As we mentioned earlier this morning, today is the 27th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) speech; the speech that paved the way for our nation’s successful missile defense program. However, America faces another threat, one that requires Congress’s immediate attention: an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. Heritage fellow Jen McNeill makes the case for raising recognition of this new threat by making March 23rd EMP Recognition Day:
The likelihood of an EMP attack is disconcerting. Nearly 30 countries currently possess ballistic missile capabilities. Indeed, some have extensive knowledge of EMP and its effects. North Korea currently possesses a large arsenal of missiles and has been publicly testing its ballistic weapons. It has also been reported that Russian scientists have worked with North Korea on developing an EMP weapon. Countries and non-state actors are also exploring improvised or non-nuclear EMPs as a means of harnessing the destructive power of EMP without the need for missile capabilities. EMP has even been seen to occur naturally during a solar flare event (the last of which happened in the late 1800s).
Despite such concerns and repeated warnings from the congressionally mandated EMP Commission, the President’s budget does not place a great enough emphasis on missile defense, let alone the EMP threat. For instance, the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 budget requested $9.9 billion for missile defense, a $600 million decrease from FY 2009 (although a $900 million increase over FY 2010). Neither Congress nor the White House has looked extensively at hardening critical infrastructure against EMP or revising recovery plans or disaster planning scenarios to be reflective of this unique threat.
Given the increased likelihood that the U.S. could suffer an EMP attack in the near future, the time has come for Congress to recognize the danger that EMP poses and act to address this threat. If, just for one day, Congress simulated even a fraction of the impact such an attack would have, the scope of the danger would be clear. To do so, Congress should establish an EMP Recognition Day.
You can read McNeill’s full WebMemo, here.