I happen to share Gingrich’s concerns with respect to the possible result of an EMP event, but don’t believe that trying to prevent enemies from achieving the capability to launch such an EMP attack is the total answer, if in fact it is an answer at all. Destructive EMPs have been shown to result from natural phenomena, such as high levels of sun spot activity, or potentially from nuclear accidents or, if we are to believe Dan Brown in his novel, The Lost Symbol, by an electromagnetic-pulse-generating weapon mounted on a helicopter. Sunspot activity is clearly not controllable and the risks of accidental explosions can be mitigated but not eliminated. I’m not saying that such an accident is even possible, I just don’t know—nor am I sure that anyone else does.

After the catastrophes at the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear plants, it is clear that, given a particular confluence of events, accidents could occur with the potential of generating electromagnetic radiation. However, I do think that there should be equal time for protection and avoidance as well as or instead of attempting preemptive prevention.

When it comes to protection, the engineering approach appears to be the use of shielding to protect delicate circuitry. However, the cost of shielding for all except the most critical military uses would be prohibitive, especially as we are used to seeing the cost of electronics continue to drop according to  Moore’s Law. And even if the lawmakers mandated such protection going forward, we would never see the billions upon billions of existing products retrofitted with sufficient shielding. Consequently, Step 1 is to require shielding for public and private mission-critical electronic systems going forward.

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