shortly after its fourth illegal nuclear test on January 6, that began the present protracted nuclear crisis with North Korea.

The south polar trajectory of KMS-3 and KMS-4 evades U.S. Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radars and National Missile Defenses, resembling a Russian secret weapon developed during the Cold War, called the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) that would have used a nuclear-armed satellite to make a surprise EMP attack on the United States.

Ambassador Henry Cooper, former Director of the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, and a preeminent expert on missile defenses and space weapons, has written numerous articles warning about the potential North Korean EMP threat from their satellites. For example, on September 20, 2016 Ambassador Cooper wrote: U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) interceptors are designed to intercept a few North Korean ICBMs that approach the United States over the North Polar region. But current U.S. BMD systems are not arranged to defend against even a single ICBM that approaches the United States from over the South Polar region, which is the direction toward which North Korea launches its satellites…This is not a new idea. The Soviets pioneered and tested just such a specific capability decades ago—we call it a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS)…So, North Korea doesn’t need an ICBM to create this existential threat. It could use its demonstrated satellite launcher to carry a nuclear weapon over the South Polar region and detonate it…over the United States to create a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP)…The result could be to shut down the U.S. electric power grid for an indefinite period, leading to the death within a year of up to 90 percent of all Americans—as the EMP Commission testified over eight years ago.

Former NASA rocket scientist James Oberg visited North Korea’s Sohae space launch base, witnessed elaborate measures undertaken to conceal space launch payloads, and concludes in a 2017 article that the EMP threat from North Korea’s satellites should be taken seriously: …there have been fears expressed that North Korea might use a satellite to carry a small nuclear warhead into orbit and then detonate it over the United States for an EMP strike. These concerns seem extreme and require an astronomical scale of irrationality on the part of the regime. The most frightening aspect, I’ve come to realize, is that exactly such a scale of insanity is now evident in the rest of their ‘space program.” That doomsday scenario, it now seems, has been plausible enough to compel the United States to take active measures to insure that no North Korean satellite, unless thoroughly inspected before launch, be allowed to reach orbit and ever overfly the United States.

The Report Concludes Tomorrow.

America Faces Imminent, Major Threat from an EMP Attack

The most significant existential threat to the United States comes from a potential EMP assault.  In extraordinary testimony  delivered this month to the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, Dr. William R. Graham, Chairman, and  Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, chief of staff,  of the Commission to Assess the Threat to America from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) revealed explosive details, including decades of neglect of the menace, how Russia transferred EMP technology to North Korea, and how North Korea already has the capacity to wreck devastation across the United States. The New York Analysis of Policy and Government has reviewed the information and provides key excerpts.  

On September 30, 2017, the Department of Defense, after withholding a significant part of the monies allocated by Congress to support the work of the EMP Commission for the entirety of 2016, terminated funding the EMP Commission. In the same month, North Korea detonated an H-Bomb that it plausibly describes as capable of “super-powerful EMP” attack and released a technical report “The EMP Might of Nuclear Weapons” accurately describing what Russia and China call a “Super-EMP” weapon.

Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Homeland Security has asked Congress to continue the EMP Commission. The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision that would replace the existing EMP Commission with new Commissioners. Yet the existing EMP Commission comprises the nation’s foremost experts who have been officially or unofficially continuously engaged trying to advance national EMP preparedness for 17 years. And today, as the EMP Commission has long warned, the nation faces a potentially imminent and existential threat of nuclear EMP attack from North Korea.

