For years, some national-security experts have warned of the potentially catastrophic results of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States. The scenario is the plot anchor for Black Mountain author Bill Forstchen’s 2009 novel One Second After. (See the July 8, 2009, Xpress article “Apolalypse WNC” for a profile of that book and its author.)
Here are two key congressional reports on the EMP threat:
• High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and High Power Microwave (HPM) Devices: Threat Assessments.
This July 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service, Congress’ investigative arm, offers a succinct overview of the EMP threat and the response of national leaders thus far. Click here to download a PDF of the document.
• Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, Vol. 1, 2004. Click here to download a PDF of the document
In this nonclassified portion of the report, the bipartisan commission formed to analyze EMP threats lists and detailed its main conclusions, which included:
“Several potential adversaries have or can acquire the capability to attack the United States with a high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP). A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication.
EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences. EMP will cover the wide geographic region within line of sight to the nuclear weapon. It has the capability to produce significant damage to critical infrastructures and thus to the very fabric of US society, as well as to the ability of the United States and Western nations to project influence and military power.
The common element that can produce such an impact from EMP is primarily electronics, so pervasive in all aspects of our society and military, coupled through critical infrastructures. Our vulnerability is increasing daily as our use of and dependence on electronics continues to grow.
The impact of EMP is asymmetric in relation to potential protagonists who are not as dependent on modern electronics. The current vulnerability of our critical infrastructures can both invite and reward attack if not corrected.
Correction is feasible and well within the Nation’s means and resources to accomplish.”
Click here to download the commission’s updated 2008 report.