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The threat of an EMP attack against the United States is hard to assess, but some observers indicate that it is growing along with worldwide access to newer technologies and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In the past, the threat of mutually assured destruction provided a lasting deterrent against the exchange of multiple high-yield nuclear warheads. However, now even a single, specially designed low-yield nuclear explosion high above the United States, or over a battlefield, can produce a large-scale EMP effect that could result in a widespread loss of electronics, but no direct fatalities, and may not necessarily evoke a large nuclear retaliatory strike by the U.S. military. This, coupled with the possible vulnerability of U.S. commercial electronics and U.S. military battlefield equipment to the effects of EMP, may create a new incentive for other countries to develop or acquire a nuclear capability.
Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is an instantaneous, intense energy field that can overload or disrupt at a distance numerous electrical systems and high technology microcircuits, which are especially sensitive to power surges. A large scale EMP effect can be produced by a single nuclear explosion detonated high in the atmosphere. This method is referred to as High-Altitude EMP (HEMP). A similar, smaller-scale EMP effect can be created using non-nuclear devices with powerful batteries or reactive chemicals. This method is called High Power Microwave (HPM). Several nations, including reported sponsors of terrorism, may currently have a capability to use EMP as a weapon for cyber warfare or cyber terrorism to disrupt communications and other parts of the U.S. critical infrastructure. Also, some equipment and weapons used by the U.S. military may be vulnerable to the effects of EMP.
This book covers a wide range of topics that look at a five-year plan for protecting critical infrastructures from EMP and from other large-scale terrorist attacks. The five-year plan is briefly summarized and more details of the plan may be made available to the public, including detailed maps and a section on policy analysis.
Topics Covered Include
- Background of Study
- EMP Commission Reestablished for 2006-2007
- The EMP Commission’s 2004 Report
- Questions about Vulnerability to EMP
- Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons
- Description of High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse
- Description of High-Power Microwave
- Disruptive Capabilities of HEMP and HPM Weapons
- Hardening Against HEMP and HPM Weapons
- DOD Applications of HEMP and HPM
- Capabilities of Other Nations
- Ground Wave Emergency Network
- Policy Analysis
- Private Sector Vulnerability
- Military Vulnerability
- New Incentive to Develop a Nuclear Capability
- Terrorist Use of HPM
- Human Rights Objections
- Legislative Activity
- CRS Products
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