The Ripon Forum

Volume 51, No. 5

November 2017

The EMP Threat Facing the United States

By on November 13, 2017

It’s time for Trump to channel Churchill


Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump moved a bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (which was removed by President Obama in 2009) back into the Oval Office, giving many Americans hope that he would channel this courageous leader in the face of so many daunting national security nightmares plaguing America today. For those able to execute an unconstrained analysis of today’s threat environment, the single most urgent concern for America is what threatens her electric grid. Without electricity, the America we know today ceases to exist – and our enemies know this. Elites in the U.S. government know this too, but most have chosen to ignore these threats and to ridicule, silence, and stymie anyone willing to speak the truth about them.

America’s 16 Critical Infrastructures range from Water & Wastewater Systems to Food & Agriculture to Nuclear Reactors, Materials & Waste – and all of them depend upon electricity. America’s need for electricity creates the ideal conditions by which an adversary can take advantage of Sun Tzu’s “Supreme art of war,” which is “to subdue your enemy without fighting.” In 1999, with full recognition of this reality and enraged with American policy in the Balkans, Vladimir Lukin (the head of the Russian State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee) threatened a U.S. Congressional delegation by stating: “If we really wanted to hurt you with no fear of retaliation, we would launch a Submarine-launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM), [and] we would detonate a nuclear weapon high above your country and shut down your power grid.”

That Congressional delegation included former Representatives Curt Weldon (R-PA) and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). These men took this threat seriously. They authored legislation that was signed into law in October 2000 and established the “Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. The Commission’s goal was to identify steps to protect the United States military and civilian systems from an EMP attack. The EMP Commission served as the free world’s foremost expert on threats to the grid until this past September 30th, when it was dismantled by the current Congress. The Commission’s 2004 and 2008 reports, which warned that up to 90 percent of America’s population could be wiped out by an EMP-induced prolonged blackout, have been almost entirely ignored by the federal government and the regulatory bodies that oversee the nation’s electric utilities. Meanwhile, adversaries of the United States, especially North Korea, continue developing and testing methods to attack the grid and telegraphing their intent to do so.

Adversaries of the United States continue developing and testing methods to attack the grid and telegraphing their intent to do so – especially North Korea.

On October 12, 2017, when Congress held a hearing on the threat from North Korea, EMP Commission Chairman Dr. William Graham and Chief of Staff Dr. Peter Vincent Pry testified about the extraordinary hazards posed by the regime, submitting 14 pages of incredibly insightful analysis and thoughtful recommendations for corrective action. One excerpt alone is worth highlighting:

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.”

This testimony was the EMP Commission’s best method of informing the nation’s leadership (and the public) since their latest report remains buried in the governmental review process, ready to be ignored yet again by the same “elites” who recently disbanded the Commission. In an article preceding the Commission’s demise, its original sponsor, Congressman Weldon, observed: “Only Washington bureaucrats could be so stupid they would terminate the Congressional EMP Commission — just when North Korea threatened to attack the United States with EMP.”

With the federal government so profoundly dysfunctional in addressing the threat from EMP, President Trump must recognize that today’s “Rhineland” moment is much more severe than that of Europe’s in 1936.

While government and corporate elites trod in the footsteps of Chamberlain and prefer to ignore and explain away the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea and with the federal government so profoundly dysfunctional in addressing the threat from EMP, President Trump must recognize that today’s “Rhineland” moment is much more severe than that of Europe’s in 1936. Hitler seized the Rhineland to test the political will of the Allies and was appeased. The Axis powers, though, still had to build major military and industrial might to wage their worldwide destruction. Today, for the first time in human history, a hermit kingdom, rogue nation, or even non-state actor (such as a group of Islamic jihadis armed with a single nuclear weapon and the missile or balloon needed to loft it into the exo-atmosphere) can destroy the strongest, most prosperous, and most sophisticated civilization on earth.

Winston Churchill once said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” The surest way for history to be kind to President Trump is for him to write it, by being the first leader to truly address the existential threat of EMP. The first and foremost thing he must write is an Executive Order establishing his own EMP Commission in the White House – a Task Force that draws from the experience of the previous EMP Commission. The champion of this Task Force must be an Executive Agent – a Cabinet Secretary designated by the President – with the authority, accountability, and resources, to manage the defense against EMP and other threats to the electric grid. This “Critical Infrastructure Protection Task Force” must undergo an effort equal to that of the Manhattan Project, truly putting the owners and operators of our critical infrastructure on a defensive “war footing.”

The Manhattan Project ended a war that cost the world 60 million human lives; a war ushered in by the 1930s appeasement of the Axis. After this generation’s Chamberlains have ushered in the prospect of our nation losing 290 million human lives in less than a single year, the time is NOW for President Trump to channel Churchill. We call upon the President to immediately create his Task Force and begin its tasking with the words of that iconic British leader: “It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.”

Tommy Waller serves as Director, Special Projects at the Center for Security Policy and helps administer the Secure The Grid Coalition. He is a U.S. Marine and combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, husband, and father of four. Learn more about Tommy and the Secure The Grid Coalition at

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