The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are teaming up to prepare for and protect against electromagnetic pulse scenarios.

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a burst of the electromagnetic energy that can disrupt or damage electronic equipment and communications infrastructure. An EMP can be weaponized by bad actors. While the burst of energy itself is not likely to harm people, the effects of widespread disruption of infrastructure “could adversely affect global commerce and stability,” according to Executive Order (E.O.) 13865, Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses, signed by President Trump in March 2019.

CISA, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), released a status report on the department’s ongoing work to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure and improve its resilience from EMPs.

“As the Nation’s risk advisor, one of CISA’s priorities is understanding and mitigating threats associated with EMPs,” said CISA Director Chris Krebs, in a statement. “Over the past year, we have worked with interagency and industry partners to identify the footprint and effects of EMP threats across our National Critical Functions, and are developing sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective approaches to improving the Nation’s resilience to EMPs.”

FEMA is developing an interagency EMP exercise to help individuals across government plan and prepare. The exercise will be conducted in fiscal year 2021, according to the report.

Also, DHS is partnering with state and local governments in addition to the private sector to field test the nation’s infrastructure and put in place mitigation and protection technologies. One such pilot project, according to the report, is the San Antonio Electromagnetic Defense Initiative.

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.