Recent events have proven the EMP Commission’s critics wrong about other highly important aspects of the nuclear missile threat from North Korea: –Just six months ago, most experts thought North Korea’s nuclear arsenal was primitive, some academics claiming it had as few as 6 A-Bombs. Now the intelligence community reportedly estimates North Korea has 60 nuclear weapons. –Just six months ago, most experts thought North Korea’s ICBMs were fake, or if real could not strike the U.S. mainland. Now the intelligence community reportedly estimates North Korea’s ICBMs can strike Denver and Chicago, and perhaps the entire United States. –Just six months ago, most experts thought North Korea was many years away from an HBomb. Now it appears North Korea has H-Bombs comparable to sophisticated U.S. two-stage thermonuclear weapons. –Just six months ago, most experts claimed North Korean ICBMs could not miniaturize an ABomb or design a reentry vehicle for missile delivery. Now the intelligence community reportedly assesses North Korea has miniaturized nuclear weapons, and has developed reentry vehicles for missile delivery, including by ICBMs that can strike the U.S.

After massive intelligence failures grossly underestimating North Korea’s long-range missile capabilities, number of nuclear weapons, warhead miniaturization, and proximity to an H-Bomb, the biggest North Korean threat to the U.S. remains unacknowledged—nuclear EMP attack. North Korea confirmed the EMP Commission’s assessment by testing an H-Bomb that could make a devastating EMP attack, and in its official public statement: “The H-Bomb, the explosive power of which is adjustable from tens of kilotons to hundreds of kilotons, is a multi-functional thermonuclear weapon with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack according to strategic goals.”

Just six months ago, some academics dismissed EMP Commission warnings and even, literally, laughed on National Public Radio at the idea North Korea could make an EMP attack.

Primitive and “Super-EMP” Nuclear Weapons are Both EMP Threats The EMP Commission finds that even primitive, low-yield nuclear weapons are such a significant EMP threat that rogue states, like North Korea, or terrorists may well prefer using a nuclear weapon for EMP attack, instead of destroying a city: “Therefore, terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear weapons may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or military base, they may obtain the greatest political-military utility from one or a few such weapons by using them—or threatening their use—in an EMP attack.

In 2004, two Russian generals, both EMP experts, warned the EMP Commission that the design for Russia’s Super-EMP warhead, capable of generating high intensity EMP fields over 100,000 volts per meter, was “accidentally” transferred to North Korea. They also said that due to “brain drain,” Russian scientists were in North Korea, as were Chinese and Pakistani scientists according to the Russians, helping with the North’s missile and nuclear weapon programs. In 2009, South Korean military intelligence told their press that Russian scientists are in North Korea helping develop an EMP nuclear weapon. In 2013, a Chinese military commentator stated North Korea has Super-EMP nuclear weapons.

The Report Continues Tomorrow.

Shallowness of our National Conversation

America’s national conversation has gone astray.  Abandoning rational standards of discourse, evidence and facts, inflammatory statements go unchallenged by legislators and pundits intimidated by a media hierarchy that discourages journalistic standards because those plutocrats of information have become participants in, rather than reporters of, public affairs. The citizenry has taken to shouting bumper-sticker slogans at each other.

Perhaps no issue more openly illustrates this point than the NFL “take a knee” controversy. While an extraordinary level of attention has been paid to those engaging in the practice and President Trump’s response to it, little attention has been paid to questioning whether the underlying premise of the rather sophomoric gesture is accurate.  If the purpose of the action was to focus attention on the question of racism, the move has been a failure. The discussion has been all about the theatrics.

Mathew Walther, writing in the liberal publication The Week notes that “Outrage has become our national pastime. The only thing that could possibly make American political discourse in 2017 dumber would be if someone … decided to insist that President Trump’s comments about pro football were…actual grounds for his impeachment. To suggest that this … deserves formal censure and removal from office because he borrowed a typical boomer complaint about sports culture from the dowager empress of American liberalism [Hillary Clinton] would also be nothing short of sublime… In that sense, we all owe Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) a debt of gratitude for making this a reality … Green stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and announced that next week he intends to ‘call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America’ and force a vote on the question…Green does not, of course, actually believe this … And that’s the problem. None of our conversations actually have anything to do with the things they are ostensibly about.”

