Electromagnetic Pulse Preparedness – Homeland Security Challenges and DoD Opportunities,

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Photonics Research Center

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Countering WMD Journal

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The threat from high-intensity, electromagnetic disturbances – commonly referred to as electromagnetic pulses (EMP) – is not new. Modern observations of naturally occurring EMPs date as far back to the so-called “Carrington Event” of 1859 when a naturally occurring coronal mass ejection (CME) induced intense terrestrial electromagnetic fi elds and disrupted what little electrical devices existed – telegraphs.¹ Manmade EMPs are also not new. The 1962 U.S. nuclear test known as Starfi sh Prime illuminated the phenomenon by unanticipatedly disrupting civilian and military electronics in Hawaii, over 1,300 kilometers away.² However, what has changed since these events is the ubiquity of civilian and government dependence on electronics. To this end, the U.S. military has assessed the threat of EMP eff ects against military targets for several decades.³ Overlooked in this analysis is the U.S. military’s increasing dependance on civilian infrastructure which presents new EMP related homeland security challenges. Therefore, while an EMP poses a clear homeland security threat, it is in the interest of the Department of Defense (DoD) to promote homeland EMP resiliency to preserve its own strategic readiness. Put another way, a domestic EMP event presents an imminent homeland security threat whose second and third order eff ects may compromise the DoD’s ability to execute national defense at home and abroad.

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