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The “Ghost of EMP Protection Future” Visits This Holiday Season

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EMP ProtectionEMP Protection – Baby Steps in the NDAA for FY 2020

We’re not there yet, but the U.S. has just taken several steps towards EMP protection and civil defense.

On December 20, 2019, the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 into law. (Public Law No. 116-92.) The 1119 page law contains several key provisions related to EMP protection of the electric grid and civil defense in the event of a long term power outage.

Not to wax all Dickensian on the subject, but the NDAA provisions provide a glimmer into the future – but there is much work to be done. Will this be a future of hope – or death? Much of this is up to us and what we do as a nation going forward. In the classic Christmas story, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of the future:

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

The NDAA FY 2020 shows us shadows. Will these shadows remain unaltered by the future?

Section 1720 Report on National Guard and United States Northern Command capacity to meet homeland defense and security incidents.

This provision is the first indication I have seen of the federal government taking a serious look at the catastrophic impact of a long-term national-scale power outage.  Should EMP protection of the grid (or protection against any other hazard such as geomagnetic disturbance (GMD), cyberattack, physical attack, weather, etc.) fail, our population would be in grave danger. Section 1720 begins to address this on the federal level. It requires, among other things, that the National Guard produce:

(2) A list of the resources that each State and Territory National Guard has at its disposal that are available to respond to a homeland defense or security incident, with particular focus on a multi-State electromagnetic pulse event.

This is great news for all the emergency managers out there who are concerned about long-term national-scale power outages. Take this provision and talk to your national guard contacts. There is an opportunity here to revive what we lost when civil defense faded out of the national conversation. It also fits in perfectly with FEMA’s first two strategic plan goals:

  1. Build a Culture of Preparedness
  2. Ready the Nation for Catastrophic Disasters

But we must take action.

Section 1740 Electromagnetic pulses and geomagnetic disturbances.

This sections codifies parts of EMP Executive Order 13865 into law. However, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry warns:

This is potentially big progress, except both the EMP Executive Order and the NDAA EMP provision are at risk of going awry due to non-experts in DOE, DHS and elsewhere underestimating the EMP threat.

We have seen the electric utility industry fighting EMP protection, especially through the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and their fraudulent EMP “research” which has been discredited by nationally renown EMP experts.

The two provisions are below. This could be a start towards protecting the grid – and our population – from catastrophic disasters. It could also be torpedoed by government bureaucrats and the electric utility industry.

Will the shadows of a long-term power outage catastrophe in the U.S. remain unaltered by the future? Or will the United States act?

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SEC. 1720. REPORT ON NATIONAL GUARD AND UNITED STATES NORTHERN COMMAND CAPACITY TO MEET HOMELAND DEFENSE AND SECURITY INCIDENTS.

Not later than September 30, 2020, the Chief of the National Guard
Bureau shall, in consultation with the Commander of United States
Northern Command, submit to the congressional defense committees a
report setting forth the following:
(1) A clarification of the roles and missions, structure,
capabilities, and training of the National Guard and the United
States Northern Command, and an identification of emerging gaps and
shortfalls in light of current homeland security threats to our
country.
(2) A list of the resources that each State and Territory
National Guard has at its disposal that are available to respond to
a homeland defense or security incident, with particular focus on a
multi-State electromagnetic pulse event.
(3) The readiness and resourcing status of forces listed
pursuant to paragraph (2).
(4) The current strengths and areas of improvement in working
with State and Federal interagency partners.
(5) The current assessments that address National Guard
readiness and resourcing of regular United States Northern Command
forces postured to respond to homeland defense and security
incidents.
(6) A roadmap to 2040 that addresses readiness across the
spectrum of long-range emerging threats facing the United States.


SEC. 1740. ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSES AND GEOMAGNETIC DISTURBANCES.

(a) EMP and GMD Mitigation Research and Development.–
(1) Threat assessment, response, and recovery.–Section 320 of
the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 195f) is amended–
(A) in the section heading, by inserting “and threat
assessment, response, and recovery” after “development”; and
(B) by adding at the end the following:
“(d) Threat Assessment, Response, and Recovery.–
“(1) Roles and responsibilities.–
“(A) Distribution of information.–
“(i) In general.–Beginning not later than June 19,
2020, the Secretary shall provide timely distribution of
information on EMPs and GMDs to Federal, State, and local
governments, owners and operators of critical
infrastructure, and other persons determined appropriate by
the Secretary.
“(ii) Briefing.–The Secretary shall brief the
appropriate congressional committees on the effectiveness
of the distribution of information under clause (i).
“(B) Response and recovery.–
“(i) In general.–The Administrator of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency shall–

“(I) coordinate the response to and recovery from
the effects of EMPs and GMDs on critical
infrastructure, in coordination with the heads of
appropriate Sector-Specific Agencies, and on matters
related to the bulk power system, in consultation with
the Secretary of Energy and the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission; and
“(II) to the extent practicable, incorporate
events that include EMPs and extreme GMDs as a factor
in preparedness scenarios and exercises.

