(NaturalNews) Experts on electromagnetic pulse (EMP) phenomena, concerned about the devastation they could wreak on the U.S. economy and infrastructure, are increasingly sounding the alarm bell about the need to beef up cyber-security and protect vulnerable systems.
Some of them testified again recently in the nation's capital, appearing before a congressional panel to warn of a threat that could leave a majority of Americans dead.
The hearing, "Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP): Threat to Critical Infrastructure," before the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies explored the effects that an EMP would have, The Washington Free Beacon (WFB) reported.
"Some would say it's low probability, but the damage that could be caused in the event of an EMP attack, both by the sun, a solar event, or a man-made attack, would be catastrophic," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. "We talk a lot about a nuclear bomb in Manhattan, and cybersecurity threat to the power grid in the Northeast, and all of these things would actually probably pale in comparison to the devastation that an EMP attack could perpetrate on Americans."
'Men, women, children across the country could wind up with little or nothing'
Meanwhile Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., has been working to raise concern about the issue for years. He said during the first panel testimony that "catastrophic civilian casualties" could occur unless Congress acts.
As noted by the WFB:
An overload of radio waves to electric systems, an EMP could result from a natural disaster, such as a solar storm, or a terrorist attack. Franks said "every single facet of modern human life" would be "crippled" by such an event.
"It strikes at my very core when I think of the men, women, and children in cities and rural towns across America with a possibility of no access to food, water, or transportation," he said. "In a matter of weeks or months at most, a worst-case scenario could bring devastation beyond imagination."
Franks told WFB that, though the nation's critical defense assets, which include nuclear defense capabilities, are largely protected from EMP attacks and occurrences, the civilian power grid is "almost entirely vulnerable."
"The civilian grid, in my judgment, is very vulnerable," he said. "Some of the largest transformers, the very largest ones, have an inherent resistance to all but the more intense electromagnetic pulses. But the fact is, we have enough of those mid-range transformers where a major event would be catastrophic."
Some experts have said that the loss of a number of transformers would lead to rolling power failures across the country, crippling a number of industries while stranding hospitals and water treatment facilities and knocking out traffic lights, air travel and financial transactions.
Franks has introduced H.R. 3410, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, which would enable the Department of Homeland Security to adopt measures necessary to protect the power grid.
'Currently, Russia and China may have an EMP capability'
Dr. Michael J. Frankel, a senior scientist at Pennsylvania State University, said Franks' bill is a "necessary first step" for the defense of the electric grid, WFB reported. Currently, the measure has 19 co-sponsors.
Dr. Peter Pry, a member of the Congressional EMP Commission and executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, said during testimony that the issue is urgent because an EMP event could wide out nine-tenths of the nation's population.
"Natural EMP from a geomagnetic super-storm, like the1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, and nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013, are both existential threats that could kill 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease, and societal collapse," he said.
Subcommittee Vice Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa., said that enemies of the country could already have the ability to launch an EMP attack, which would occur by detonating nuclear devices miles above the U.S. power grid.
"Currently the nations of Russia and China have the technology to launch an EMP attack, and we have speculated that Iran and North Korea may be developing EMP weapon technology," Perry said. "This is why we must remain vigilant in our efforts to mitigate the effects of an EMP attack."
The experts warn that the real danger comes after an EMP event has knocked out power for several weeks at a time, or even months. They note that it could take that long, or longer, for the country to replace the grid components necessary to both generate and transmit electrical power. In the meantime, society would begin to deteriorate and could even break down completely.