Electromagnetic pulse attack threats were among the possible terrorism scenarios discussed with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during a Senate hearing on Wednesday. While the primary terrorist attack concerns revolved around both physical and cyber attacks by "radical Islamists" like ISIS, EMP threats were also a topic of conversation during the meeting.
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson noted the power grid (i.e. electricity) is at the backbone of nation and need to preserve the country's most vulnerable piece of infrastructure becomes even more important as the world relies more and more on information technology. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the American Society of Civil Engineers handed down a "D+" grade to the power grid in the United States during an infrastructure review in 2013. Security experts stated that the world is unprepared to withstand a catastrophic EMP attack in a related report earlier this year.
"I want to talk about something that I've been now briefed on, the threat of EMP attack," Senator Johnson said during the Senate hearing with DHS officials. "Both in terms of the high-altitude nuclear blast, which was what I kind of always new existed out there and I guess kinda hoping that nobody has the capability or would be stupid enough to do it. But now I'm also aware of the fact that a massive solar flare also represents a real threat. Is it something we are looking to harden our electrical grid against?" the Republican lawmaker asked.
The SHIELD Act, a bill designed to attempt to harden the power grid from an Earth-directed solar flare or EMP attack, has been stalled in a Senate committee for several years. The legislation was introduced by Republican Trent Franks. National Protection and Programs Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security Under-Secretary Suzanne Spaulding told Senator Johnson that the DHS has "been focused" on working with electric sector private industry partners to "find ways to address" hardening the power grid against an EMP attack by countries like North Korea, Iran, or Russia and solar flares.
"I was recently in the U.K. at an international conference, energy infrastructure security summit, where EMPs was a clear focus in those discussions. This is something that is very much on our radar screen that we are working to address," Spaulding said.
The assurance, without any particulars, has not calmed the fears of many Americans who are concerned about a power grid down event.
"The problem is not the technology. We know how to protect against it. It's not the money it doesn't cost that much. The problem is the politics, It always seems to be the politics that gets in the way," said Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum.
The Congressional EMP Commission estimated that the power grid could be protected for about $2 billion.
What do you think about power grid security and the potential for an EMP attack?
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