“(ii) Implementation.–The Administrator of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with
the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure
Security Agency, and on matters related to the bulk power
system, the Secretary of Energy and the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, shall–

“(I) not later than June 19, 2020, develop plans
and procedures to coordinate the response to and
recovery from EMP and GMD events; and
“(II) not later than December 21, 2020, conduct a
national exercise to test the preparedness and response
of the Nation to the effect of an EMP or extreme GMD
event.

“(C) Research and development.–
“(i) In general.–The Secretary, in coordination with
the heads of relevant Sector-Specific Agencies, shall–

“(I) without duplication of existing or ongoing
efforts, conduct research and development to better
understand and more effectively model the effects of
EMPs and GMDs on critical infrastructure (which shall
not include any system or infrastructure of the
Department of Defense or any system or infrastructure
of the Department of Energy associated with nuclear
weapons activities); and
“(II) develop technologies to enhance the
resilience of and better protect critical
infrastructure.

“(ii) Plan.–Not later than March 26, 2020, and in
coordination with the heads of relevant Sector-Specific
Agencies, the Secretary shall submit to the appropriate
congressional committees a research and development action
plan to rapidly address modeling shortfall and technology
development.
“(D) Emergency information system.–
“(i) In general.–The Administrator of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with relevant
stakeholders, shall maintain a network of systems, such as
the alerting capabilities of the integrated public alert
and warning system authorized under section 526, that are
capable of providing appropriate emergency information to
the public before (if possible), during, and in the
aftermath of an EMP or GMD.
“(ii) Briefing.–Not later than December 21, 2020, the
Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
shall brief the appropriate congressional committees
regarding the maintenance of systems, including the
alerting capabilities of the integrated public alert and
warning system authorized under section 526.
“(E) Quadrennial risk assessments.–
“(i) In general.–The Secretary, in coordination with
the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Energy, and the
Secretary of Commerce, and informed by intelligence-based
threat assessments, shall conduct a quadrennial EMP and GMD
risk assessment.
“(ii) Briefings.–Not later than March 26, 2020, and
every four years thereafter until 2032, the Secretary, the
Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Energy, and the
Secretary of Commerce shall provide a briefing to the
appropriate congressional committees regarding the
quadrennial EMP and GMD risk assessment.
“(iii) Enhancing resilience.–The Secretary, in
coordination with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary
of Energy, the Secretary of Commerce, and the heads of
other relevant Sector-Specific Agencies, shall use the
results of the quadrennial EMP and GMD risk assessments to
better understand and to improve resilience to the effects
of EMPs and GMDs across all critical infrastructure
sectors, including coordinating the prioritization of
critical infrastructure at greatest risk to the effects of
EMPs and GMDs.
“(2) Coordination.–
“(A) Report on technological options.–Not later than
December 21, 2020, and every four years thereafter until 2032,
the Secretary, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense,
the Secretary of Energy, the heads of other appropriate
agencies, and, as appropriate, private-sector partners, shall
submit to the appropriate congressional committees, a report
that–
“(i) assesses the technological options available to
improve the resilience of critical infrastructure to the
effects of EMPs and GMDs; and
“(ii) identifies gaps in available technologies and
opportunities for technological developments to inform
research and development activities.
“(B) Test data.–
“(i) In general.–Not later than December 20, 2020,
the Secretary, in coordination with the heads of Sector-
Specific Agencies, the Secretary of Defense, and the
Secretary of Energy, shall–

“(I) review test data regarding the effects of
EMPs and GMDs on critical infrastructure systems,
networks, and assets representative of those throughout
the Nation; and
“(II) identify any gaps in the test data.

“(ii) Plan.–Not later than 180 days after identifying
gaps in test data under clause (i), the Secretary, in
coordination with the heads of Sector-Specific Agencies and
in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the
Secretary of Energy, shall use the sector partnership
structure identified in the National Infrastructure
Protection Plan to develop an integrated cross-sector plan
to address the identified gaps.
“(iii) Implementation.–The heads of each agency
identified in the plan developed under clause (ii) shall
implement the plan in collaboration with the voluntary
efforts of the private sector, as appropriate.
“(3) Definitions.–In this subsection:
“(A) The term `appropriate congressional committees’
means–
“(i) the Committee on Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs, the Committee on Armed Services, the
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and the
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the
Senate; and
“(ii) the Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure, the Committee on Homeland Security, the
Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Energy and
Commerce, and the Committee on Science, Space and
Technology of the House of Representatives.
“(B) The terms `prepare’ and `preparedness’ mean the
actions taken to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise to
build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent,
protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and
recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk to the
security of the homeland, including the prediction and
notification of impending EMPs and GMDs.
“(C) The term `Sector-Specific Agency’ has the meaning
given that term in section 2201.
“(e) Rule of Construction.–Nothing in this section may be
construe–
“(1) to affect in any manner the authority of the executive
branch to implement Executive Order 13865, dated March 26, 2019,
and entitled `Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic
Pulses’, or any other authority existing on the day before the date
of enactment of this subsection of any other component of the
Department or any other Federal department or agency, including the
authority provided to the Sector-Specific Agency specified in
section 61003(c) of division F of the Fixing America’s Surface
Transportation Act (6 U.S.C. 121 note), including the authority
under section 215 of the Federal Power Act (16 U.S.C. 824o), and
including the authority of independent agencies to be independent;
or
“(2) as diminishing or transferring any authorities vested in
the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency or in
the Agency prior to the date of the enactment of this
subsection.”.
(2) Technical and conforming amendment.–The table of sections
in section 1(b) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 is amended by
striking the item relating to section 320 and inserting the
following:

