‘Civil Defense’ is back in the news [Commentary]

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Remember the old CD image from back in the ’60s and ’70s? It stood for “civil defense.” The image appeared on signs for fallout shelters and on the bright yellow Geiger counters that were provided by the government.

The image and topic has been in the news lately. Continued concerns about the use of a nuclear weapon and an increase in concern about the use of an EMP (electromagnetic device) against the United States have revived the CD brand, so to speak.

While the use of a nuclear weapon is a constant threat against which the United States guards, many believe mutually assured destruction is what is keeping this threat in check. Professionals are far less convinced that the use of an EMP weapon is in check. In fact, there are those that believe the use of an EMP weapon is likely.

Just try to go a day without using electronics! If you look at the dependence of most countries on computers and electronics for infrastructure control, communications, economic activities and national security, it is clear we have a heavy reliance on computers, electronics and digital communications today. Everyone should recognize that we are more reliant today than we have been at any time in history, and that dependency on electronics, computers and communications is growing. Even our cars rely on electronics and computers to operate. Today, small or medium-sized, well-placed EMP device would have catastrophic, disruptive implications. Now stop and consider how important our cyber defenses are to the rapidly growing, ever-present threat of attack by more than just a handful of nation states.

Is it time for an update? Perhaps we should take the time and revisit CD and increase the influence that non-nuclear EMP weapons has on CD preplanning, and include cyberthreats, too. After all, cyber defense uniquely fits into the old CD concept.