Congress passes intel bill that fails to require report on EMP threat

By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Maybe Congress isn’t so interested in how America’s adversaries could attack the electric grid after all.

EMP REPORT: Congress’ bill funding the intelligence community will not include a report by the director of national intelligence on the EMP capabilities of the nation’s adversaries.

Despite the House’s previously expressed interest in learning about how America’s adversaries might attack the electric grid, the House went on last week to pass a bill that lacked any requirement for the director of national intelligence to provide Congress with a report assessing the electromagnetic weapons capabilities of countries such as North Korea and Iran.

A strong electromagnetic pulse — either from a nuclear bomb detonated at high-altitude, or from a solar flare — has the potential to disrupt communications and knock out the electric grid.

The likelihood of such an event is low, but its effect would be severe. As noted in previous Watchdog.org reports, the Lloyds of London estimates the damage could cost as much as $2.6 trillion — damage that could be easily averted by as much as $2 billion in technological upgrades, according to estimates from the Congressional EMP Commission.

As Congress approaches the midterm elections, the clock is winding down on the number of days in the legislative session. Not content to wait for Congress, state lawmakers have been pushing their own initiatives to protect their elements of the grid, as previously reported by Watchdog.org.

The House agreed June 24 to the Senate’s version of the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2014, which lacked the requirement for the EMP report, via voice vote. The bill places a priority on cyber activities, the National Security Agency’s foreign intelligence surveillance programs, and cyber education.

The bill awaits President Obama’s signature.

Contact Josh Peterson at jpeterson@watchdog.org. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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