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NEWS | March 21, 2021

San Antonio-Electromagnetic Defense collaborative marks two-year anniversary

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The San Antonio-Electromagnetic Defense collaborative marked its two-year anniversary at a quarterly meeting March 19 when they welcomed Dr. George H. Baker, former senior science advisor to the National Security Council and senior advisor to the Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse, or EMP, Commission, as keynote speaker. 

The SA-EMD was created by the Joint Base San Antonio-Electromagnetic Defense Initiative and has grown from a concept to a vibrant coalition of nearly 400 subject matter experts, community leaders, researchers, educators and many more, said Lt. Col. Eddie Stamper, JBSA-EDI project officer.  

“To mark our two-year anniversary, we have one of the leading and most influential minds in the nation as our featured speaker,” he said.  

Updates on current and future work were also presented by each of SA-EMD's four work groups during the virtual meeting.  

Brig. Gen. Caroline M. Miller, 502d Air Base Wing and JBSA commander, welcomed attendees and thanked SA-EMD partners for their hard work and dedication over the past two years.  

"We are proud to have become a key focal point for the national effort to understand and counter electromagnetic threats to the power grid and other critical infrastructure,” Miller said.  

“The winter storm that impacted all of Texas last month drove home the importance of the work this group is doing. What was theoretical to some, became a reality for many who faced rolling blackouts, loss of water, and struggled to stay warm for nearly a week of below freezing temperatures,” she said.  

"Armed with this experience fresh in our minds, we are determined to continue pressing forward to achieve our goal of a resilient critical infrastructure in which we can depend on to power our missions, support national security, and stabilize our quality of life,” Miller said.  

During his remarks, Baker, who has spent most of his professional career helping protect the U.S. military from the nuclear electromagnetic pulse, discussed the progress which has been made on EMP defense in response to the Executive Order 13865, Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses, which establishes resilience and security standards for U.S. critical infrastructure as a national priority initiative. 

“Over the last few years, under the executive order, major progress has included a number of things,” Baker said. “We have established national EMP benchmarks and have included EMP requirements in our national essential function and continuity of government site requirements under a new national mission resilience strategy. We have new insights into EMP susceptibility and protection requirements for critical systems, and we have specified and are improving our EMP hardening methods. We have also gained major insights into EMP protection costs.” 

“This is not an easy problem, and it is one that is going to require major cooperation - but it is occurring,” Baker said, lauding the country’s departments who are cooperating to address the significant challenges associated with national EMP preparedness.  

At the top of the list is the electrical power grid and its supporting infrastructure, he said. 

“The electric power grid is our most critical infrastructure, but it is also the infrastructure that is most vulnerable to EMP and GMD (geomagnetic disturbance),” Baker said. “This is one of the main reasons we absolutely cannot ignore EMP/GMD problems. 

Baker then congratulated JBSA on their accomplishments through SA-EMD. 

“Leading the charge on this is the pilot demonstration program at Joint Base San Antonio,” Baker said. “Your demonstration efforts have been central to progress on the executive order.  

“The esprit de corps and cooperation you have achieved is setting the example for all national EMP efforts,” he said. “You have achieved cooperation among a diverse set of players.” 

He also noted that JBSA’s numerous partnerships will be key to successfully defending against an EMP. 

“The public/private partnerships you have established have served as a superlative model for other community-wide resilience programs, programs occurring in the Carolinas, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and elsewhere,” he said. “You have managed to get people working together with a common vision, which is very difficult to achieve. There is no way we can do EMP and GMD defense without that kind of cooperation.”