United States Action
ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE RISKS AND SENATE HEARINGS
March 8, 2005
"Terrorism and the EMP Threat to Homeland Security "
Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security
Senator Kyl's Opening Statement (pdf, 14K) - see also below
Dr. Lowell Wood, Acting Chairman, Commission to Assess the Threat to the U.S. From Electomagnetic Pulse Attack (pdf, 19K) - see also below
Dr. Peter Pry, Senior Staff, Congressional EMP Commission, Washington, DC (pdf, 19K) - see also below
Dr. Peter Fonash, National Communications System Deputy Manager (Acting), Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC (pdf, 33K) - see also below
March 14, 2005
Scot Montrey (202) 224-2206 or Andrew Wilder (202) 224-7705
One Way We Could Lose the War on Terror
by U.S. Senator Jon Kyl
Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, which I chair, held a hearing on a major threat to the United States, not only from terrorists but from rogue nations like North Korea.
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack over American soil, one of the expert witnesses at the hearing said, is one of only a few ways that America could be essentially defeated by our enemies, terrorist or otherwise. A single nuclear weapon, detonated at the right altitude, would produce an electromagnetic pulse that - depending on its location and size - would knock out power grids and other electrical systems across much of the country, for months if not years.
Few if any people would die right away. But the long-term loss of electricity would essentially bring our society to a halt. Communication would be almost impossible. Powerless refrigerators would leave food rotting in warehouses, marooned by a lack of transportation as those vehicles still operable simply run out of gas (which can’t be pumped without electricity). The unavailability of clean water would quickly threaten public health, not to mention leave the inevitable fires raging unchecked. As we have seen in areas of natural and other disasters, this kind of scenario often results in a fairly rapid breakdown of social order.
Our society has grown so dependent on computer and other electrical systems that we have created our own Achilles’ heel of vulnerability, ironically much more so than less developed nations. Deprived of power in occasional blackouts, we are in many ways helpless. Typically, power is restored relatively quickly, but a large-scale burnout caused by broad EMP attack would create a much more difficult situation. Not only would there be nobody nearby to help, it could take years to replace destroyed equipment. Transformers for regional substations, for example, are huge and are no longer manufactured in the United States.
Essentially those in the affected area would find themselves transported back to the United States of the 1880s, for months if not years - a threat that might sound straight out of Hollywood, but is very real. FBI Director Robert Mueller has confirmed new intelligence that suggests Al Qaeda is trying to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction. Iran has surprised intelligence analysts by describing the mid-flight explosions of missiles fired from ships on the Caspian Sea as “successful” tests. North Korea exports missile technology around the world; SCUDs can easily be purchased on the open market for about $100,000 apiece. And Russia’s rusting nuclear arsenal is highly vulnerable.
The attraction of an EMP attack to a terrorist organization is in its simplicity. Hitting a particular target, like a city, is difficult with a SCUD. But it is relatively simple to simply launch one, off a seagoing freighter for example, and detonate it at the right altitude.
Fortunately, preparing key infrastructure systems and stockpiling backup equipment like transformers is both feasible and relatively inexpensive, according to a comprehensive report on the EMP threat by a commission of prominent experts. But it will take leadership by the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and other federal agencies, along with support from Congress, all of which has yet to materialize.
The landmark 9/11 Commission report stated that our biggest failure was one of “imagination.” No one imagined that terrorists would do what they did on September 11. Today few can conceive of the possibility that terrorists could bring American society to its knees by knocking out our power supply from several miles in the atmosphere. But this time we’ve been warned, and we’d better be prepared to respond.
March 8, 2005
"Terrorism and the EMP Threat to Homeland Security "
Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security
STATEMENT OF SENATOR JON KYL CHAIRMAN
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TERRORISM, TECHNOLOGY, AND HOMELAND SECURITY
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
"TERRORISM AND THE EMP THREAT TO HOMELAND SECURITY"
8 MARCH 2005
Today, the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security will examine the threat and impact of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the American homeland. An attack using an EMP – a phenomenon created by the detonation of a nuclear weapon – could devastate this country. The public and the Congress need to pay more attention to this danger.
Earlier this year, CIA Director Porter Goss gave chilling testimony about missing nuclear material from storage sites in Russia that may have found its way into terrorists’ hands. Moreover, FBI Director Mueller confirmed new intelligence that suggest that Al Qaeda is trying to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction in some form against us. Also, the 9/11 Commission report stated that our biggest failure was one of imagination. No one imagined that terrorists would do what they did on September 11. I want to explore new and imaginative possibilities of terrorist plots and methods. And that=s why we are here today – to examine a possibility that poses a grave threat and a crippling impact to our way of life.
Last year, the EMP Commission found that EMP was one of a small number of threats that could hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences. The effects of an EMP could potentially shock, damage, or even destroy electrical systems that fall within the striking range of a nuclear detonation. And because the United States is heavily dependent on electrical systems to provide basic services, an EMP attack has the potential to have a cascading effect on all aspects of American society.
The Commission’s report found that our infrastructure – such as electrical power, telecommunications, energy, financial, transportation, emergency services, water purification and delivery, and food refrigeration – were all vulnerable to EMP attack. And in the event of an EMP attack, those infrastructures would be rendered unusable, thus inflicting widespread disruption or failure on a national scale. The death toll from such an attack is almost unthinkable. Unfortunately, the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Commission Report occurred on the date of the release of the 9/11 Commission Report. As a result, the hearing – and the EMP Report – received virtually no coverage. I would like to review those finding and understand the current risk we face as well as the actions we may need to take to prepare for an EMP attack.