“Sec. 320. EMP and GMD mitigation research and development and threat
assessment, response, and recovery.”.

(b) Consultation With Secretary of Energy in Preparation of
Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.–Section 707 of the Homeland
Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 347) is amended–
(1) in subsection (a)(3)(A), by inserting “the Secretary of
Energy,” after “the Secretary of Agriculture”; and
(2) in subsection (c)(2)(B), by inserting after review the
following “or for purposes of the quadrennial EMP and GMD risk
assessment under section 320(d)(1)(E)”.
(c) National Essential Functions.–
(1) Updated operational plans.–Not later than March 20, 2020,
each agency that supports a national essential function shall
prepare updated operational plans documenting the procedures and
responsibilities of the agency relating to preparing for,
protecting against, and mitigating the effects of EMPs and GMDs.
(2) Definition of national essential function.–In this
subsection, the term “national essential functions” means the
overarching responsibilities of the Federal Government to lead and
sustain the Nation before, during, and in the aftermath of a
catastrophic emergency, such as an EMP or GMD that adversely
affects the performance of the Federal Government.
(d) Benchmarks.–Not later than March 26, 2020, and as appropriate
thereafter, the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary
of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and, as appropriate,
the private sector, may develop or update, as necessary, quantitative
and voluntary benchmarks that sufficiently describe the physical
characteristics of EMPs, including waveform and intensity, in a form
that is useful to and can be shared with owners and operators of
critical infrastructure. Nothing in this subsection shall affect the
authority of the Electric Reliability Organization to develop and
enforce, or the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
to approve, reliability standards.
(e) Pilot Test by DHS to Evaluate Engineering Approaches.–
(1) In general.–Not later than September 22, 2020, the
Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through the Under Secretary
for Science and Technology of the Department of Homeland Security,
in coordination with the Director of the Cybersecurity and
Infrastructure Security Agency and the Administrator of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, the Secretary of Defense, and the
Secretary of Energy, and in consultation with the private sector,
as appropriate, shall develop and implement a pilot test to
evaluate available engineering approaches for mitigating the
effects of EMPs and GMDs on the most vulnerable critical
infrastructure systems, networks, and assets.
(2) Briefing.–Not later than 90 days after the date on which
the pilot test described in paragraph (1) is completed, the
Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through the Under Secretary
for Science and Technology of the Department of Homeland Security,
in coordination with the Director of the Cybersecurity and
Infrastructure Security Agency and the Administrator of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, the Secretary of Defense, and the
Secretary of Energy, shall jointly brief the appropriate
congressional committees on the cost and effectiveness of the
evaluated approaches.
(f) Pilot Test by DOD to Evaluate Engineering Approaches.–
(1) In general.–Not later than September 22, 2020, the
Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of
Homeland Security and the Secretary of Energy, shall conduct a
pilot test to evaluate engineering approaches for hardening a
strategic military installation, including infrastructure that is
critical to supporting that installation, against the effects of
EMPs and GMDs.
(2) Report.–Not later than 180 days after completing the pilot
test described in paragraph (1), the Secretary of Defense shall
submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report
regarding the cost and effectiveness of the evaluated approaches.
(g) Communications Operational Plans.–Not later than December 21,
2020, the Secretary of Homeland Security, after holding a series of
joint meetings with the Administrator of the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure
Security Agency, the Secretary of Defense, the Under Secretary of
Commerce for Standards and Technology, the Assistant Secretary of
Commerce for Communications and Information, the Federal Communications
Commission, and the Secretary of Transportation, shall submit to the
appropriate congressional committees a report–
(1) assessing the effects of EMPs and GMDs on critical
communications infrastructure; and
(2) recommending any necessary changes to operational plans to
enhance national response and recovery efforts after an EMP or GMD.
(h) Definitions.–In this section:
(1) The term “appropriate congressional committees” has the
meaning given that term in subsection (d) of section 320 of the
Homeland Security Act of 2002, as added by subsection (a) of this
section; and
(2) The terms “critical infrastructure”, “EMP”, and “GMD”
have the meanings given such terms in section 2 of the Homeland
Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 101).

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