The Electric Infrastructure Security (EIS) Council
“Working together to protect our nations’ vital infrastructures against severe geomagnetic storms and EMP risks”
What we are Facing: The Potential for Sudden, Catastrophic Change
A NASA-funded National Academy of Sciences workshop studying the history and level of severe solar flares was published last year. In the study, investigators discovered a pattern of severe solar flares causing massive geomagnetic storms, unprecedented in modern times, occurring around once per century.
Severe solar flares - the historical record: The last such event, named for Richard Carrington, the British solar astronomer who first observed the accompanying massive solar flares, burned out the only global electric system then in existence. The telegraph network sustained severe damage all over the world, and estimates of the permanent damage that would be caused by such an event today project widespread global-scale destruction of vital infrastructures.
The Carrington Event occurred approximately 150 years ago. With the NAS report observing repetitions that average every one hundred years, the near term risk is substantial. Given the study’s historical findings, the probability that modern society will face such an event is essentially 100% . Unfortunately, solar weather projections cannot provide an accurate estimate of when the next such event will occur.
Since the end of the Cold War, terror groups and rogue states have grown significantly, nurturing extremist ideologies opposed to the U.S. and its allies. This growth has been marked by the rise of trans-national terrorist groups, destabilization of states like Afghanistan and Pakistan and the coup that converted Iran from a friendly state to a primary source and sponsor of terror. This same brief period has also seen a significant evolution in their access to destabilizing weapons.
Regional violence becomes global risk: If extremist states and militant organizations grow in power and come closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, we will find ourselves approaching the point at which an HEMP attack could be used to cripple the infrastructure of a continent – a threshold that could fundamentally transform the global balance of power. Similarly, serious infrastructure vulnerabilities of the U.S. and its allies could expose them to severe damage from use by rogue states or terrorist groups of non-nuclear EMP devices – Intentional Electromagnetic Interference (IEMI) weapons.
Stepping Back From the Brink - Preventing Global Destabilization: Regardless of assessments of the current geo-political reality, there remains a significant potential for future growth in trans-national militant organizations and extremist states. With the remarkably asymmetric destructive potential represented by a single nuclear-armed, barge-launched short range missile used in an EMP strike mode, or by aggressive use of IEMI weapons, it has become critical that the U.S. and its allies begin to work on hardening our critical, vulnerable infrastructures.
The Role of the EIS Council
If the U.S. and its allies are to effectively address the paired risks of severe geomagnetic storms and vulnerability to a future potential EMP attack, efforts must also be international in scope. Given the urgency, a crucial element of any such process is an effective government / NGO partnership in building an international security framework.
The EIS Council, a U.S. NGO working to enhance education and planning to address natural and malicious infrastructure threats, is helping to host such a framework. The Electric Infrastructure Security Summit (EISS) series is a new government / NGO international security framework to enhance coordination and cooperation in infrastructure protection. The EISS Framework was inaugurated in London on September 20, 2010, and the EIS Council is helping to host the series as one of its important projects.
In that regard, the “EIS Partners” globe graphic above represents participation in the EISS Framework. Participants include a range of government representatives, government organizations and NGO’s, including the EIS Council. Working with the U.S. government and in consultation with other national and international government representatives, the EIS Council is proud of its role in helping to host this effort, along with its other educational programming. Additional activities and services are also envisioned as areas of growth for the EIS Council in the future, including international conferences, support for coordination of technology sharing requests, infrastructure protection consulting, EMP threat database sharing and focused research projects.