The Subcommittee will hear from three highly qualified witnesses.
Dr. Lowell L. Wood, Jr.
Dr. Lowell L. Wood, Jr. is a Commissioner of the National
Commission to Assess the EMP Threat to the United States; a member of the
Technical Advisory Group of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on
Intelligence; a member of the Undersea Warfare Experts Group of the U.S.
House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services; a member of the
U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum; a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at
Stanford University; and an officer and member of the Board of Directors of
the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation. He is also a member of the
Laboratory Director's Technical Staff, University of California Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory, where he has held numerous positions since
1972. He has received numerous awards and prizes for his work, and is the
author of several hundred publications.
Dr. Peter Pry
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry was one of the CIA’s chief experts on Soviet
plans for EMP attack. During the Cold War, he developed much of what the
U.S. government knows about Soviet planning for nuclear war; and, in the
post-Cold War period, his work has been central to the U.S. government’s
understanding of evolving Russian threat perceptions and military doctrine.
He is the Director of the United States Nuclear Strategy Forum, a non-profit
foundation established to advise Congress on the future threat environment
and on the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy, and
recently served on the EMP Commission staff, where he was the chief
analyst on foreign views of EMP attack. Dr. Pry holds two Ph.D.s, one in
history, and the other in international relations. He has authored several
books on national security and military issues.
Dr. Peter Fonash, DHS, National Communications, Deputy
Dr. Peter M. Fonash is the Acting Deputy Manager, National
Communications and has been a member of the Senior Executive Service
since 1998. He has served in both technical and policy positions in the
Federal government. Dr. Fonash earned three degrees from the University of
Pennsylvania: a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, a Masters of
Science, and a Master of Business Administration (Wharton School). He
also holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree from George Mason University,
School of Information Technology and Engineering. His 24 years in federal
services were preceded by four years in private industry.
We have a distinguished panel of witnesses before us today, but I
would also like to recognize the EMP Commission members who
unfortunately could not be with us today. I recognize their significant
contributions to help us better understand the EMP threat and what we can
do about it. I would also like to recognize Senator Feinstein who also could
not be with us today. I would like to thank her for all of her work and
contributions as well as the great working relationship we have on this
Today, I would like to look into the EMP Threat to better understand
the magnitude of this threat to our civilian infrastructure, and what we may
need to do to ensure we are prepared to protect our citizens, our economy,
and if necessary, the means to reconstruct our nation’s infrastructure.
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DR. LOWELL WOOD
COMMISSION TO ASSESS THE THREAT TO THE U.S.
FROM ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE ATTACK
UNITED STATES SENATE
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TERRORISM, TECHNOLOGY AND
HON. JON KYL, CHAIRMAN
2:30 PM, 8 MARCH 2005, 226 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
Chairman Kyl, Members of the Subcommittee, ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Commissioners and I
thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the findings and recommendations of the Commission to
Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack, created by the Congress in Title
XIV of P.L. 106-398. At the direction of the Congress, this Commission worked for two years on its
statutory mandate. These efforts have included conducting actual experiments to test the potential
vulnerability of modern electronics systems to EMP, and were informed by a global survey of foreign
scientific and foreign military literatures to assess the knowledge, and if possible the intentions, of rogue
states and other nations with respect to EMP attack. The Commission enjoyed access to all information in
the possession of the Government in the course of its work, and was supported by top-quality studies and
analyses on the part of many cognizant Government and contractor organizations.
The “bottom line” is that several classes of potential adversaries – including terrorist groupings – have or
can acquire the capability to attack the United States with a high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated
electromagnetic pulse. A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a
high level of either military or nuclear sophistication. For example, a Scud missile launched from a freighter
off the Atlantic coast of the United States could constitute a platform that would enable a terrorist group to
mount an EMP attack against roughly half of the United States in population terms. Scud missiles can be
purchased inexpensively (of the order of $100,000) by anyone, including private collectors, in the world’s
arms markets. Terrorists might buy, steal, or be given a ‘no fingerprints’ nuclear weapon. For example,
North Korea has demonstrated willingness to sell both missiles and nuclear materials remarkably
promiscuously. Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism, is widely reported to have a
nuclear weapons program that is more advanced than previously suspected – and is known to have
successfully test-launched a Scud missile from a vessel in the Caspian Sea, a launch mode that could be
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adapted, as already noted, to support an EMP attack against the United States “from the sea”.
A nuclear weapon detonated at altitudes above a few dozen kilometers above the Earth’s surface will
generate a set of electromagnetic pulses of different types as its various outputs interact with the Earth’s
atmosphere. These EMPs propagate from the burst-point of the nuclear weapon to the line-of-sight on the
Earth’s horizon, potentially covering a vast geographic region. For example, a nuclear weapon detonated
at an altitude of 400 kilometers over the central United States would cover with its primary EMP the entire
continental United States, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
The immediate effects of EMP are disruption of, and damage to, electronic systems and electrical
infrastructures. EMP is not reported in the scientific literature to have direct effects on people.
EMP and its effects were observed extensively during the U.S. and Soviet atmospheric test programs in
1962. During the United States STARFISH nuclear detonation – not designed or intended as a generator
of EMP – at an altitude of about 400 kilometers above Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean, some
electrical systems in the Hawaiian Islands, 1,400 kilometers distant, were affected. This comparatively
weak-&-distant EMP caused the failure of street-lighting systems, tripping of circuit breakers, triggering of
burglar alarms, and damage to a telecommunications relay system – among other reported effects.
