Journal Geopolitical Futures Wrong On EMP

by DR. PETER VINCENT PRY February 19, 2018

Now Geopolitical Futures, which I am told is a respectable journal, has joined the trend of relying on non-experts to misinform its readers that the threat from nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is "hyped" by the real experts.

"The Hype and the Reality of the EMP Threat" (Geopolitical Futures: February 15, 2018) purports to take a "middle view" on EMP, but really bends over backwards to dismiss or minimize the EMP threat, especially from North Korea.  The author is clearly a non-expert on EMP as he makes many mistakes of fact and analysis.  Yet he tries hard to look like an EMP expert by marshalling many facts, virtually all of which are taken from the work of the Congressional EMP Commission, Chaired by Dr. William Graham, which he then dismisses as "hype."  According to the article, the work of Dr. Graham and the EMP Commission has been faulted by "many experts" who he does not name, and therefore the findings of the Congressional EMP Commission that any EMP attack would have catastrophic consequences are effortlessly dismissed.

The Real EMP Experts

In fact, no bona fide EMP experts have ever challenged the analysis and findings of the EMP Commission.  In part this is because there are relatively few real EMP experts, and the best of them worked for the EMP Commission-including Dr. Graham, the Free World's foremost EMP expert, who the article accuses of "hype."  Dr. Graham was on the defense science team that discovered the EMP phenomenon after the 1962 STARFISH PRIME nuclear test.  Dr. Graham was responsible for protecting U.S. military systems from EMP since 1963, and along the way served as President Reagan's White House Science Advisor and director of NASA. 

The other EMP Commissioners and staff also have extraordinary backgrounds.  For example, another EMP Commissioner, Dr. John Foster, designed most of the nuclear weapons in the current U.S. nuclear deterrent.  Another EMP Commissioner, Dr. Lowell Wood, was for many years the senior nuclear scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, was mentored by Edward Teller, the inventor of the H-Bomb, and is literally the most inventive man in American history, holding more patents on original inventions than Thomas Edison.  These are just a few of the "best and brightest" who served on the EMP Commission.

The author does not explain, because he probably does not understand, that the entire purpose of congressional and presidential commissions, like the EMP Commission, is to assemble in one body top experts, the best and the brightest, on a given topic, in this case EMP, to provide a "definitive" threat assessment and recommendations to serve as the basis for public policy.  The author does not explain why the EMP Commission should be ignored, except to falsely claim that the EMP Commission "hyped" the threat according to unidentified "experts."

Misinformation And False Arguments

The author then proceeds to make false arguments used by non-experts such as Yousaff Butt (a physicist and left-wing political activist and Jeffrey Lewis (a political scientist), who know nothing about EMP, have never worked professionally in the EMP field, and have never had access to classified data on EMP, as has the EMP Commission.

Alas, errors of fact, analysis, and omissions in the Geopolitical Futures EMP article are far too numerous to address here.  But some of the biggest mistakes are these:

--Contrary to the author, the short-wavelength E1 EMP, not the long-wavelength E3 EMP, is the more dangerous and damaging form of EMP, as it can destroy small electronics, such as computers, cause cars to stall, make airplanes fall out of the sky, and cause more widespread and deeper damage to the electric power grid and other critical infrastructures than E3 EMP.

--Contrary to the author, an EMP attack from a low-yield 10 KT warhead would cause an E1 EMP field on the ground about 600 kilometers in radius, but the damage will not be confined to the field.  Such an attack would assuredly cause cascading failures and a prolonged blackout of the Eastern Grid, that supports most of the U.S. population and generates 75% of U.S. electricity.

--Contrary to the author, the USSR's series of EMP tests over Kazakhstan destroyed electric grids over an area nearly as large as Western Europe.

--Contrary to the author, nuclear tests are not the primary source of information about EMP.  For example, the Defense Department has been using EMP simulators for over 50 years to test EMP effects.  The EMP Commission did many such tests, proving that modern electronics are over 1 million times more vulnerable than the vacuum tube electronics of the 1950-60s, and that such electronics would be damaged or destroyed by EMP, if not protected.

--Contrary to the author, a Super-EMP weapon, though of much lower explosive yield than a standard H-Bomb, would nonetheless pose a much greater EMP threat precisely because it generates extraordinarily powerful E1 EMP fields.  The EMP Commission warns that North Korea has two satellites orbiting over the U.S. on a trajectory consistent with making a surprise EMP attack, possibly armed with Super-EMP warheads.

--Contrary to the author, North Korea or another adversary could have high confidence that a nuclear EMP attack would have catastrophic consequences and pose an existential threat to the United States, if the power grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures remain unprotected.

--Contrary to the author, classical deterrence may not work against EMP, because an EMP attack can be executed anonymously (by satellite or off a freighter, for example).  Moreover, an EMP attack could destroy the national technical means necessary to identify the attacker.  Deterrence only works if you know against who to retaliate.  And even then, deterrence is no guarantor of security.  Every war that has ever been fought is an example of deterrence failure.

In summation, the article is a laughable example of yet another non-expert posturing as an expert, pretending to know "the reality" of the EMP threat, while dismissing the work of the EMP Commission as "hype."  But I am not laughing, because this sort of erroneous speculation and misinformation by non-experts could get millions of Americans killed.

The Left's Obsession With EMP Denial

Ever since Newt Gingrich raised the EMP threat during a presidential debate when he was running for the office, the Left, academics, and the liberal mainstream media have tried to marginalize the EMP threat as a crazy Republican obsession.  The Republican National Committee Platform, on which President Trump and the Republican Congress ran and were elected, included a provision on protecting the electric grid and other critical infrastructures from EMP-of course, this increased denial of the EMP threat by the Left and the media.  Anything Trump and Republicans take seriously must be crazy, right?  Yet EMP has always been taken seriously by every President and Congress since its discovery in 1962, as billions have been spent on a bipartisan basis to protect U.S. C3I and strategic forces from EMP.  Even President Obama spent nearly $1 billion to further harden the NORAD command post inside Cheyenne Mountain from a nuclear EMP attack.

Another factor moving the Left and the media to belittle EMP is President Trump's plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent and National Missile Defenses.  The EMP threat provides an additional good reason for such modernization.  But the Left and the media are opposed to U.S. strategic forces modernization, whether offensive or defensive.  They still think the U.S. should try leading the way toward Obama's "world without nuclear weapons."  But EMP, if taken seriously, makes such aspirations appear all the more naïve and non-serious.

The Blind Leading The Blind

Unfortunately, real EMP experts, like the EMP Commissioners and their staff, are outnumbered by idiots, poseurs, and irresponsible journalists by hundreds to one.  Another recent example is a new book "EMP Hoax" written by a professor of English literature, who relies heavily on non-expert critics of the EMP Commission.  I do my best to write rebuttals when I can.  But refuting all of this nonsense would be a full-time job, and I simply cannot keep up.

The blind are leading the blind toward the abyss that is EMP. 

For those interested in the reality of the EMP threat, ignore the dumb Geopolitical Futures article, and read the last testimony of the Congressional EMP Commission "North Korea Nuclear EMP Attack: An Existential Threat" submitted to the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, on October 12, 2017. 

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards, and served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of Apocalypse Unknown: The Struggle To Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe and Electric Armageddon, both available from and



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