Vice-Admiral Monroe Recommends New Civilian/Military Hybrid Agency to Protect Against EMP Attacks

In a Washington, DC panel, former Director of Central Intelligence Jim Woolsey discussed a threat so big that it could, in his words, "bring down our civilization." Woolsey began by providing a historical backdrop to our nation's current electrical problems; Tesla and Edison were duking it out. Tesla's plan permitted the transmission of electricity from a small number of generators over substantial distance. Edison's plan meant coal-powered stations in every small city in the country. Tesla's plan means transformers everywhere.

We jump from 1880 to today, and since that time Americans have only been made aware of the threat to our energy grid twice in history: beginning of WWII, and post September the 11th. Woolsey argues that over a few months, as it was recognized that Japan could not attack on the mainland -- that the war was to be mostly in the Pacific -- concern over the power grid subsided. Woolsey then goes on to say that since Sept. the 11th, the threat has only magnified exponentially. "We used to know who our enemy was because he wore a uniform. People actually declared war on us."

Woolsey offers an anecdote about a very well-spoken Chinese individual who went to PJM Interconnection in order to inquire about transformers and other sensitive data. PJM contacted the state department, and "the State Department likes to please the Chinese" so they gave the okay. It wasn't until months later that a State Department employee became suspicious and contacted the Chinese national such that he could share what he had learned. Woolsey says, "most Chinese intelligence agents speak perfect English," hinting that the individual was a suspected agent, but he could have simply been terrified of talking with the Feds. The Chinese national returned to Beijing never to be heard from again.

Talking with a State Department agent concerning everything you know about the electrical grid is acceptable, but Woolsey says that the 1990s caused 2 great problems. First, he says that the internet was created by "flowerpower-kindergarten-sandbox-share-everything" engineers to much laughter from the other individuals in the room. He says that at first people didn't see the problem with everything being shared on the internet. Woolsey doesn't mention Private Manning by name, but he offers as an example the massive leak of diplomatic cables to highlight the danger of 19-year-old flowerpower kids sharing everything on the net.

The second threat that emerged in the 90s was decontrol, deregulation of the power grid. Instead of purchasing electricity produced in Tulsa, for example, it could now be purchased from Maine because it was half a cent cheaper. There was no concern in overall stability and reliability, he argues, only in getting the electricity from the cheapest place possible.

Essentially, Woolsey argues that the entire grid is interconnected in inefficient, vulnerable ways, and that the vulnerabilities are known to our enemies. Woolsey states that transformers at nuclear stations are not protected, that most of them only have a cyclone fence, that a rifle shot could take one out. Woolsey says that if taken out by a rifle shot, these transformers cannot be easily replaced as roads and bridges have to be taken apart in order for new ones to be delivered. Furthermore, these transformers take a year to build and are constructed in South Korea or Northern Europe, as our manufacturing base has been decimated.

Woolsey also provides an overview of the organizations tasked with the responsibility of regulating our nation's electricity grid. FERC -- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission -- regulates transmission, but it has only nominal authority. NERC -- The North American Electric Reliability Corporation -- is in Woolsey's words essentially a trade organization of utilities whose main concern is profit, and Woolsey says that NERC lobbies Congress in order to prevent price increases. Woolsey says that there are 50 public utilities companies, and that they each have competing, self-interests; mainly saving pennies on electricity. Finally, and much to the amusement of the audience, Woolsey stresses the danger in the director of ARPAe spending less on research and development for the grid than the dog food industry. If the ARPAe website is any indication, we're are in serious trouble as a nation; they have an auto-playing video that deafened my background slow-dub reggae, almost killing my current apocalyptic mood.

Overall, Woolsey says that Washington is in disarray, and he congratulates the Governor of Maine for taking action to protect the grid. In 1989, a Carrington-class solar flare took out parts of Canada, with Maine being affected. Woolsey says Lloyd's of London calculated that if the same solar flare were to strike today over the East Coast, that it could cost up to 1.2 trillion dollars in damage. Ambassador Henry Cooper interjected and mentioned that there are three types of EMPs.

The first type is lightning. The second type is low-frequency, long-wavelenght; coming from the sun. Third, there is high-frequency, high-wavelength which damages solid-state electronics. Missile defense doesn't protect from the low-frequency. Therefore, the sun could destroy the United States with impunity, while our enemies could also destroy our grid with a nuclear explosion at high altitude.

Dr. Peter Pry stated that a missile was not necessary, nor was a high-quality nuke necessary. A bomb placed on a balloon and detonated 30km above Omaha could take out the entire grid. Also, the missiles that were being sent by Cuba for refurbishment in North Korea -- though obsolete -- could fire from a cargo ship and explode at high altitude, destroying the power grid. "That North Korean ship was also in China and Iran before going to Cuba, proving that they're all working together," the panel speakers surmised in unison.

Though not introduced, Ret. Vice-Admiral Robert Monroe interjected to clear up the difference between civilian and military systems. Monroe says that he was involved in Starfish Prime, conducting high-altitude tests in the Pacific. Monroe says he was shocked to learn that the effects were felt as far away as Hawaii. Moreover, he says that he conducted underground tests in order to carry out simulations on the effects of an EMP on electronic equipment. Monroe says that the threat is massive, considering the danger even from an underground detonation.

Monroe says that a new agency is needed to coordinate protection from an EMP attack. Once the Vice-Admiral had finished speaking, Dr. Pry stated that he should have been on the panel and thanked him. Dr. Pry would later go on to state that an attack against the grid could also come as a cyberbug, a sophisticated cyberattack. He hints that this new agency needs to also be tasked with regulating cyberthreats against the grid, thus giving it some control over the internet. The panel also discussed the ways that we need to be protected from a high-altitude detonation.

In no specific terms, the panel asked for control over a radar system in Fort Dix, New Jersey to coordinate with Aegis missile-defense systems on Navy boats. The panel stated that those boats with Aegis systems need to be stationed around the US. The panelists stated that the Navy doesn't want to be anchored around the US coast, but the panelists argued that there are in general 2 Navy boats near the Eastern Seaboard, while another 3-6 are usually harbored; more than enough. The panel concludes that the US is only prepared to deal with an attack coming from the North Pole, but that a fractional orbital bombardment coming from the South Pole would be completely undetected.

The panel argues that a new radar system needs to be built in Panama City, Florida. In the words of the panel, an EMP attack coming from the South Pole would be completely undetected and could cause 1,000 Fukushimas in the US. The panel further stressed the need to pass the GRID Act and SHIELD Act. If all the prudent suggestions made by the panel of experts are taken, a new agency will be in control of radar systems, navy boats, and will also monitor the internet for cyberbugs and cyberthreats.