The Russians, in their testing that year, executed a series of high-altitude nuclear detonations above their
test site in South Central Asia. They report they observed damage to both overhead and underground
buried cables, some at distances of 600 kilometers. They also observed surge arrestor burnout, spark-gap
breakdown, blown fuses, and failures of power supplies of various types.
What is particularly significant about EMP is that a single high-altitude nuclear detonation can produce
EMP effects that can potentially disrupt or damage electronic and electrical systems over much of the
United States, virtually simultaneously, at a time determined by an adversary. Thus, EMP is one of a small
number of threat-types that has the potential to hold American society seriously at risk and that might result
in the defeat of our military forces.
The electromagnetic field pulses produced by weapons designed and deployed with the intent to produce
EMP have a high likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics, and information systems
upon which any reasonably advanced society – including our own – depends vitally. Their effects on
systems and infrastructures dependent on electricity and electronics could be sufficiently ruinous as to
qualify as catastrophic to the Nation.
Depending on the specific characteristics of the EMP attack, unprecedented cascading failures of our
major infrastructures could result, in which failure of one infrastructure could ‘pull down’ others dependent
on its functioning, and the failure of these, in turn, could seriously impede recovery of the first infrastructureto-
fail. In such events, a regional or national recovery would be long and difficult, and would seriously
degrade the overall viability of our Nation and the safety, even the lives, of very large numbers of U.S.
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The primary avenues for EMP imposition of catastrophic damage to the Nation are through our electric
power infrastructure and thence into our telecommunications, energy, and other key infrastructures. These,
in turn, can seriously impact other vital aspects of our Nation’s life, including the financial system; means of
getting food, water, and health care to the citizenry; trade; and production of goods and services.
The recovery of any one of these key National infrastructures is dependent on others working. The longer
the basic outage, the more problematic and uncertain the recovery of any of them will be. It is possible –
indeed, seemingly likely -- for sufficiently-severe functional outages to become mutually reinforcing, until a
point at which the degradation of the set of infrastructures could have irreversible effects on the country’s
ability to support any large fraction of its present human population.
EMP effects from high-altitude nuclear explosions are not new threats to our nation. The Soviet Union in
the past and Russia and other nations today are capable of creating these effects. Historically, this
application of nuclear weaponry was mixed with a much larger population of nuclear explosives that was
the primary source of destruction, and thus EMP as a weapons effect was not the primary focus of U.S.
defensive preparations. Throughout the Cold War, the United States did not try to protect its civilian
infrastructure against either the physical or EMP impact of nuclear weapons, and instead depended on
deterrence for whatever safety might be attained.
What is different now is that some potential sources of EMP threats are difficult to deter – they can be
terrorist groups that have no state identity, have only one or a few weapons, and are motivated to attack the
United States without regard for their own safety or in the belief that they are effectively undeterrable. Rogue
states, such as North Korea and Iran, may also be developing the capability to pose an EMP threat to the
United States, and may also be unpredictable and difficult to deter.
Single detonations of certain types of relatively low-yield nuclear weapons can be employed to generate
potentially catastrophic EMP effects over wide geographic areas, and designs for variants of such weapons
may have been illicitly trafficked for a quarter-century.
China and Russia have considered limited nuclear attack options that, unlike their Cold War plans, employ
EMP as the primary or sole means of attack. Indeed, as recently as May 1999, during the NATO bombing
of the former Yugoslavia, high-ranking members of the Russian Duma, meeting with a U.S. Congressional
delegation to discuss the ongoing Balkans Conflict, raised the specter of a Russian EMP attack that would
paralyze the United States. Open-source Chinese military writings have described, in the event of a conflict
over Taiwan, using EMP as a means of defeating the U.S.
Another key difference from the past is that the U.S. has developed more than most other nations as a modern
society heavily dependent on electronics, telecommunications, energy, information networks, and a rich set of
financial and transportation systems that critically leverage modern technology. This asymmetry is a source of
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substantial economic, industrial, and societal advantages, but it creates vulnerabilities and critical
interdependencies that are potentially catastrophic to the United States.
Therefore, terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear
weapons may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or military base, they may obtain the greatest
political-military utility from one or a few such weapons by using them – or by threatening their use – in an
EMP attack. The current vulnerability of U.S. critical infrastructures can both invite and reward such attacks,
if not corrected.
However, correction is feasible and well within the Nation’s technical means and material resources to
accomplish. Most critical infrastructure system vulnerabilities can be reduced below those levels that
potentially invite attempts to create a national catastrophe. By protecting key elements in each critical
infrastructure and by preparing to recover essential services, the prospects for a terrorist or rogue state being
able to impose large-scale, long-term damage can be minimized. This can be accomplished reasonably and
Such preparation and protection can be achieved over the next several years, given a well-focused
commitment by the Federal Government and a readily-affordable level of resources. We need to take actions
and allocate resources to decrease the likelihood that catastrophic consequences from an EMP attack will
occur, to reduce our current serious levels of vulnerability to acceptable levels and thereby reduce incentives
to attack, and to remain a viable modern society, even if an EMP attack occurs. Since this is a matter of
national security, the Federal Government must shoulder the responsibility of managing the most serious
infrastructure vulnerabilities, including resourcing their timely obviation.
Homeland Security Presidential Directives 7 and 8 lay the authoritative basis for the Federal Government to
act vigorously and coherently to mitigate many of the risks to the Nation from terrorist attack. The effects of
EMP on our major civilian infrastructures lie within these directives, and the directives specify adequate
responsibilities and provide sufficient authorities to deal with the civilian sector consequences of an EMP
In particular, the Department of Homeland Security has been established, led by a Secretary with authority,
responsibility, and the obligation to request needed resources for the mission of protecting the U.S. and
recovering from the impacts of the most serious threats. This official must assure that plans, resources, and
implementing structures are in place to accomplish these objectives, specifically with respect to the EMP
threat. In doing so, DHS must work in conjunction with the other governmental institutions and with experts
in the private sector to efficiently accomplish this mission. It is important that metrics for assessing
improvements in prevention, protection, and recovery be put in place and then evaluated -- and that progress
be reported regularly and independently reviewed.
