Report: United States Increasingly Vulnerable to Potentially Catastrophic EMP Attack

Previous estimates have found that an EMP event ‘could kill 9 of 10 Americans’

U.S. power grid / AP

U.S. power grid / AP

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The threat of a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack on the United States is increasing just as American infrastructure has become more vulnerable, according to a new report.

“Our nation has further increased its reliance on technologies that depend upon the availability of electricity and digital electronics to manage and monitor the network of systems that deliver our basic goods and services,” said the report from the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).

As a result, an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack “could severely disrupt everything we take for granted, from food and water distribution to functioning sewer, medical, healthcare and banking systems.”

EMP events can be generated by natural causes, such as a solar storm, or an intentional attack through a cyber assault or the detonation of a nuclear weapon above earth’s atmosphere. Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are all said to be developing EMP weapon technology.

Some experts have suggested that an EMP assault “could kill 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse.”

The JINSA task force, which includes former senior government and military officials, issued several recommendations to improve the nation’s defenses against an EMP attack, such as building EMP protection into new smart grids, declaring unequivocally how the United States would respond to an attack, and forming more public-private partnerships to tackle the problem.

“Despite this growing danger, mitigating the likelihood and consequences of such an attack could be accomplished with relatively modest investments in infrastructure over the near to medium term, especially when compared to the scale of losses should we continue to do nothing,” the report said.

Daniel Wiser   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Daniel Wiser is an assistant editor of National Affairs. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May 2013, where he studied Journalism and Political Science and was the State & National Editor for The Daily Tar Heel. He hails from Waxhaw, N.C., and currently lives in Washington, D.C. His Twitter handle is @TheWiserChoice.

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