Accession Number:



Assessing the Threat from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). Volume 1: Executive Report

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Technical Report,01 Jan 2017,31 Jul 2017

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Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack Washington United States

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The critical national infrastructure in the United States faces a present and continuing existential threat from combined-arms warfare, including cyber and manmade electromagnetic pulse EMP attack, as well as from natural EMP from a solar superstorm. During the Cold War, the U.S. was primarily concerned about an EMP attack generated by a high-altitude nuclear weapon as a tactic by which the Soviet Union could suppress the U.S. national command authority and the ability to respond to a nuclear attack--and thus negate the deterrence value of assured nuclear retaliation. Within the last decade, newly-armed adversaries, including North Korea, have been developing the ability and threatening to carry out an EMP attack against the United States. Such an attack would give countries that have only a small number of nuclear weapons the ability to cause widespread, long-lasting damage to critical national infrastructures, to the United States itself as a viable country, and to the survival of a majority of its population. Protecting and defending the national electric grid and other critical infrastructures from cyber and EMP could be accomplished at reasonable cost and minimal disruption to the present systems that comprise U.S. critical infrastructure. This is commensurate with Trump Administration plans to repair and improve U.S. infrastructures, increase their reliability, and strengthen homeland defense and military capability. Continued failure to address the U.S. vulnerability to EMP generated by a high-altitude nuclear weapon invites such an attack.

Subject Categories:

  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Nuclear Weapons
  • Electric Power Production and Distribution
  • Electromagnetic Pulses
  • Civil Defense

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