Specific recommendations are provided in the EMP Commission’s report with respect to both the particulars
for securing each of the most critical National infrastructures against EMP threats and the governing principles
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for addressing these issues of national survival and recovery in the aftermath of an EMP attack. Much of the
problem can be addressed very economically, without major capital investments, but by developing effective
plans to meet the challenges posed by EMP threats. For example, one major Commission finding is that the
electric power grid is the “keystone” infrastructure, upon which all other infrastructures depend. Yet today,
there is no plan for “black-starting” the power grid in the event of a Nation-wide collapse of the system. If the
electric power grid can be quickly recovered, the other infrastructures can also be recovered adequately in the
aftermath of an EMP attack. Making the key aspects of the Nation’s infrastructures more robust against EMP
attack will also pay dividends in protecting against other types of large-scale problems with them, such as
This concludes my statement. Again, my colleagues and I thank you for the opportunity to report the findings
and recommendations of the EMP Commission to the United States Senate.
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DR. PETER VINCENT PRY
EMP COMMISSION STAFF
UNITED STATES SENATE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TERRORISM, TECHNOILOGY AND
March 8, 2005
FOREIGN VIEWS OF
ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE (EMP) ATTACK
The EMP Commission sponsored a worldwide survey of foreign scientific and military literature to
evaluate the knowledge, and possibly the intentions, of foreign states with respect to electromagnetic
pulse (EMP) attack. The survey found that the physics of EMP phenomenon and the military potential
of EMP attack are widely understood in the international community, as reflected in official and
unofficial writings and statements. The survey of open sources over the past decade finds that
knowledge about EMP and EMP attack is evidenced in at least Britain, France, Germany, Israel,
Egypt, Taiwan, Sweden, Cuba, India, Pakistan, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran, North Korea, China
Numerous foreign governments have invested in hardening programs to provide some protection against
nuclear EMP attack, indicating that this threat has broad international credibility. At least some of the
new nuclear weapon states, notably India, are concerned that their military command, control, and
communications may be vulnerable to EMP attack. For example, an Indian article citing the views of
senior officers in the Defense Ministry (including General V. R. Raghavan) concludes: “The most
complicated, costly, controversial and critically important elements of [nuclear] weaponisation are the
C3I systems....Saving on a C3I system could be suicidal. With a no-first-use policy, the Indian
communications systems have to be hardened to withstand the electromagnetic pulses generated by an
adversarial nuclear first strike. Otherwise, no one will be fooled by the Indian nuclear deterrent.” (C.
Rammonohar Reddy, The Hindu, 1 September 1998)
Many foreign analysts perceive nuclear EMP attack as falling within the category of electronic warfare
or information warfare, not nuclear warfare. Indeed, the military doctrines of at least China and Russia
appear to define information warfare as embracing a spectrum ranging from computer viruses to nuclear
EMP attack. For example, consider the following quote from one of China’s most senior military
theorists–who is credited by the PRC with inventing information warfare– appearing in his book World
War, the Third World War–Total Information Warfare: “With their massive destructiveness, longrange
nuclear weapons have combined with highly sophisticated information technology and computer
technology today and warfare of the looming 21st century: information war under nuclear
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deterrence....Information war and traditional war have one thing in common, namely that the country
which possesses the critical weapons such as atomic bombs will have ‘first strike’ and ‘second strike
retaliation’ capabilities....As soon as its computer networks come under attack and are destroyed, the
country will slip into a state of paralysis and the lives of its people will ground to a halt Therefore, China
should focus on measures to counter computer viruses, nuclear electromagnetic pulse...and quickly
achieve breakthroughs in those technologies in order to equip China without delay with equivalent
deterrence that will enable it to stand up to the military powers in the information age and neutralize and
check the deterrence of Western powers, including the United States.” (2001)
Some foreign analysts, judging from open source statements and writings, appear to regard EMP attack
as a legitimate use of nuclear weapons, because EMP would inflict no or few prompt civilian casualties.
