American Consequences - September 2020

attacks and all of a sudden you see their eyes go really wide.” Kinda like mine were one-quarter of the way into my reporting for this story! Perhaps kinda like yours are, right now? To President Trump’s credit, he signed an executive order in March 2019 instructing federal agencies to strengthen America’s infrastructure against EMP attacks... Consider the late response to coronavirus... or the delayed reaction to the terror attack on 9/11... The warning signs are always there. It was the first order of its kind to establish a comprehensive policy to improve resilience to EMPs. Trump said at the time, “The vulnerability of U.S. critical infrastructure to cyber, physical, and electromagnetic attacks means that adversaries could disrupt military command and control, banking and financial operations, the electrical grid, and means of communication.” He’s right. But the media largely ignored it that day, instead focusing on the Russia- Mueller saga... and we all know how that turned out. I remember when I was new to this business and would want to talk about the Federal Reserve or tax policy... or even the incoming socialist policies in Venezuela... and others in my newsroom would wonder why I would so often “wonk out.”

Too often, our government fails to be preemptive. Instead, it overreacts after the fact. Consider the late response to coronavirus... or the delayed reaction to the terror attack on 9/11... The warning signs are always there. Unfortunately, our society has a tendency to focus on gossipy, inconsequential news of the day... like “palace intrigue” at the White House or Kim Kardashian feuding with Kanye West. The news cycle and most media commentators are engrossed in frivolous moments. Without pressure from the media and the public, some of these big issues get lost in the midst of everything else. In his most recent book, The Fifth Risk , Michael Lewis explores the different ways the U.S. government manages its portfolio of risks. He concludes the government may be filled with too much bureaucracy and complexity to accomplish much in the way of its most critical missions. Our power grid is one such risk Lewis details... The safety of the electrical grid sat at or near the top of the list of concerns of everyone I spoke with inside the Department of Energy (“DOE”). Life in America has become, increasingly, reliant on it. “Food and water has become food and water and electricity,” as one DOE career staffer put it... The DOE had begun to gather the executives of the utility companies, to educate them about the threats they face. “They all sort of said, ‘But is this really real?’” said [the DOE’s Chief Risk Officer] MacWilliams. “You get them security clearance for a day and tell them about the

American Consequences


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