Trump signs executive order on protecting US from potential EMP attacks

President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE on Tuesday signed an executive order directing federal agencies to identify the threats posed by potential electromagnetic pulses (EMP), which are believed to be potentially dangerous to critical infrastructure like the electric grid, and find ways to guard against them.

Senior administration officials told reporters during a call Tuesday that the order will direct federal agencies to coordinate in assessing the threats that EMPs pose, and find ways to prevent their impact. An EMP is a burst of electromagnetic energy that can be caused by a nuclear weapon or solar storms.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the order will create an environment "that promotes private-sector innovation to strengthen our critical infrastructure."

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"Today’s executive order – the first ever to establish a comprehensive policy to improve resilience to EMPs – is one more example of how the administration is keeping its promise to always be vigilant against present dangers and future threats," she said.

The officials noted during the call with reporters that the national security strategy released in 2017 was the first to identify EMPs as a threat, and that the executive order will build off that work.

“We are taking concrete steps to address this threat,” one senior administration official said. “The steps that we are taking are designed to protect key systems, networks and assets that are most at risk from EMP events.”

The order signed by Trump directs agencies to identify pieces of critical infrastructure, like the electric grid, that could potentially be impacted by an EMP. It tasks national security adviser John Bolton with overseeing the order's implementation.

Under the directive, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer Four heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities MORE has 90 days to create a list of national critical systems that, if disrupted, would cause harm to public safety or national security, and then a year to identify critical infrastructure that could be impacted by EMPs.

Other parts of the order require the Homeland Security chief to later review data on the potential impact of EMPs, and for the Energy Secretary to create benchmarks laying out the effects of different kinds of EMPs.

The secretaries of Homeland Security, Defense and Energy are also required to submit an annual report to the president on how to best make critical infrastructure resilient to EMP attacks.

The Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Energy, Commerce and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are among the agencies involved in the executive order.

Senior administration officials told reporters that the executive order was not in response to new intelligence showing that the U.S. could soon experience an EMP attack, but is rather "driven more on overall risk than just threat."

"We’re taking action on longstanding recommendations from the scientific community," one senior administration official said, "and recognizing that we have to work with our partners across the board to make sure that we’ve got a risk-based approach here that balances threat but also looks at the vulnerabilities and potential consequences associated with EMP events."