Impact of an EMP
An EMP occurs when an enemy sets off a nuclear explosion high in the atmosphere. The EMP generated by the blast destroys all electronics and low earth orbit satellites in its line of sight. Unlike the nuclear attack scenarios dating back to the Cold War, no one would die immediately in the initial attack. The subsequent effects, however, are the stuff of nightmares. The pulse would wipe out virtually all electronics and telecommunications, and the national power grid. Millions would die in days for want of modern medical care, prescription drugs like insulin, or in fires. Fire and EMT equipment would be in short supply due to fried electronic ignition systems. In fact, any motor vehicles manufactured after the mid 1970s may not run at all. Within a month, starvation would begin because farmers wouldn't be able to harvest crops, and distributors wouldn't be able to get food to supermarkets. Hunger would begin almost immediately due to massive food hoarding. So would riots, looting, and civil unrest. Needless to say, any meaningful economic activity would be at a standstill. Imagine a power blackout that lasted for years.
The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack (or the EMP Commission) was created in 2000 to examine the possibility of an EMP attack and its aftermath. The commission delivered reports to Congress beginning in 2004. Despite dire warnings, little has been done on the national level to assuage this very real threat. While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concentrates on confiscating toothpaste and patting down little old ladies in airports, we face a real threat of being flashed back into the 19th century in a single day. Indeed, one wonders why any enemy of the U.S. would contemplate any other kind of attack other than with an EMP weapon. In the Cold War days, the phrase “More bang for the buck, more rubble for the ruble” circulated among cynical war planners. Bursting a relatively low yield device over Kansas probably represents the ultimate example of this concept, and gets the same job done by our adversary for far fewer dollars.