EMP attack appears to be a unique exception to the general stigma attached to nuclear employment by
most of the international community in public statements. Significantly, even some analysts in Japan and
Germany–nations that historically have been most condemnatory of nuclear and other weapons of mass
destruction in official and unofficial forums–appear to regard EMP attack as morally defensible. For
example, a June 2000 Japanese article in a scholarly journal, citing senior political and military officials,
appears to regard EMP attack as a legitimate use of nuclear weapons: “Although there is little chance
that the Beijing authorities would launch a nuclear attack, which would incur the disapproval of the
international community and which would result in such enormous destruction that it would impede postwar
cleanup and policies, a serious assault starting with the use of nuclear weapons which would not
harm humans, animals, or property, would be valid. If a...nuclear warhead was detonated 40
kilometers above Taiwan, an electromagnetic wave would be propagated which would harm
unprotected computers, radar, and IC circuits on the ground within a 100 kilometer radius, and the
weapons and equipment which depend on the communications and electronics technology whose
superiority Taiwan takes pride in would be rendered combat ineffective at one stroke...If they were
detonated in the sky in the vicinity of Ilan, the effects would also extend to the waters near Yonakuni [in
Okinawa], so it would be necessary for Japan, too, to take care. Those in Taiwan, having lost their
advanced technology capabilities, would end up fighting with tactics and technology going back to the
19th century...They would inevitably be at a disadvantage with the PLA and its overwhelming military
force superiority.” (Su Tzu-yun, Jadi, 1 June 2000)
An article by a member of India’s Institute of Defense Studies Analysis openly advocates that India be
prepared to make a preemptive EMP attack, both for reasons of military necessity and on humanitarian
grounds: “A study conducted in the U.S. during the late 1980s reported that a high-yield device
exploded about 500 kilometers above the ground can generate an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) of the
order of 50,000 volts over a radius of 2,500 kilometers around the point of burst which would be
collected by any exposed conductor. Such an attack will not cause any blast or thermal effects on the
ground below but it can produce a massive breakdown in the communications system....It is certain that
most of the land communication networks and military command control links will be affected and it will
undermine our capability to retaliate. This, in fact, is the most powerful incentive for a preemptive
attack. And a high-altitude exo-atmospheric explosion may not even kill a bird on the ground.” (The
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Indian Express, 17 September 1999)
Although India, Pakistan, and Israel are not rogue states, they all presently have missiles and nuclear
weapons giving them the capability to make EMP attacks against their regional adversaries. An EMP
attack by any of these states–even if targeted at a regional adversary and not the United States–could
collaterally damage U.S. forces in the region, and would pose an especially grave threat to U.S.
Many foreign analysts–particularly in Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia–view the United States as a
potential aggressor that would be willing to use its entire panoply of weapons, including nuclear
weapons, in a first strike. They perceive the United States as having contingency plans to make a
nuclear EMP attack, and as being willing to execute those plans under a broad range of circumstances.
Russian and Chinese military scientists in open source writings describe the basic principles of nuclear
weapons designed specifically to generate an enhanced-EMP effect, that they term “Super-EMP”
weapons. “Super-EMP” weapons, according to these foreign open source writings, can destroy even
the best protected U.S. military and civilian electronic systems.
Chinese military writings are replete with references to the dependency of United States military forces
and civilian infrastructure upon sophisticated electronic systems, and to the potential vulnerability of
those systems. For example, consider this quote from an official newspaper of the PLA: “Some people
might think that things similar to the ‘Pearl Harbor Incident’ are unlikely to take place during the
information age. Yet it could be regarded as the ‘Pearl Harbor Incident’ of the 21st century if a surprise
attack is conducted against the enemy’s crucial information systems of command, control, and
communications by such means as...electromagnetic pulse weapons....Even a superpower like the
United States, which possesses nuclear missiles and powerful armed forces, cannot guarantee its
immunity...In their own words, a highly computerized open society like the United States is extremely
vulnerable to electronic attacks from all sides. This is because the U.S. economy, from banks to
telephone systems and from power plants to iron and steel works, relies entirely on computer
networks....When a country grows increasingly powerful economically and technologically...it will
become increasingly dependent on modern information systems....The United States is more vulnerable
to attacks than any other country in the world.” (Zhang Shouqi and Sun Xuegui, Jiefangjun Bao 14
Russian military writings are also replete with references to the dependency of United States military
forces and civilian infrastructure upon sophisticated electronic systems, and to the potential vulnerability
of those systems. Indeed, Russia made a thinly veiled EMP threat against the United States on May 2,
1999. During the spring of 1999, tensions between the United States and Russia rose sharply over
Operation ALLIED FORCE, the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. A bipartisan
delegation from the House Armed Services Committee of the U.S. Congress met in Vienna with their
Russian counterparts on the Duma International Affairs Committee, headed by Chairman Vladimir
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Lukin. The object of the meeting was to reduce U.S. -Russia tensions and seek Russian help in
resolving the Balkans crisis. During the meeting, Chairman Lukin and Deputy Chairman Alexander
Shaponov chastised the United States for military aggression in the Balkans, and warned that Russia
was not helpless to oppose Operation ALLIED FORCE: “Hypothetically, if Russia really wanted to
hurt the United States in retaliation for NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia, Russia could fire a submarine
launched ballistic missile and detonate a single nuclear warhead at high-altitude over the United States.
The resulting electromagnetic pulse would massively disrupt U.S. communications and computer
systems, shutting down everything.” (HASC Transcript On Vienna Conference, 2 May 1999)
Iran, though not yet a nuclear weapon state, has produced some analysis weighing the use of nuclear
weapons to destroy cities, as “against Japan in World War II,” compared to “information warfare” that
includes “electromagnetic pulse...for the destruction of unprotected circuits.” An Iranian analyst
describes “terrorist information warfare” as involving not just computer viruses but attacks using
“electromagnetic pulse (EMP).” (Tehran, Siyasat-e Defa-I, 1 March 2001)
An Iranian political-military journal, in an article entitled “Electronics To Determine Fate Of Future
Wars,” suggests that the key to defeating the United States is EMP attack: “Advanced information
technology equipment exists which has a very high degree of efficiency in warfare. Among these we can
refer to communication and information gathering satellites, pilotless planes, and the digital
system....Once you confuse the enemy communication network you can also disrupt the work of the
enemy command and decision-making center. Even worse, today when you disable a country’s military
high command through disruption of communications you will, in effect, disrupt all the affairs of that
country....If the world’s industrial countries fail to devise effective ways to defend themselves against
dangerous electronic assaults, then they will disintegrate within a few years....American soldiers would
not be able to find food to eat nor would they be able to fire a single shot.” (Tehran,Nashriyeh-e
Siasi Nezami, December 1998 -January 1999)
Iranian flight-tests of their Shahab-3 medium-range missile, that can reach Israel and U.S. forces in the
Persian Gulf, have in recent years involved several explosions at high altitude, reportedly triggered by a
self-destruct mechanism on the missile. The Western press has described these flight-tests as failures,
because the missiles did not complete their ballistic trajectories. Iran has officially described all of these
same tests as successful. The flight-tests would be successful, if Iran were practicing the execution of an
Iran, as noted earlier, has also successfully tested firing a missile from a vessel in the Caspian Sea. A
nuclear missile concealed in the hold of a freighter would give Iran, or terrorists, the capability to
perform an EMP attack against the United States homeland, without developing an ICBM, and with
some prospect of remaining anonymous. Iran’s Shahab-3 medium-range missile, mentioned earlier, is a
mobile missile, and small enough to be transported in the hold of a freighter.
