Date of Graduation

Fall 2016


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

John Mark Mattox


WMD, biological warfare agent, EMP, cyber attack, emergency response

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


The U.S. including its military depends on an electrical grid and electricity-based critical infrastructure. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and cyber attack can disable not just a significant portion of the electrical grid and critical infrastructure, but also the networkcentric military response to such an attack. There is a large range of actors that might attempt EMP attacks against the U.S.. Health surveillance systems are network-centric, and if mass destruction is the goal of an adversary, launching a biological attack concurrently with EMP and cyber attacks may achieve this goal. Current agency response plans focus on one WMD attack at a time but combined attacks without emergency management plans may compromise a timely response. An EMP and cyber attack could amplify the effects of a biological attack because the loss of the electrical grid and electricity-based critical infrastructure could disable detection and response efforts as well as disrupt interagency efforts to coordinate a medical response. EMP is often perceived as science fiction because the immediate effect does not result in loss of life, but the cascading failures of critical infrastructure will affect civilian and military capabilities to support survival and recovery. Key steps to mitigate the catastrophic effects of an EMP attack should be taken and include: prevent an attack in the first place, prepare so personnel can respond after an attack, protect the critical infrastructure to limit the impact, and recover after an attack to restore power and critical infrastructure.


© Patricia Rohrbeck

Open Access