President Trump on Tuesday issued an Executive Order that puts into place a range of policy actions to increase awareness of the danger that electromagnetic pulse (EMP) episodes pose to electric grids and  technology networks, and the critical infrastructure assets that depend on them – and to at least soften the potentially disastrous impact of naturally occurring or man-made EMPs.

EMPs of the man-made variety would include high-altitude nuclear explosions, while naturally-occurring EMPs would come from solar eruptions. The White House order numerous discusses ways to prevent EMPs or mitigate their impact.  Major policy themes include:

  • A “whole-of-government” approach that includes warnings of impending EMPs;
  • Public and private-sector engagement for recovery efforts; and
  • Deterrence through defense and nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

To achieve the preparation and mitigation goals, “the Federal Government shall engage in risk-informed planning, prioritize research and development (R&D) to address the needs of critical infrastructure stakeholders, and, for adversarial threats, consult Intelligence Community assessments,” the EO says.

Specific steps may include sharing of threat and vulnerability information among government agencies and owners of critical infrastructure, and providing “incentives” to the private sector to encourage innovation in critical infrastructure protection through development of “best practices, regulations, and appropriate guidance.”

The White House effort on these issues will be led by the assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, National Security Council staff, and the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, with an annual report to be delivered to the President discussing progress, capabilities gaps, and actions to address those.

Federal agencies with roles in executing the order include the State Department, Commerce Department, Homeland Security Department, and Director of National Intelligence.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.