We cannot rule out that Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism, might provide
Page 5 of 5 5
terrorists with the means to execute an EMP attack against the United States.
In closing, a few observations about the potential EMP threat from North Korea.
North Korean academic writings subscribe to the view voiced in Chinese, Russian, and Iranian writings
that computers and advanced communications have inaugurated an “information age” during which the
greatest strength, and greatest vulnerability, of societies will be their electronic infrastructures.
According to North Korean press, Chairman Kim Chong-il is himself supposedly an avid proponent of
this view. (M.A. Kim Sang-hak, “development of Information Industry and Construction of Powerful
Socialist State,” Pyongyang Kyongje Yongu, 20 May 2002)
The highest ranking official ever to defect from North Korea, Hwang Chang-yop, claimed in 1998 that
North Korea has nuclear weapons and explained his defection as an attempt to prevent nuclear war.
According to Hwang, in the event of war, North Korea would use nuclear weapons “to devastate Japan
to prevent the United States from participating. Would it still participate, even after Japan is
devastated? That is how they think.” Although Hwang did not mention EMP, it is interesting that he
described North Korean thinking about nuclear weapons employment as having strategic purposes–
nuclear use against Japan–and not tactical purposes–nuclear employment on the battlefield in South
Korea. It is also interesting that, according to Hwang, North Korea thinks it can somehow “devastate”
Japan with its tiny nuclear inventory, although how precisely this is to be accomplished with one or two
nuclear weapons is unknown.
Perhaps most importantly, note that the alleged purpose of a North Korean nuclear strike on Japan
would be to deter the United States. At the time of Hwang’s defection, in 1998, North Korea’s
longest-range missile then operational, the No Dong, limited North Korea’s strategic reach to a strike
on Japan. Today, North Korea is reportedly on the verge of achieving an ICBM capability with its
Taepo Dong-2 missile, estimated to be capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to the United States.
In 2004, the EMP Commission met with very senior Russian military officers, who are experts on EMP
weapons. They warned that Russian scientists had been recruited by Pyongyang to work on the North
Korean nuclear weapons program. They further warned that the knowledge and technology to develop
“Super-EMP” weapons had been transferred to North Korea, and that North Korea could probably
develop these weapons in the near future, within a few years. The Russian officers said that the threat to
global security that would be posed by a North Korea armed with “Super-EMP” weapons is
unacceptable. The senior Russian military officers, who claimed to be expressing their personal views to
the EMP Commission, said that, while the Kremlin could not publicly endorse U.S. preemptive action,
Moscow would privately understand the strategic necessity of a preemptive strike by the United States
against North Korea’s nuclear complex.
This concludes my statement. Thank you for the opportunity to share this information with the U.S.
Senate and the American people.
DR. PETER M. FONASH
ACTING DEPUTY MANAGER,
NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
UNITED STATES SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
TERRORISM, TECHNOLOGY, AND HOMELAND SECURITY
“Terrorism and the EMP Threat to Homeland Security”
MARCH 8, 2005
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee. My name is Peter M.
Fonash. I am the Acting Deputy Manager of the National Communications System (NCS). Sec.
201 (g)(2) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 transferred the National Communications
System of the Department of Defense, including the functions of the Secretary of Defense
relating thereto to the secretary of Homeland Security. The NCS is aligned within the
Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate (IAIP) in the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS). The NCS is governed under Executive Order 12472 of April 3,
1984, as amended by E.O. 13286, of February 28, 2003, which designates the Secretary of
Homeland Security as Executive Agent for the body. As Executive Agent, the Secretary has
designated the Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection within IAIP to serve as the
Manager of the NCS.
The NCS, as you know, is an interagency body that brings together the telecommunications
assets of the Federal government that are of significance to national security and emergency
preparedness (NS/EP). Pursuant to E.O. 12472, the NCS is responsible to ensure the existence
of a national telecommunications infrastructure that is responsive to the NS/EP needs of the
Federal government and capable of providing survivable NS/EP telecommunications services in
all circumstances, including conditions of crisis or emergency. However, it is also important to
frame NCS’ activities relative to telecommunications in the context of other commercial
infrastructures and to the interdependencies that exist among them across the nation.
Prior to my recent responsibilities as Acting Deputy Manager, during my almost seven-year
tenure with the NCS staff, I also directed the Technology and Programs Branch and, thus, have
been actively involved in NCS’ numerous technical and engineering efforts designed to improve
the resiliency and reliability of the underlying public telecommunications networks under all
types of scenarios, including its work relative to the impacts of nuclear electromagnetic pulse
(EMP) on telecommunications. I am honored to appear before you today to discuss the issues
surrounding the vulnerabilities of our nation’s critical telecommunications infrastructure to
nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP), and to other sources of telecommunications
electromagnetic disruptive effects (TEDE), and NCS’ efforts to address those vulnerabilities.
