No Way to Provide for the Common Defense!


"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Honest men can disagree. But as John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Or as former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."  

So, this morning, I want to emphasize some facts for you to consider in judging an important outcome of the pending congressional actions on the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018 - the NDAA(2018). These facts deal with the future of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, or as it is usually referred to, the EMP Commission.

This urgent issue is not likely to receive much public or congressional attention, which no doubt will focus on "bigger ticket" Department of Defense (DoD) matters - even though the EMP vulnerability of the nation's electric power grid is a major problem for military operations and preparedness within the United States, and our ability to fight the nation's wars overseas as well as an existential threat to all Americans. Consider:

Some Facts:

  • The EMP Commission was first constituted in 2001, in response to congressional concerns that in large measure grew from a meeting several House Members had in the late 1990s with several Russian Generals. Then Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) - one of Congress' only scientists - and others, including then Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Curt Weldon (R-PA), were most impressed by the Generals' flat out statement that Russia could destroy the United States with EMP.  (Rep. Weldon also co-chaired the Duma-Congress Study Group, the official inter-parliamentary relationship between the United States and Russia, and speaks Russian - so there was no missing the meaning of the Russian Generals' claim.)
  • The appointed and approved Commissioners are recognized senior scientific, engineering and military authorities, most having been actively involved in rectifying the EMP vulnerabilities of our strategic systems and their supporting command, control and communications systems, since the political and military authorities first recognized that serious threat in the 1960s following the 1962 Starfish Prime high-altitude test formulated in response to the Soviet high-altitude test series that broke their 1958 Atmospheric Test Moratorium. EMP then became a highly classified matter, leaving the public and most of its public officials uninformed - an ignorance that still prevails.
  • The Commissioners have served without compensation for most of the past 16 years in three installments.  The first (2001-05) produced a heavily classified report in 2004 (briefed to a closed session of congress) and an associated unclassified Executive Summary. The second (2007-8) produced a major unclassified report in 2008.  Click here for both public reports, which provide the most authoritative open source information on the existential EMP threat to all Americans.
  • The third installment was re-established by the FY 2016 Defense Authorization Act on November 25, 2015, and supported by appropriated funds on December 18, 2015, with a report due date of June 30, 2017. But the DoD stalled re-establishing the Commission for almost a year before the congressionally reinstated commission could hold its first meeting in January 2017.
  • Now, after less than six months work, the DoD has directed the Commission to be dis-established with its final report due six days from now on July 31, so far with the complicity of the congressional leadership.
  • Moreover, the HASC proposed NDAA(2018) legislation (approved by the full House) disestablishes the Commission before it can review the final draft of its final report, and reestablishes another - a recipe for disruption and further delay while new commissioners are appointed, etc.  
  • Meanwhile, the existential EMP threat to the American People is not being treated seriously, especially by the DoD that considers, with some justification, the protection of the nation's critical civil infrastructure and particularly its electric power grid not to be among its responsibilities, even though it depends on those grids for its logistical and operational support.
  • The DoD has not effectively transferred its knowledge of EMP environments, effects and associated countermeasures to other agencies of the government and to private and public organizations that provide critical national infrastructures, such as electrical power and communications utilities.
  • To the contrary, the Department of Defense is withholding from public distribution, and even has classified key data and technology that underlies protection against EMP, including the U.S. version of key test results provided in the 1990s by Russian scientists to U.S. scientists and engineers.

My Opinions:

  • My opinions are well known to the readers of my weekly High Frontier messages - and to any who seek them. Washington is badly broken and I don't expect to see it repaired anytime soon. For an elaboration of this conclusion, click here for my May 4, 2017 written testimony to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee - and here to the Q&As for the record. Also testifying was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with whom I agreed on essentially every point he made.
  • Not so for much of what other witnesses had to say - though I do not question their sincerity as they seek to relearn lessons that were understood many years ago in highly classified studies and tests to assure the protection of our strategic systems and their essential command, control and communications systems. I do not protest their efforts to learn about these facts - indeed it is important that they do. But I do object to not exploiting what is well known by the DoD community that has been engaged for decades in hardening against these effects.
  • Click here for a video of the complete hearing, beginning with Senator Murkowski's introduction between 23 and 24 minutes in. Click here for my High Frontier message following this important hearing, which summarizes an important letter from the EMP Commission's Chairman to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, to which I referred in my testimony, and its implications - to which there has as yet been no response.
  • This hearing and my overall impressions lead me to conclude that the EMP Commission is the only technically competent moderating influence in understanding and charting associated ways to rectify the dysfunctional Federal Government in protecting the American people against this existential threat.
  • To disestablish the EMP Commission would at best assure delays in countering this threat - and at worst could create major misdirection as currently uninformed technologists relearn lessons that were understood a half century ago, with likely unneeded delays and unwarranted expense.
  • It is true that many of the Commissioners are quite senior and some would like to move on to other matters, but their knowledge and experience acquired over the past 50-years will be lost if there is not a process established for handing off what they have learned to the next generation. So new technically qualified Commissioners will be needed to take the handoff from the existing Commissioners. Rather than starting over completely, it makes much more sense to have the current Commissioners continue and screen replacements for those Commissioners who want to retire, with the appropriate thanks from a grateful nation
  • That approach also will permit the current Commissioners to review the rapidly prepared draft report that will be delivered to OSD next Monday; avoid an unnecessary hiatus in the Commission's activities; and for the appropriate Executive and Legislative authorities to seek their views on how best to address the major institutional problems associated with the above facts, evident at least to me.
  • Chief among them is the obvious fact that the DoD has not been a responsible agent/steward for protecting the nation's critical infrastructure. Indeed, there is no federal department or agency that has the needed broad charter to deal effectively with this urgent, existential threat to all Americans.
  • Thus, some appropriate authority in the White House, appointed by the President with unfettered access to him, should be given the needed authority and held accountable for assuring the American people are protected from this existential EMP threat, as quickly as possible.

Bottom Lines.

Congressional treatment of this EMP Commission issue is, so far, "no way to provide for the common defense . . .  as all Federal Government authorities are sworn to do.

The HASC-House NDAA(2018) proposal to disestablish the current EMP Commission should not be allowed to continue, and there is little time to assure a better outcome. 

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) could correct this course in its consideration of the issue in its floor debate on its version of the NDAA(2018) and/or in the subsequent House-Senate  Conference that must agree on the final NDAA(2018) to be sent to President Trump.

Or the President could veto the proposed NDAA(2018) if it not fixed.

The well-being of the nation hangs in the balance, literally. 

What can you do

Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.

Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all "powers that be" to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.

Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.

Ambassador Henry F. Cooper is Chairman of High Frontier and a former Acquisition Executive for all U.S. ballistic missile defenses.  He also served in several other senior USG acquisition and policy positions, including as President Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union. He is currently focused on helping local, state and federal authorities protect against the natural and manmade EMP threat by building effective ballistic missile defenses and hardening the electric grid. Otherwise, loss of the electric grid would freeze America's "just in time" economy, leaving most Americans without means for survival.


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