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China's gains in tech, space leave U.S. vulnerable: Reagan-Bush era missile defense official

"China has the economic power to really pull off these matters, and we have been ignoring the key technologies now for ... at least twenty years," warned Ambassador Henry Cooper, chairman of High Frontier.

Published: July 28, 2021 10:25pm

Updated: July 29, 2021 11:06pm

While Congress works on an infrastructure bill, a key element is missing: protecting power grids, warns Ambassador Henry Cooper, chairman of the board of missile defense advocacy nonprofit High Frontier.

Cooper, who served in both the Reagan and first Bush administrations, told the John Solomon Reports podcast that China is ahead of the U.S. in space technology and could potentially take out America's electricity.

Unlike during the Cold War, when "the Soviets were very concerned about their inability to compete with our technology" in space, "China has pushed ahead with it, and now we're playing catch-up through the technologies that we once had," said Cooper, chief negotiator under Reagan at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization under Bush. "China has the economic power to really pull off these matters, and we have been ignoring the key technologies now for ... at least twenty years."

When the Clinton administration began, Cooper recalled, they said, "We're taking the 'stars' out of 'Star Wars,' and he scuttled all of the technologies that we were pursuing at that time, and even ... dispersed the technical community that had been working on that technology, and China got it."

With China having pursued this space technology since the 1990s, the U.S. private sector is now, in Cooper's view, "our hope for the future."

"I don't have any confidence in the federal government at this point," he said. "They have become so bureaucratic, and their thinking is so stale, that I'm not sure that we can keep up. And our only hope is in the private sector and the technologies that are being pursued, if we could only get a leader that would pull those issues together in a coherent way."

Noting that America's electric power grid is very vulnerable, Cooper warned that China could send an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and cut off the nation's electricity.

"China's a major threat, and an EMP, electromagnetic pulse, is a vulnerability that we have permitted to grow throughout our infrastructure — critical infrastructure upon which we depend," he explained.

While Congress debates the definition of infrastructure and tries to include "all manner of things that betray a serious lack of seriousness" about infrastructure, America's vulnerable electric grid is being ignored, he said.

Cooper noted that Biden administration Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm had said in her confirmation hearing in January that she would deal with the issue of potential cyberthreats to the distribution lines that carry electricity from power companies, but that as far as he knows "nothing has happened."

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