Legislators are well schooled by professional handlers in the art and theatrics of electoral politics, but remain far less educated in the issues they must decide on once in office.  While the collection of organizations and individuals who specialize in training candidates on how to run for office share the blame, the principal responsibility rests with the media.  After all, it’s all about good publicity and how to get it, and that commodity rests solely in the hands of the media. Consider a debate between two candidates: Candidate A displays true passion and just oozes with emotion about a particular issue.  He proclaims that his heart truly rests with the people affected by the challenge. Candidate B coldly discusses the hard facts of the matter, based on hard and intense research, and offers a viable solution that may involve some discomfort but will solve the problem.  Guess who wins the contest?  Without a doubt, candidate A. A will be portrayed as sympathetic and caring by the press, despite not offering any realistic resolution. B will be cast as an unfeeling individual unworthy of support, despite the fact that B actually stands a chance of ending the dilemma.

The actions of many of our elected officials is juvenile, at best. In 2016, A number of House Democrats staged a sit-in on the floor of Congress, after losing a legislative battle.  Rather than retool their message and try again, they engaged in an Animal House-style collective temper tantrum.  In New York City, City Council Members kneeled down in support of football players who rather than use their significant fortunes and access to publicity on their own time to address the things that concern them, childishly disrespected the National Anthem. Many of those same Council Members who supposedly are concerned about racial equality, meanwhile, consistently oppose real solutions, such as charter schools and lower taxes for small businesses and struggling families, that really could produce results.

America’s faulty education system, along with our touchy-feely culture, shares a good portion of the blame. The hard-driving, sometimes rough-edged heroes of prior generations who explored a new world, drove out an overbearing monarch, settled the West, built the world’s most dynamic economy and beat enemies in two world wars are no longer in vogue. Both academics and Hollywood producers, to say nothing of political activists, will work overtime to find personal faults with those who actually accomplished something.  In their eyes, it would have been better if those champions had stayed home and spent their days getting in touch with their feelings.

U.S. Military insufficient to meet Threats, Part 3

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government  concludes its examination of the Heritage Foundation’s authoritative study of military threats to the U.S., and the ability of the Pentagon to respond to them, in this three-part series.

The Status of U.S. Military Power

Heritage found that that the U.S. should field:

Army: 50 brigade combat teams (BCTs); • Navy: at least 346 surface combatants and 624 strike aircraft; • Air Force: 1,200 fighter/ground-attack aircraft; and • Marine Corps: 36 battalions. Clearly, the current military falls dramatically short of those figures.

The common theme across the services and the U.S. nuclear enterprise is one of force degradation resulting from many years of underinvestment, poor execution of modernization programs, and the negative effects of budget sequestration (cuts in funding) on readiness and capacity. While the military has been heavily engaged in operations, primarily in the Middle East but elsewhere as well, since September 11, 2001, experience is both ephemeral and context-sensitive. Valuable combat experience is lost as the servicemembers who individually gained experience leave the force, and it maintains direct relevance only for future operations of a similar type: Counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, for example, are fundamentally different from major conventional operations against a state like Iran or China.

Thus, although the current Joint Force is experienced in some types of operations, it lacks experience with high-end, major combat operations, and it is still aged and shrinking in its capacity for operations.

ARMY

The Army’s score remained “weak” for reasons similar to those cited in previous editions of the Index. The Army has continued to trade end strength and modernization for improved readiness in some units for current operations. However, accepting risks in these areas has enabled the Army to keep only one-third of its force at acceptable levels of readiness, and even for units deployed abroad, the Army has had to increase its reliance on contracted support to meet maintenance requirements. Budget cuts have affected combat units disproportionately: Over the past few years, a 16 percent reduction in total end strength has led to a 32 percent reduction in the number of brigade combat teams and similar reductions in the number of combat aviation brigades. In summary, the Army is too small for the tasks it is assigned, its equipment continues to age, and it struggles to improve the readiness of its operating forces. Concerned by the prospect of a “hollow force” (i.e., units that exist on paper but are woefully understaffed), Army officials, instead of using a 2017 congressional authorization to increase end strength by creating more units, chose merely to increase the level of staffing in existing units.

