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NEWS | Oct. 11, 2019

JBSA partners with UTSA, Southwest Research Institute to address Electromagnetic Defense Strategy

By 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio, along with research partners from the National Security Collaboration Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Southwest Research Institute, had their inaugural Domestic Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations, or DEMSO, Working Group meeting Sept. 27.

Formed in response to the concerns addressed in Presidential Executive Order (13865) March 2019, “Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses,” the DEMSO working group’s vision is for JBSA to become the model program in the Department of Defense for resiliency against electromagnetic events to educate the public, civil, federal, and military. 

“Our world revolves around the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Adam L. Hamilton, P.E., SwRI President and CEO. “It’s crucial we recognize vulnerabilities and prepare for electromagnetic threats, both man-made and solar.”

Recent studies by federal and military agencies identified gaps with the ability to plan, prepare and recover from electromagnetic pulse and geomagnetic disturbances, and that any of these events represent an immediate and tangible threat to national security and public safety.

“Southwest Research Institute is working closely with JBSA and the City of San Antonio to identify solutions and strengthen our community’s electromagnetic defense initiatives,” Hamilton added. “Our goal is to create the resiliency required to withstand and rapidly recover from electromagnetic pulse incidents.”

An EMP is an intense pulse of radiation released by a nuclear explosion high above Earth’s surface. The EMP effects can be as short as eight seconds or up to eight minutes and last hours to days. A geomagnetic disturbance is a similar EMP event except the source is an electromagnetic disturbance from the sun.   

These pulses can damage electronic circuitry and induce high voltages in long wires such as power lines resulting in catastrophic failure in critical electric power grid components.  

JBSA brought local subject matter experts from government, military, industry, research, and academia together through a collaborative community forum known as San Antonio Electromagnetic Defense or SA-EMD to create a pilot project in a test city and base.

“UTSA is building education programs to raise awareness and increase preparedness to enhance the resiliency for major metropolitan areas, like San Antonio,” said retired Brig. Gen. Guy Walsh, executive director of UTSA’s National Security Collaboration Center. “As a top cybersecurity research university, UTSA has a wealth of experience designing education programs for the military, industry, and community. The National Security Collaboration Centers 40+ partners from industry, government, and academia are engaged in the design of education programs to address emerging threats from EMP.”

As a pilot project, there are four working groups within SA-EMD to focus on Grid Resiliency, 5G Implementation, Planning for Long Term Regional Power Outage, and DEMSO. 

"San Antonio is the right city with the right talent and resources to tackle these threats," said Brig. Gen. Laura Lenderman, JBSA commander. "The working group is establishing policies for protecting military and civilian assets and devising plans for the Alamo Region and JBSA to mitigate and respond to electromagnetic events." 

Such policies will influence doctrine development and enable protection for critical assets including infrastructure (electric, gas, water/water), telecommunications, and create educational programs for civil, military, and civilian populations.

The Domestic EMSO steering group held its first meeting June 30, 2019, and the Sept. 27 working group meeting was their inaugural event.  The next DEMSO working group meeting is scheduled for Oct. 23, 2019.

Principals from the Domestic EMSO working group will present at Resilience Week 2019, a national conference organized by Idaho National Laboratories, from 1:30-5 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Westin Riverwalk, 420 Market Street in San Antonio.