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Risk

7/25/2009
04:34 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Congress Taking Steps To Secure Electric Grid

So the theory goes: one strategic Electromagnetic Pulse explosion (EMP) detonation over the mid-west United States could cripple the power grid, and even stop most electronic devices from a car's ignition to medical devices to radios and TVs to PCs from functioning. So what, if anything, are we doing about it?

So the theory goes: one strategic Electromagnetic Pulse explosion (EMP) detonation over the mid-west United States could cripple the power grid, and even stop most electronic devices from a car's ignition to medical devices to radios and TVs to PCs from functioning. So what, if anything, are we doing about it?Representative Roscoe Bartlett, (Rep.-Md.) raised questions about the dangers an EMP explosion poses to the power system during a House Science subcommittee hearing that examined the sensor-driven, so-called "smart grid" being discussed to better manage power usage.

Experts from NIST and FERC acknowledged the risk, from ScienceNews:

Western society's vulnerability to EMPs is very real, acknowledged Suedeen Kelly, a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member who testified at today's hearing.

"This is indeed a very serious concern that we must address in the context of the smart grid," added George Arnold of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. On the bright side, he said that at least some manufacturers are "sensitive to the issue" and have informed smart-grid developers of efforts being investigated to harden key circuitry.

However, Arnold cited a report on the nation's EMP vulnerabilities that concluded it's not practical to try and protect the entire electrical power system - or even all high-value components. So priorities will have to be set as to which assets are most critical, and then focus on shielding them.

Those priorities are part of the work a congressional EMP commission, established by Rep. Bartlett, is working on:

* The EMP Commission after two years of work concluded in its report delivered to Congress in 2005 that terrorists, rogue states, China, Russia and other nations could make an EMP attack against the United States.

* The Commission further concluded that some nations already have the capability and contingency plans to make an EMP attack, and in other cases are actively seeking the capability to make such an attack against the United States, its military forces, and U.S. allies.

* The Commission further concluded that EMP attack is one of the few ways that terrorists or state actors could inflict such catastrophic damage on the United States that the U.S. would cease to exist as a military superpower and as a modern society.

* The Commission has designed a realistic blueprint for protecting and recovering the military and civilian infrastructures of the United States from the catastrophic consequences of EMP attack.

* The Commission plan for neutralizing the catastrophic consequences of the EMP threat can be implemented in three (3) to five (5) years at modest cost.

* The EMP Commission is the foremost national authority on the EMP threat, is the only body with a practical, affordable plan to neutralize this threat, and as such the Commission's continuation is vital to U.S. national security.

* Accordingly, the proposed legislation re-establishes the EMP Commission for a period of four years, until the year 2010, long enough for the Commission to help implement its 3-5 year plan for neutralizing the catastrophic EMP threat.

* The EMP Commission continues to assess the development of the EMP threat, monitoring U.S. progress in addressing that threat, and advising and aiding the Congress, United States Government departments and agencies, and the private sector in taking steps necessary to neutralize the catastrophic consequences of an EMP attack.

I've previously covered the risks associated with, and some of the work being completed on, military-grade EMP devices:

Air Force Seeks (Non Lethal) City Stopper EMP Risk Follow-Up It's Time To Defend The U.S. Against The Ultimate Denial of Service Attack

For my mobile security and technology observations, considering following me here on Twitter.

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