TEDEis a high-intensity, short-duration burst of electromagnetic energy generated by nuclear
or other devices. Unless properly shielded or designed power networks or electronic devices
may be damaged by this energy surge.
II. BACKGROUND ON THE NCS
A. The NCS Mission Generally – National Security/Emergency Preparedness (NS/EP)
Since the height of the Cold War, the development and maintenance of survivable national
telecommunications has been an enduring national objective. The nation’s telecommunications
infrastructure must possess a combination of hardness, redundancy, mobility, connectivity,
interoperability, restorability, and security. Over two decades ago, E.O. 12472 recognized the
fundamental importance of reliable telecommunications to our national security, calling for a
redundant and resilient telecommunications capable of absorbing an attack and continuing to
function in support of multiple national objectives, such as connectivity for national leaders,
military command and control, and continuity of government.
Similarly, in 1983, National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) No. 97 identified a survivable
telecommunications infrastructure as a critical element of U.S. deterrence strategies. More
recently, Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) No. 7 recognized that, in addition to
its specific national security significance, reliable telecommunications also constitutes one of the
essential services that underpin American society as a whole and forms a crucial foundation for
homeland security as well.
To help to achieve this objective, President Kennedy, in 1963, established the NCS “to provide
necessary communications for the Federal Government under all conditions ranging from a
normal situation to national emergencies and international crises, including nuclear attack.” Two
decades later, in 1984, President Reagan, issued E.O. 12472, which reaffirmed and expanded the
membership and mission of the NCS.
In essence, the NCS is a consortium of key representatives of the Executive Office of the
President (EOP) and 23 departments and agencies having national security and/or emergency
preparedness (NS/EP) missions. As set forth in E.O. 12472, the NCS assists the President and
the EOP in the coordination of the planning for and provision of NS/EP telecommunications for
the Federal government under all circumstances, including crisis or emergency, attack, recovery,
and reconstitution. E.O. 12472 charges the NCS to ensure development of a national
telecommunications infrastructure that is:
•Responsive to the NS/EP needs of the President and Federal departments and
agencies, including telecommunications support of national security leadership and
Continuity of Government;
•Capable of satisfying priority telecommunications requirements under all
circumstances through use of commercial, government, and privately owned
•Designed to incorporate the necessary combination of hardness, redundancy,
mobility, connectivity, interoperability, restorability, and security to obtain the
survivability of NS/EP telecommunications in all circumstances; and
•Consistent, to the maximum extent practicable, with other national
When put into place at the height of the Cold War, the larger NS/EP goal was promotion of a
survivable and resilient national telecommunications infrastructure. The primary focus was on a
state-based, largely monolithic threat. The fear was that a single major power would launch a
first strike against military and defense industrial base targets in the United States. In the post-
9/11 environment, however, the U.S. faces more asymmetric threats and the potential targets
expanded to include civilian, economic, and other critical targets. This change — fundamental
in terms of actors, intent, capabilities, and tactics — creates new challenges for the U.S.
Such evolving and expanding threats present three basic issues for the NS/EP
Telecommunications community. They (1) undermine the ability to assure the delivery of
essential telecommunications services; (2) blur traditional distinctions between wartime and nonwartime
functions; and (3) complicate threat assessments to the national telecommunications
infrastructure.. NS/EP telecommunications were originally conceived to serve at the nexus of
national security and emergency preparedness, responding to any event that has the potential for
catastrophic implications for the nation. The linkage of “NS” and “EP”—and their underlying
statutory authorities—enabled the US Government to organize national response efforts
regardless of the threat, whether it involved a nuclear attack or a natural disaster affecting a
significant region of the country. These response efforts ranged from ensuring the survival of
enduring constitutional government, support to military operations, and providing federal
disaster assistance. Some of these efforts are accomplished in close coordination with FEMA’s
Office of National Security Coordination.
In recognition of the fact that more than 95 percent of government telecommunications traffic
traverses the public switched telephone network, E.O. 12472 also directed the NCS to “serve as a
focal point for joint industry-government national security and emergency preparedness
telecommunications planning,” a principle of public-private collaboration that HSPD-7 calls for
all critical infrastructure sectors.
B. NCS Responsibilities Relative to EMP
Part 215 of Title 47, Chapter II, of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) establishes NCS, as
the focal point within the Federal government for all EMP technical data and studies concerning
telecommunications. The purposes underlying this designation were to centralize dissemination
of data and the results of studies concerning the telecommunications effects of EMP and
protective measures among Federal agencies and avoid duplication of research efforts.
III. NCS ACTIVITES RELATIVE TO TELECOMMUNICATIONS
ELECTROMAGNETIC DISRUPTIVE EFFECTS (TEDE) FROM NUCLEAR
EMP AND OTHER SOURCES
Emerging from the tactical and strategic concerns of the Cold War, analyses of potential sources
of electromagnetic disruption of telecommunications services have historically focused most
sharply on the effects produced by the electromagnetic pulse emanating from the detonation of a
nuclear device by a hostile nation-state. For example, in a 1985 special report to the President,
the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) provided its analysis
of the vulnerability of the telecommunications infrastructure to High Altitude EMP (HEMP).
Yet, while nuclear EMP remains the only mechanism to effect widespread electromagnetic
disruption to telecommunications – for example, the 2004 EMP Commission notes impacts
covering a geographic area 2800 km in diameter – it is important to recognize that the advance of
technology has yielded many more tools capable of producing similar telecommunications
electromagnetic disruptive effects (TEDE) on a more limited, but nevertheless significant, scale.
