DHS Releases Strategy to Confront Potentially Devastating Electromagnetic Pulse Threat

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced the release of the Strategy for Protecting and Preparing the Homeland against Threats from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) and Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD).

“Essentially, any electronics system that is not protected against extreme EMP or GMD events may be subject to either the direct ‘shock’ of the blast itself or to the damage that is inflicted on the systems and controls upon which they are dependent,” says the strategy. “For these reasons, the potential severity of both the direct and indirect impacts of an EMP or GMD incident compels our national attention.”

The strategy lays out a clear vision and an approach for DHS to take to protect critical infrastructure and prepare to respond and recover from potentially catastrophic electromagnetic incidents. The strategy also reflects a consensus Intelligence Community assessment of the EMP threat posed by our nation’s adversaries.

“Current EMP-related intelligence gathering, sharing, and analysis remains largely stove-piped within the Federal Government and across DHS, which leads to disparate understanding of potential electromagnetic threats and hazards,” the report notes. “This problem also creates uncertainties about how DHS should address critical infrastructure vulnerabilities. In addition, government entities are often challenged in their ability to understand vulnerabilities and consequences to private and public sector critical infrastructure from EMP threats. These knowledge gaps make risk-informed decision-making difficult.”

Electromagnetic incidents caused by an intentional EMP attack or naturally-occurring GMD events, while unlikely, could cause serious damage to the nation’s critical infrastructure, including the electrical grid, communications equipment, and transportation capabilities.

While the strategy is primarily focused on departmental activities, it recognizes the importance of continued close collaboration with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial decision-makers, sector-specific agencies, and private sector critical infrastructure owner-operators. This partnership is essential to help critical infrastructure owners and operators to manage EMP and GMD risk.

The department is currently developing an accompanying implementation plan, which will include measures that enable DHS to evaluate progress toward addressing identified capability gaps. Together, the strategy and its companion implementation plan will improve the department’s management oversight and optimize resource utilization for our EMP/GMD protection, response, and recovery activities.

DHS intends to review and update the EMP/GMD Strategy, as needed, and regularly assess the department’s progress on the implementation plan.

The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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