NAVY

The Navy’s readiness score returned to the 2016 Index’s score of “marginal.” While the Navy is maintaining a solid global presence (slightly more than one-third of the fleet is deployed on any given day), it has little ability to surge to meet wartime demands. As in 2016, the Navy’s decision to defer maintenance has kept ships at sea but also has affected the Navy’s ability to deploy. With scores of “weak” in capability (largely because of old platforms and troubled modernization programs) and “marginal” in capacity, the Navy remained just able to meet operational requirements in 2017. Continuing budget shortfalls in its shipbuilding account will hinder the Navy’s ability to improve its situation, both materially and quantitatively, for the next several years—an even larger problem considering that the Navy has revised its assessment of how many ships it needs to 355 instead of the 308 for which it has been budgeting in its 30-year shipbuilding plan.

AIR FORCE

Although the Air Force’s overall score remains the same as last year’s, a clearer picture of the USAF’s aircraft inventory yielded a significant drop in deliverable fighter capacity: The Air Force possesses 923 combat-coded tactical fighter aircraft, 236 below last year’s capacity assessment and 277 below the Index assessment of 1,200 needed to meet a two-MRC level of military strength. While the Air Force’s readiness score remained “marginal,” this assessed area continues to trend downward due to increasing evidence of training and maintenance shortfalls, as well as pilots’ own assessments of their forces obtained by The Heritage Foundation through personal interviews. Combined with a continued capability score of “marginal,” the Air Force’s overall military strength score continues to trend downward at a time when America’s dominance in the air domain is increasingly challenged by the technological advances of potential adversaries.

MARINE CORPS

” The Corps continues to deal with readiness challenges driven by the combined effects of high operational tempo and low levels of funding. Aviation remained the largest challenge for the Corps in 2017 as maintenance and flight hour shortfalls combined with old platforms to cause the service to self-assess a dire state of readiness. The Corps’ modernization programs are on track, but it will take several years for new equipment to be produced and fielded; ground combat systems, in particular, are long overdue for replacement. Unlike in past years, the Corps did not publicly provide detailed information about the status of its active-duty force with respect to its state of readiness for combat. The Corps has said the deploy-to-dwell ratio for its active force has dipped below 1:2, revealing increased stress on the force. This, combined with a clear assessment of poor aviation readiness, drove the Marine Corps’ overall strength score from “marginal” to “weak” in 2017, making it the only service to drop to a lower category.

NUCLEAR CAPABILTIES

Warhead modernization, warhead/system testing, and adequate investment in the intellectual and talent underpinnings of the nuclear enterprise continue to be the chief problems facing America’s nuclear capability. Delivery platform modernization continued to receive strong support from Congress and the Administration during 2017, with major investments in next-generation bomber and ballistic missile submarine programs, but the force depends on a very limited set of weapons (in number of designs) and models that are quite old, in stark contrast to the aggressive programs of competitor states. Of continued concern is the “marginal” score for “Allied Assurance” at a time when Russia has rattled its nuclear saber in a number of recent provocative exercises; China has been more aggressive in militarily pressing its claims to the South and East China Seas; north Korea is investing in a submarine-launched ballistic missile capability; and Iran retains its nuclear infrastructure program as a key feature of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)   meant to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. The aggressive pace of North Korea’s missile testing, which purportedly is tied to its nuclear aspirations, is of particular concern.

 

U.S. Military insufficient to meet Threats, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government continues its examination of  the Heritage Foundation’s authoritative study of military threats to the U.S., and the ability of the Pentagon to respond to them, in this three-part series.