Such tools are, as a general matter, often less costly than are those necessary to create an EMP.
Accordingly, consonant with its NS/EP telecommunications mission, NCS has expanded its
analytical activities to encompass the full range of TEDE sources including, but not limited to,
With respect to EMP specifically, the NCS has, over the ensuing two decades since the NSTAC
Report, conducted numerous studies, simulations, and tests of various elements of the
telecommunications infrastructure to electromagnetic interference from a nuclear EMP. These
tests, conducted in the late 1980s and into the 1990s, subjected the major telecommunications
switching system components to electromagnetic radiation simulating an EMP. The information
derived from these tests was used by the equipment manufacturers to implement vulnerability
mitigating changes in the design of the switching systems.
Just last year, the NCS also actively participated in the congressionally-chartered Commission to
Assess the Threat from High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (the “2004 EMP Commission”) that
examined and evaluated the state of the EMP threat at present and looking 15 years into the
foreseeable future. The Commission’s Report, delivered last July, concludes that EMP presents
a less significant direct threat to telecommunications than it does to the National Power grid but
would nevertheless disrupt or damage a functionally significant fraction of the electronic circuits
in the nation’s telecommunications systems in the region exposed to EMP (which could include
most of the United States). The NCS concurs with this assessment.
Notably, the Commission focused on many high altitude effects from EMP, but did not delve
into the threats from source region EMP, system-generated EMP, trapped radiation, and other
sources of TEDE such as directed radio frequency (RF) energy weapons, which could be
developed and used by terrorists against the telecommunications infrastructure. As noted above,
NCS considers this to be an important area for future consideration and action. NCS’ efforts
relative to the potential threat posed by such other sources of TEDE fall into the following three
(1) evaluating the vulnerability of the telecommunications infrastructure
to the full range of electromagnetic disruptive effects;
(2) identifying measures to mitigate these effects and providing timely
information to the nation on the vulnerabilities and the mitigation
(3) initiating programs that provide connectivity assurance in the event of
disruption such as facility hardening and Telecommunications
Services Priority (TSP) service.
As a part of its vulnerability assessment activities, the NCS participated in the congressionallymandated
“Live Fire” exercise in 2000. “Live Fire” tested military communications equipment
vulnerabilities to electromagnetic disruption; however, because much of the equipment used by
the military corresponds to the commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment used in the civilian
telecommunications infrastructure nationally, NCS’ participation in this effort facilitated tests of
equipment and systems common to the Internet .
Some of our efforts have included tests, simulations and analysis to assess the vulnerability to
??High frequency Two-Way radio systems
??Public Service Radio Systems
??Public Telecommunications Network Switches (4E, 5E, DMS-
??Public Telecommunications Network Buildings and Facilities
??Signaling, Control and Data Acquisition systems (SCADA)
??Internet edge equipments (routers, small computers)
??Internet core equipments (Switching Systems)
At present, NCS is initiating an effort to evaluate the impact of TEDE from various modalities
on a large backbone router.
IV. UNDERSTANDING THE THREAT BEYOND TEDE
As noted above, the NCS is responsible for assessing all threats to the national
telecommunications infrastructure. Accordingly, recognizing communication’s pivotal role in
deterring and/or recovering from an attack, the NCS does not look at EMP or other sources of
TEDE in a vacuum, but rather in the larger context of the full range of potential threats to the
In the 1980s, government and industry focused their attention on the potential destruction and
damage a major first strike could generate. As the Cold War threat abated, interest turned to
other potential threats, including attacks in cyberspace, weapons of mass destruction, and
terrorist acts. In the dynamic threat environment of today, it remains important for industry and
government to assess potential threats to the national telecommunications infrastructure. In
addition to EMP and TEDE, the NCS is involved with assessing other potential vulnerabilities of
the infrastructure, such as:
??Submarine Cable Landings
??Convergence of the traditional telecommunication network with IP-based systems
Studies, modeling and simulation, and testing in these areas, as well as those involving potential
EMP,, cyber, and/or physical attacks, alone or in combination with each other, will enable us to
develop a fuller picture of the risk landscape as we build tools and programs to manage the risk
to the nation’s communications system.
Finally, as a part of the interim National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) recently released
by DHS, the NCS serves as the Sector Specific Agency (SSA) for the telecommunications sector.
In this lead role IAIP and NCS support and facilitate the organization of the sector to strengthen
significantly the collaborative effort to identify vulnerabilities and develop mitigation strategies
both within the sector as well as across sectors.
Although new, this activity is key to our ability to develop and refine cross-sector risk mitigation
strategies as we work to address the risks posed by EMP and other sources of TEDE.
The NCS is responsible for assessing and mitigating vulnerabilities to the national
telecommunications infrastructure. Accordingly, recognizing communication’s pivotal role in
deterring and/or recovering from an attack, the NCS has developed a vulnerability mitigation
approach that is designed to address the entire spectrum of potential disruptions to the nation’s
telecommunications and ensure critical communications will be possible under all conditions.
The existence of EMP effects has been known since the 1940's and we have tested thoroughly
our current generation of core telecommunications switches and have determined that there is
minimal EMP effect on these switches. Furthermore, most of our core communications assets
are in large, very well constructed facilities which provide a measure of shielding. This situation
will evolve as we move to next generation networks (NGN) but we are monitoring this network
evolution by testing critical components of the NGN and leveraging DoD testing.
In moving forward, the NCS has a proven history of preparing for and responding to all types of
threats, founded in its ability to develop effective tools and programs combined with a trusted
working relationship with industry to continually improve the hardness and survivability of the
nation’s communications network.
This concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have
at this time.