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Why Is The Pentagon Beefing Up A Mountain Stronghold?

The Pentagon is moving its missile monitoring equipment deep into Cheyenne Mountain to avoid the effects of an electromagnetic pulse attack which would render NORAD helpless.

Admiral William Gortney, commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD, stated on Tuesday that the reason officials decided on the cavernous Cheyenne Mountain is because it’s naturally hardened against devastating electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks, Defense One reports.

Gortney’s remarks add clarity to the contract announcement last week, in which the Pentagon awarded defense contractor Raytheon $700 million dollars to place new equipment in the mountain. The contract lasts until 2020. Raytheon is set to assist the military in providing “accurate, timely and unambiguous warning and attack assessment of air, missile and space threats.”

Based in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Cheyenne has a long history. During the Cold War, the half-acre cavern inside the mountain was specifically engineered in the 1960s to carry on activities in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. Those activities included the ability to send signals to U.S. nuclear facilities to launch a response if necessary.

“My primary concern was: ‘Are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody that wants to move in there?’ … but we do have that capability,” Gortney said, according to AFP.

Vulnerability to EMPs has been growing over past decades because of the military’s increasing reliance on computer networks. EMPs can result from nuclear attacks. The Pentagon is also conducting its own research to design weapons that would render inoperable the electronic equipment of its opposition.

In 2006, NORAD moved the command center from Cheyenne to Peterson Air Force Base, but the recent decision suggests the Pentagon is placing far more importance on the EMP-thwarting capabilities of the mountain.

“A lot of the back office communications is being moved there,” one defense official told AFP.

The main command center will still remain at Peterson.

Over the past several years, former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich has warned that EMP attacks could “throw all of our lives back to an existence equal to that of the Middle Ages.” According to Gingrich, millions would die in the first week of the attack, and what’s worse is that the U.S. is not taking the threats, which parallel nuclear strikes from North Korea and Iran, very seriously.

Skeptics have attacked Gingrich for sounding unnecessary alarms. But the Pentagon’s reinvestment in Cheyenne suggests that the tide of opinion in government defense circles may be shifting to line up with Gingrich’s assessment of the risks posed by EMP technology.

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