Situation Report: Directed energy attacks on White House highlight importance of electromagnetic defense

Photo: U.S. Air Force
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According to various media reports, in 2019 and again in November 2020, White House personnel were sickened by what appears to be directed energy attacks similar to attacks against U.S. State Department and intelligence personnel and their families in Havana, Cuba throughout 2016, 2017, and 2018 and in Guangzhou, China in 2018.

Victims report dizziness, piercing directional noise, nausea, vertigo, ear popping, and pounding headaches.  The sickness has been dubbed “Havana Syndrome” according to a 2020 report by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which stated that “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases.”

Directed energy attacks are also known as intentional electromagnetic interference (IEMI) and can target both humans and hardware. Depending on the type of weapon and desired effects these attacks use the electromagnetic spectrum to induce high powered microwaves, directional radio frequencies, directional lights or lasers, or even directional electric currents into their intended targets. GPS jamming is another form of electromagnetic attack – one that can not only cause navigation failures for pilots, but loss of altitude and attitude control if the aircraft has a GPS-dependent stability augmentation system.

America’s enemies consider the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) an important warfighting domain and are consistently seeking ways to use it to attack personnel, equipment, and critical infrastructure.  Therefore, in 2018, the U.S. Air Force’s Air University “brought together leading subject matter experts from government, industry, laboratories, and academia to discuss vulnerabilities and threats, raise awareness, and explore mitigation strategies on an array of national security challenges in the EMS,” creating the “Electromagnetic Defense Task Force” or “EDTF” under the leadership of Lieutenant General Steven Kwast.

One of the EDTF’s initial conclusions was that “our collective knowledge on EMS phenomena is the lowest point in recent history while the risks and threats are possibly the highest given the nature of widening knowledge and capability.”

Its initial report in 2018 pointed to examples of military personnel not understanding hazards in the electromagnetic spectrum or the vulnerabilities of their equipment, such as the “recent loss of a helicopter after it flew through an antenna farm comprised of several high-powered antenna arrays.” [The aircraft’s engine was starved of fuel after its digitally operated carburetor failed due to the electromagnetic interference.]  “Personnel need to be well apprised of emerging risks posed by DE weapons, including those that may harm or injure personnel,” it said.

In 2019, the EDTF generated a subsequent report, continuing its warnings about the need for America to defend its critical infrastructures against electromagnetic attack – since these infrastructures are life support systems for both military installations and the civilian population.

Now the Pentagon is investigating whether directed energy weapons were used to injure American servicemembers in Syria, with Russia being eyed as the most likely adversary responsible for such attacks.

Obviously, the use of EMS to target Americans in diplomatic posts around the world, our servicemembers in the Middle East, and now senior officials within the White House itself would seem to represent a genuine escalation.

Thus, the Biden Administration would be wise to direct DoD to reinstate and fully resource the EDTF to better ensure that America is prepared to defend itself in this growing warfighting domain.

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