EMPact America took part in the historic series of tabletop exercises and conferences focusing on the threat to our electric grid posed by solar storms, which were held by the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C., and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEM) at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Maryland from October 3 to October 6, 2011.
This was the first time such long-term and widespread scenarios were tackled by a representative collection of federal, state, and local government and private sector officials. It was clear that our nation is unprepared to deal with this threat, and the issues discussed at these events should help to spread that message.
While the solar storm scenarios were effective, it is vitally important to address both man-made and solar (geomagnetic) storms together, especially when looking at potential solutions and policy implications. As pointed out by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry and Dr. GeorgeBaker during the NDU events last week, if we harden the nation's electric grid against nuclear EMP, we protect against both nuclear and solar (because nuclear EMP covers the E1, E2, and E3 dangers - (e.g., see EMP Commission Executive Summary for a further explanation) - the same is not true if we only protect against a solar storm (which is basically just an E3-type pulse, and thus would not help/protect us against the fast and devastating E1 pulse). Plus, the solutions covering both are low-cost when/if mitigation is done together.
It's also very important to understand and explain the dangers of using only early warning systems (like satellites) or only missile defense systems in place of the passive hardening of the electric grid. For example, when it comes to the threat posted by severe solar storms and geomagnetic damage to the electric grid, we don't have an early warning system that can save us - and we can't just shut down the whole grid even if we had an adequate warning (there's too much info to address adequately here, but it's important to note); plus, satellites and early warning systems simply can't warn us against a shorter range (non-ICBM), lower-trajectory EMP attack off of the U.S. coast(s), and a missile defense system can't protect us against a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the Sun. When looked at objectively, hardening the power grids (and buying/protecting spares of key components) is the only realistic solution.
NDU is located on a military facility, which has strict procedures and clearance requirements regarding video recording on site. EMPact America was able to record the tabletop exercise held at NDU, but needed to leave the tapes for review of them prior to clearance. We are working with NDU coordinators to get approvals and releases for much of the footage taken at NDU. That said, the events at NDU were generally for non-attribution, and some individual consents may need to be obtained as well.
We also recorded the tabletop exercise held by MEMA at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Maryland, for which we've also been working on our permitted scope of use.
The presentations and briefings at the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) were clearly stated for attribution, and footage from CVC will most likely be the first footage to be released on our website. We are also working with the presenters from all of these events to get permission to post their power points on our site.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, President of EMPact America
"The National Defense University is to be commended for raising public consciousness by conducting an exercise on the threat to our electric infrastructure from great geomagnetic storms - still a little understood existential threat to our civilization. However, it was evident from the proceedings that a narrow focus on geomagnetic storms led people to contemplate solutions that would prove ineffective in regard to nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or non-nuclear EMP weapons. For example, satellite early warning of a Geomagnetic storm would be useless against an attack by a nuclear or non-nuclear EMP.
"I was therefore disappointed that a nuclear EMP threat was not included as an official addition to the exercise. Planning and training for a blackout of the national grid to protect against a geomagnetic storm would be futile in the face of a nuclear or non-nuclear EMP attack.
"I am equally disappointed to learn that there was recently a 3-day international academic exercise held in India to explore a scenario where Europe and the U.S. are under EMP attack, and to simulate the reactions of the UN, and especially the United States. Participants included "the best minds" from India, the UAE, and Sri Lanka. The article does not describe how the simulated U.S. and UN entities reacted to these EMP attacks; however, India and the international community are at least fortunate that they do not have to cope with the "political correctness" that prohibited our own National Defense University from exploring the consequences of an EMP attack on the United States."