Date of Graduation

Summer 2017


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

David Trachtenberg


nuclear weapon, electromagnetic pulse, deterrence, defense policy, terrorism, United States, national security, threat

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects produced by the detonation of a nuclear weapon at high altitude are capable of causing widespread destruction in the U.S. homeland with few to no immediate casualties. The threat of nuclear EMP attack against the United States was recognized as probable during the Cold War but as time passed, the threat lost consciousness among U.S. policy makers as other issues and threats rose to the forefront. Simultaneously, the United States military and civilian society grew increasingly reliant upon emerging electronic systems and capabilities while adversary nations and rogue states rapidly pursued nuclear weapons capabilities. Today, the United States, as one of the most highly developed nations on the globe, is reliant upon electronic systems for almost every aspect of life, from communications to economics and security. As such, the United States is highly vulnerable to attacks that affect these cornerstones of U.S. society and global presence. The threat of a nuclear EMP attack against the United States today and in the future is not only an effective option for both states and non-state actors, it is an attractive one. Adversaries could derive great value from an attack that cripples the U.S. ability to function at even the most basic levels. The threat of EMP attack is more prescient in today’s modern warfare environment than ever before. As such, the United States’ approach to nuclear deterrence and escalation control must evolve to fully encompass the threat of nuclear EMP by both state and non-state actors.


© Angela Weaver

Open Access