EMP Commission: Congressional Assessment
Shortly before 9/11, Congress established the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. The EMP Commission’s charter required the commission to assess:
- the nature and magnitude of potential high-altitude EMP threats to the United States from all potentially hostile states and non-state actors that have or could acquire nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, enabling them to perform a high-altitude EMP attack against the U.S. within the next 15 years;
- the vulnerability of the United States military and especially civilian systems to an EMP attack, giving special attention to vulnerability of the civilian infrastructure as a matter of emergency preparedness;
- the capability of the United States to repair and recover from damage inflicted on U.S. military and civilian systems by an EMP attack; and
- the feasibility and cost of hardening select military and civilian systems against EMP attacks.
Members of the EMP Commission testified before the House Armed Services Committee in July 2002, releasing a partially classified five-volume report on the United States’ vulnerability to a potential EMP attack. The EMP Commission concluded that the United States was extremely vulnerable to a catastrophic EMP attack, finding “[o]ur increasing dependence on advanced electronics systems results in the potential for an increased EMP vulnerability of our technologically advanced forces, and if unaddressed makes EMP employment by an adversary an attractive asymmetric option.” The commission proposed a five-year plan aimed at protecting critical infrastructure from potential EMP attack.
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2006 reestablished the EMP Commission to continue its efforts “to monitor, investigate, and make recommendations, and report to Congress on the evolving threat to the United States from electromagnetic pulse attack resulting from the detonation of a nuclear weapon or weapons at high altitude.”
The goals of the renewed commission were to assess the threats to U.S. critical infrastructure and provide recommendations to address vulnerabilities. This new commission released its final findings in 2008 through the publication of the Critical National Infrastructure Report, as well as testimony before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. The commission concluded that an EMP attack on the United States would be devastating:
Should significant parts of the electrical power infrastructure be lost for any substantial period of time, the Commission believes that the consequences are likely to be catastrophic, and many people may ultimately die for lack of the basic elements necessary to sustain life in dense urban and suburban communities. In fact, the Commission is deeply concerned that such impacts are likely in the event of an EMP attack unless practical steps are taken to provide protection for critical elements of the electric system and for rapid restoration of electric power, particularly to essential services.
The commission offered recommendations to improve U.S. preparedness for an EMP attack or a geomagnetic storm in 10 critical areas of national infrastructure including the electrical grid, food infrastructure, and U.S. space systems. The commission strongly urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “make clear its authority and responsibility to respond to an EMP attack” by developing contingency plans in cooperation with appropriate federal, state and local agencies, and industry. Furthermore, the commission recommended that DHS develop response protocols for an EMP attack and regularly practice this response through exercises with relevant government agencies and industry groups. The commission urged DHS to work with the Department of Energy and industry groups to identify and address vulnerabilities in the U.S. electrical infrastructure. The commission advised that the cost of critical infrastructure improvement should be split between government and industry.
Congress has not yet passed comprehensive legislation addressing EMP vulnerabilities. Numerous bills have been introduced, but none were passed out of committee.
Following the 2008 EMP Commission report, legislation was introduced to address the threat of an EMP attack on the United States. In April 2009, H.R. 2195, “A Bill to Amend the Federal Power Act to Provide Additional Authorities to Adequately Protect the Critical Electric Infrastructure Against Cyber Attack, and for Other Purposes,” was introduced in the House, sponsored by Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D–MS). The bill cites the 2008 commission report on critical national infrastructures, notes the vulnerabilities of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) components, and calls for the EMP Commission to consult with the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify such systems in the United States and “issue…such rules or orders as are necessary to protect critical electric infrastructure against vulnerabilities or threats.” H.R. 2195 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology, but never made it past that committee.
H.R. 4842, the Homeland Security Science and Technology Act of 2010, included provisions for the establishment of a commission on the Protection of Critical Electric and Electronic Infrastructures, which would continue the work of the EMP Commission. Although approved by the House, the Senate did not vote on H.R. 4842.
In June 2010, H.R. 5026, the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act, sponsored by Representative Edward Markey (D–MA), was received in the Senate after passing the House in a voice vote. The GRID Act would amend the Federal Power Act to allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue new industry standards to protect critical infrastructure from cyber or EMP attacks. It defines “defense critical electric infrastructure vulnerability” as “a weakness in defense critical electric infrastructure that, in the event of a malicious act using electronic communication or an electromagnetic pulse, would pose a substantial risk of disruption of those electronic devices or communications networks”; an EMP is identified as a “grid security threat.” The Secretary of Homeland Security is called upon to work with other agencies in order to “develop technical expertise in the protection of systems for the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric energy against geomagnetic storms or malicious acts using electronic communications or electromagnetic pulse.” The President is to compile a list of defense-critical facilities not exceeding 100 in number that are vulnerable to electrical disruption. Finally, the owners or operators of large transformers are required to ensure the availability of replacements to restore the operation of the bulk-power system in the event that a given transformer is destroyed or disabled. The GRID Act was never put to a vote in the Senate.
During the final days of the 111th Congress, Representative Doug Lamborn (R–CO) sponsored H.R. 6471, “A Bill to Require the Director of National Intelligence to Submit a Report on the Foreign Development of Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons.” Each country with an EMP weapons program was to be identified and its program assessed in detail, specifically focusing on whether a country’s incorporation of EMP weapons into its national security and military strategies “assume[s] that an EMP weapons attack can achieve effects similar to a direct nuclear attack, but not be subject to the deterrence calculations normally applied to nuclear weapons.” Instructions for classifying potential hostile EMP delivery platforms and assessing vulnerability of identified countries to an EMP attack are also outlined. The bill was introduced in the House on December 1, 2010, but never made it past the Intelligence Committee to which it had been reported.
On February 11, 2011, Representative Trent Franks (R–AZ) introduced H.R. 668, the Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage (SHIELD) Act. The act essentially allows the FERC to enable emergency measures to protect the reliability of bulk-power systems and defense-critical electric infrastructure via directive of the President amid an imminent grid security threat. The act prescribes implementation procedures and cost-recovery measures. It also directs FERC to order the Electric Reliability Organization to submit reliability standards regarding these bulk-power systems from geomagnetic storms or EMPs. Furthermore, it directs the Secretary of the Department of Energy to establish a program to develop expertise on the protection of electric energy systems and to share the findings with owners, operators, and users of the systems. Several provisions of the GRID Act appear word-for-word, including the definition of “defense critical electric infrastructure vulnerability,” the list of no more than 100 defense-critical vulnerable facilities, and the measure requiring the availability of spare large transformers. The SHIELD Act has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as to the Committee on the Budget.
A full committee hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on May 5, 2011, discussed the issue of the vulnerability of U.S. critical infrastructure to cyber and EMP attacks. Some witnesses testified before this committee against legislation to mandate increased EMP preparedness standards. Yet, these witnesses are in the minority and do not represent the consensus view of various congressional and government commissions, nor the overwhelming bulk of the expert community on the subject.
The purpose of congressional commissions, like the EMP Commission, is to establish official consensus on the severity of threats and appropriate solutions—which the EMP Commission did. The EMP Commission’s report represents the consensus view of the defense and intelligence communities as well as the nuclear weapon labs.
Moreover, the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States independently re-examined the EMP threat, and concurred with the assessment and recommendations of the EMP Commission. So, too, did the National Academy of Sciences, the DOE–NERC report, and the FERC interagency report. In all, five commissions and major independent U.S. government studies have independently concurred with the EMP Commission’s threat assessment and recommendations. Not one official commission or U.S. government study dissents from this consensus.
Article Source: Heritage Foundation