President Trump Signs EMP Order to Protect Critical Infrastructure

Published May 2, 2019

President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) directing federal agencies to identify and develop responses to the threat electromagnetic pulses (EMP) could pose to critical infrastructure.

An EMP is an intense surge of energy that can interrupt, damage, or destroy all electronic devices on and above the Earth or a region of it. EMPs can result from natural factors, such as intense solar flares or solar superstorms, or they can be caused by intentional human acts of sabotage, including state-sponsored terrorist attacks or cyberattacks.

A large-scale EMP could disrupt entire economies, resulting in the failure of the electric grid and the collapse of emergency, medical, transportation, and food production and delivery systems, potentially causing massive numbers of deaths.

Developing a Cross-Agency Response

Trump’s EO directs the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to identify critical infrastructure, such as the electric grid, that could be affected by an EMP.

In particular, the directive tasks the Homeland Security Secretary with developing a list of national critical systems that, if disrupted, would cause harm to public safety or national security, and gives the secretary a year to identify critical infrastructure vulnerable to damage by various types of EMPs.

The Secretary of Homeland Security is to deliver the list to Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, who is charged with overseeing the order’s implementation and coordinating actions across all departments and agencies to make critical infrastructure impervious to or at least resilient to EMPs, whether of natural or human origin.

The White House indicated the order was a response to longstanding concerns raised by the scientific community concerning the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to EMP events.

“Today’s executive order—the first ever to establish a comprehensive policy to improve resilience to EMPs—is one more example of how the administration is keeping its promise to always be vigilant against present dangers and future threats,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

‘Keeping Americans Safe’

Trump’s March 26 EO shows he understands how dangerous the threat from an EMP attack is, said Kirstjen Nielsen, who was Secretary of Homeland Security when Trump issued the order.

“EMPs pose a potential threat to our nation’s critical infrastructure, and this executive order will advance our national goal of increased resilience across all infrastructure sectors,” said Nielsen in a Homeland Security Department press release. “DHS is grateful for the president’s leadership on this critical issue and continued commitment to protecting our country and keeping Americans safe.”

Although the threat of an EMP attack is real, the media has largely ignored it, says Thomas Popik, president of the Foundation for Resilient Societies.

“Nearly all of the media ignored the fact that on September 3, 2017, coincident with a hydrogen bomb test, North Korea declared a ‘super-powerful EMP attack’ capability to be a ‘strategic goal,'” said Popik. “The U.S. military has spent billions protecting strategic forces against a nuclear electromagnetic pulse, but the media and other ill-informed parties have routinely discounted the threat to civilian infrastructure.

“President Trump’s executive order should go a long way in showing the public that the EMP threat is real and immediate,” Popik said.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.