The House on Monday passed a bill to require the Department of Homeland Security to include the threat of electromagnetic pulse events in national planning scenarios.
Passed by voice vote, H.R. 3410 would direct the agency to conduct a public education campaign about the threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) events and authorize research into its prevention and mitigation.
An EMP is a burst of electromagnetic energy caused by a nuclear weapon or solar storms.
Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) said an EMP attack would threaten the U.S. electrical and technological infrastructure, as consumers rely more upon electronic devices.
“A successful large scale EMP event could damage electrical power systems, electronics and information systems, and these effects could cascade into other interdependent infrastructures such as telecommunications, gas and water,” Meehan said.
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) noted the risk of an EMP attack was still low, but the legislation would bolster domestic protections.
“We have an opportunity to foster progress on low-probability but high consequence threats to the grid,” Clarke said. “Today, our nation’s power system operates at such a high level of reliability that any major outage either caused by heavy weather storms, operational errors or sabotage makes headlines.”
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the bill’s sponsor, urged Congress to address the threat of EMP sooner rather than later.