An EMP Attack Is Scary. But It’s Not A Top Threat

As much as any other congressional professional staffer, my decade in service on Capitol Hill bore witness to innumerable competing discussions of existential threats to our nation’s security and calls to action.

It was our duty then, and remains so today as fellow citizens, to place these threats in context and order of feasibility and cost. Our national debt, adversarial state actors, the Islamic State, and other non-state actors all demand time and share of scarce resources. It is in this context that any renewed focus and energy spent discussing potential Electromagnetic Pulse attacks should be placed.

In a recent hearing of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski put the issue in context. “The United States has recognized a potential EMP attack as a national security threat for decades, and our efforts to understand a potential EMP burst are not new.” In fact, the Department of Defense and national labs have been studying these issues since nuclear weapons came into existence. Extensive tests in the 1950s and 1960s examined the potential impact of an EMP burst on both military and civilian infrastructure. The threat remains under study.

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