The U.S. defense posture varies by region. Heritage provides the following analysis:

Europe. For the most part, Europe remains a stable, mature, and friendly environment, home to America’s oldest and closest allies, although the migrant and refugee crises are straining the economies and societies of many European nations. The U.S. is tied to Europe by treaty, robust economic bonds, and deeply rooted cultural linkages. In general, America’s partners in the region are politically stable; possess mature (though increasingly debtladen) economies; and have fairly modern (but shrinking) militaries. America’s longtime presence in the region, Europe’s well-established basing and support infrastructure, and the framework for coordinated action provided by NATO make the region quite favorable for military operations. A more muscular, belligerent Russia has caused a review of U.S. force posture on the continent, spurring reinvestment of U.S. military capabilities through programs like the European Reassurance Initiative.

The resurgence of an aggressive, belligerent Russia has thrown conventional post–Cold War thinking into the waste bin. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and annex Crimea has changed post–Cold War norms. From the Arctic to the Baltics, Ukraine, and the South Caucasus, Russia has proven to be the source of much instability in Europe. Despite economic problems, Russia continues to prioritize the rebuilding of its military and funding for its military operations abroad. Russia’s military and political antagonism toward the United States continues unabated, and its efforts to undermine U.S. institutions and the NATO alliance are serious and troubling. Russia’s aggressive stance in a number of theaters, including the Balkans, Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine, continues to contribute to destabilization and run counter to U.S. interests.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), among the key weapons in Russia’s inventory are 324 intercontinental ballistic missiles; 2,700 main battle tanks; and more than 4,900 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 6,100 armored personnel carriers, and 4,316 pieces of artillery. The navy has one aircraft carrier; 62 submarines (including 13 ballistic missile submarines); five cruisers; 15 destroyers; 12 frigates; and 95 patrol and coastal combatants. The air force has 1,046 combat-capable aircraft. The IISS counts 270,000 members of the army. Russia also has a total reserve force of 2,000,000 for all armed forces.

The Middle East. The Middle East, by contrast, continues to be a deeply troubled area riven with conflict, ruled by authoritarian regimes, and home to a variety of terrorist and other destabilizing entities. Though the United States does enjoy a few strong partnerships in the region, its interests are beset by security and political challenges, transnational terrorism rooted in the region, and the maturing threat of a nuclear Iran. Offsetting these challenges to some extent are the U.S. military’s experience in the region and the basing infrastructure that it has developed and leveraged for nearly 25 years, although these positive elements are decaying as a consequence of continued upheaval in Syria; Iran’s pursuit of weapons that threaten both the U.S. and Europe, as well as its continued support of such terrorist groups as Hezbollah; and the increasingly problematic political environment in countries that historically have hosted U.S. forces (Qatar, for example).

Asia. China moved from “aggressive” to “testing” in the scope of its provocative behavior. China continues to militarize the islands that it built on reefs in international waters and continues to claim sovereignty. It also has continued to field new equipment, most notably in naval power, perceived to be most important in its efforts to shape the Western Pacific maritime domain in line with its interests.

Though the region includes longstanding U.S. allies that are stable and possess advanced economies, the tyranny of distance makes U.S. military operations in the region difficult in terms of the time and sealift and airlift required, a challenge that is only exacerbated as the size of the U.S. military continues to shrink. The region is critical to U.S. economic interests because Asian markets account for 40 percent of U.S. trade; consequently, the increasingly aggressive postures of China and North Korea have caused concern. In 2017, China was more overtly aggressive in pressing its claims to disputed islands and waters. Both South Korea and Japan have expressed alarm over North Korea’s intentions, especially with respect to its missile program. Combined with a slight decrease in political stability across the region, Asia as an operating environment has trended toward more challenging for the U.S. in 2017.

In the South China Sea, China has staked claims to maritime territory that includes the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, and Scarborough Shoal. These claims overlap with the EEZ claims of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. In addition to fishing rights, potentially lucrative oil and natural gas deposits are at stake. In the past few years, the Chinese have begun island-building projects on the Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross reefs to advance their disputed territorial claims. While the Chinese have claimed that these islands are being built for civilian purposes, to increase safety for ships transiting the waterway, analysis of recent construction shows airfields, radars, and hardened shelters that indicate a military focus.

The Report concludes tomorrow.