Secure Texas' Electrical Grid Now

Commentary by Allen B. West

Co Author: Trayce Bradford

Once again, the state of Texas is showing leadership by taking action to wisely protect the Texas electric grid from the damaging effects of a manmade or natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could blackout the entire state for months, with catastrophic consequences.  EMP sounds like science fiction, but it is confirmed as a real and present danger by federal agencies, including NASA, and EMPs have occurred numerous time times already in the not-so-distant past.  The Texas legislature is moving potential legislative solutions, and members of the Executive Branch have met with experts to determine the best course of action to protect the grid. 

An EMP is like a super-energetic radio wave, so powerful that it can damage and destroy electronic systems everywhere within the EMP field. 

Mother Nature can make an EMP event dangerous to Texas.  Solar flares generated geomagnetic super-storms in 1859 and 1921 that, if they recurred today, would cause a protracted nationwide or even global blackout of the electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures--including communications, transportation, business and finance, food and water--potentially for months or years.

NASA estimates the likelihood that the Earth will encounter a catastrophic geo-storm is 12 percent per decade.  This virtually guarantees that Texas will see a natural EMP catastrophe within our lifetimes or that of our children--unless the grid is protected.     

The EMP Commission warned that a nuclear weapon detonated at high-altitude, 300 kilometers above the center of the U.S. (so high that there would be no blast, fallout, or other nuclear effects  on the ground) would generate an EMP field over the entire United States.   The Congressional EMP Commission estimated that a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill up to 90 percent of Americans by starvation and societal collapse.

North Korea and Iran may have practiced nuclear EMP attacks against the U.S. by orbiting satellites on a south polar trajectory so they overfly the U.S. coming from the south, and would first pass over states bordering on the Gulf of Mexico.  Currently, the U.S. has no ballistic missile early warning radars or missile interceptors facing south. 

But even if we could intercept a nuclear weapon disguised as a satellite coming from the south, it could salvage-fuse, triggering the EMP attack when intercepted.  The Gulf states, including Texas, would be closest to the EMP field, and most at risk.

Iran and North Korea may have also practiced making a nuclear EMP attack by launching a short-range missile off a freighter.  Iranian freighters regularly visit their allies in Cuba and Venezuela.  In July 2013, a North Korean freighter actually transited the Gulf of Mexico with two unarmed, but nuclear capable, SA-2 missiles mounted on their launchers, hidden in the hold. 

So again, the Gulf states, including Texas, are most at risk from a ship-launched EMP attack.

Indeed, because Texas has its own electric grid, and is not part of the Eastern or Western electric grids that include all the other contiguous states, Texas might be most at risk – and at the same time, the only state in control of its grid security.  An adversary who wants to warn or terrorize the U.S. might well choose to focus an attack on the Texas grid to demonstrate their power to Washington and the world by adversely affecting the Lone Star State.

Non-nuclear EMP weapons, called radiofrequency weapons, can blackout the grid.  Terrorists have employed such weapons in Europe and Asia. Boeing demonstrated such a weapon, called CHAMP, that would be delivered by a drone.  Terrorists could launch something like CHAMP from a freighter or from Mexico, making Texas, again, a frontline state.

Terrorists have figured out that electric grids are a major societal vulnerability.  Terror attacks have blacked-out 420,000 people in Mexico (October 2013), Yemen's 18 cities and 24 million people (June 2014), 80 percent of Pakistan (January 2015), and most of Turkey (April 2015).  The potential exists for a terror blackout coming to the United States based upon precedence.

The Congressional EMP Commission found that protecting the electric grid from the worst threat--nuclear EMP attack--would mitigate all lesser threats, including natural and non-nuclear EMP, cyber attacks, physical sabotage, and severe weather.

We can be proud of the efforts of Texas state leaders like Rep. Tan Parker, Rep. Byron Cook, Sen. Troy Fraser and Senator Bob Hall, himself an EMP expert, who is working overtime to educate policy makers in Austin about the threat, a service to all Texans who do not want to be in the bull's-eye of an EMP Alamo.  Governor Abbott and his administration have an amazing opportunity to take leadership on an issue that is of great concern to the entire country, but that has thus far not been addressed in adequately in Washington, though the U.S. House has recently passed legislation that is a good first step for a national solution. 

Let Texas be the first to protect its people from EMP attack.

A former member of Congress, Allen West is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who served as a battalion commander in Iraq and is the President & CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis. Trayce Bradford is President of the Dallas Eagle Forum.