By Executive Order released on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 (March 26, 2019 E.O.), the President of the United States established the first comprehensive “whole-of-government” policy to enhance resilience and protect against electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). EMPs are defined in the March 26, 2019 E.O. as temporary electromagnetic signals that can disrupt, degrade, and damage technology and critical infrastructure systems across large areas. The March 26, 2019 E.O. outlines the responsibilities and expectations for the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence, and the heads of all Sector-Specific Agencies (SSAs).
The March 26, 2019 E.O. directs action in five areas to reduce the risk that EMPs pose to U.S. critical technology and infrastructure systems: (1) identify national critical functions and associated priority critical infrastructure at greatest risk from EMPs; (2) conduct research and development in order to improve understanding of EMP effects; (3) evaluate approaches to mitigate the effects of EMPs; (4) strengthen critical infrastructure to withstand the effects of EMPs; and (5) improve national response to EMP events.
To implement these actions, Section 3(b) of the March 26, 2019 E.O. directs the Federal Government to promote collaboration and facilitate information sharing, including the sharing of threat and vulnerability assessments, among executive departments and agencies, the owners and operators of critical infrastructure, and other relevant stakeholders. The Federal Government will also provide incentives to private-sector partners to encourage innovation that strengthens critical infrastructure against the effects of EMPs through the development and implementation of best practices, regulations, and appropriate guidance.
The Secretary of Homeland Security is directed (within 90 days of the March 26, 2019 E.O.), in coordination with the heads of SSAs to identify and list the national critical functions and associated priority critical infrastructure systems, networks, and assets that, if disrupted, could reasonably result in catastrophic national or regional effects on public health or safety, economic security, or national security. This list will be updated and will trigger other actions specified within the March 26, 2019 E.O. However, as defined by the March 26, 2019 E.O., it seems clear that the bulk power system and the maintenance of the electric grid fall within the definition of “critical infrastructure” and “National Critical Functions.”
A full copy of the March 26, 2019 E.O. can be found here