Electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) are a little understood phenomenon that many believe could pose a serious threat to our nation’s critical infrastructure. EMPs may sound like something out of a science fiction novel: a nuclear blast at high altitude or particles from a solar storm interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field to cause disruption or damage to the electrical grid and electronics. This May 2016 paper will outline the EMP threat, and provide an overview of current and potential mitigations, including the state of legislative and policy activity. It draws on the 2008 report from the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack, reputable open-source resources, and interviews with subject matter experts in government and private industry.
While progress is being made to assess vulnerabilities and improve grid security, the United States is unprepared for the effects of an EMP and more work is necessary to protect the American public.