Tags: Donald Trump | Emerging Threats | Homeland Security | power grid | emergency | emp

US Reaches State of Emergency on Power Grid

a transformer station
(Getty Images)

By Friday, 15 May 2020 09:41 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The opinions expressed in this work are the author's alone and do not constitute an endorsement or the official position of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), United States Air Force (USAF), or the United States government.

On May 1, the president of the United States declared a national emergency with regard to the US power grid. The U.S. bulk-power system or "power grid" is what moves electricity from power generation stations around the nation to our homes, businesses, and state and federal governments. It is essential to both life and security in an industrial nation.

But besides the dangers posed by the high-power electricity on these networks, what is the danger, why did the president declare an emergency, and why now?

The risks posed to the bulk-power system are more than 39 years in the making. In 1981, the GAO/Government Accounting Office noted in its report to the president and Senate, "The Federal Government is not now prepared to handle a long-term national or regional disruption in electric power, from an act of war, sabotage, or terrorism. Inadequate preparedness for such emergencies is not new ... The consequences of such a power outage are staggering."

Today, the multiplying risks to the beating heart of the United States economy are understood well enough because all have been impacted by COVID-19. But imagine if such impacts were compounded by a widespread loss of electric power — this should give a picture of the scope and magnitude.

All food, water, sanitation and even medical care would ultimately stop if our power supply were interrupted. In just days the backup generators providing emergency power would run out of fuel and the crisis of critical human sustainment would deepen. The risks are real because we do not have resiliant power distribution systems in America. And we never have.

In 2018-19 the United States Air Force Air University's Electromagnetic Defense Task Force (EDTF) sponsored by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, examined the dangers an adversary could pose to the United States if the U.S. power delivery system was impacted.

The partially unclassified findings of more than 5,000 hours of wargaming over two years by more than 150 organizations (in government, industry, and academia) who took part, including The White House, was astonishing.

The findings concluded, under certain scenarios: "Based on the totality of available data, the task force [EDTF] contends the second- and third-order effects of an Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) attack [on the grid] may be a threat to the United States, democracy, and the world order."

This kind of risk (whether man-made or natural) is why The White House has correctly prioritized the mitigation of a vulnerability more than 50 years in the making.

As China and other nations study how to weaken the position of the United States and the West, the People's Republic of China has intensified its supplanting strategy. Therefore, the U.S. must ensure its national infrastructure is, at all times, strong and secure.

China, Russia, and other near peer actors are keen to how modern societies function. It is no secret. If you turn off the lights and power — a even a strong society can be brought to its knees.

Today, irrespective of political affiliation or where you stand on a myriad of complex social issues, we should all agree, the protection of our nation's critical infrastructure is and must remain a very high-priority.

The president's executive order and the declaration of a National Bulk-Power State of Emergency helps protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But make no mistake, this order only stops the bleeding. Many vulnerabilities remain.

Unfortunately, talking about risks will not make them disappear. Sources of risk to the grid whether arising of the great power competition or malign terrorists are not going away. Declaring the grid off-limits to China is a strong beginning — but real change must follow.

Thankfully, two years ago, Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast and Brig. Gen. Laura Lenderman enlisted the help of Joint Base San Antonio and the Texas National Guard to create that change. The idea was simple: demonstrate how to protect the power grid by creating a template for all U.S. cities.

Now in its second year, the Electromagnetic Defense Initiative (EDI), under the leadership of Lt. Col. Edward Stamper is thriving. EDI is demonstrating how to build a secure grid to ensure the health and safety of large U.S. cities.

But America is not out of the woods. The president noted: "The bulk-power system is a target of those seeking to commit malicious acts against the United States and its people, including malicious cyber activities, because a successful attack on our bulk-power system would present significant risks to our economy, human health and safety, and would render the United States less capable of acting in defense of itself and its allies."

So while the door has opened to fix the a national vulnerability, our nation must act vigorously on this mitigation opportunity. Resilience is not just a mindset; it's the actions that go with it. It means creating the ability to take a punch and keep on going.

As Australia, the U.K., and other U.S. allies realize the same threats exist in their backyards, America is taking the lead in resilience — a bright spot for the United States and all living here.

David J. Stuckenberg, Major, USAF, is a national security strategist and an Air Force Strategic Policy Fellow. He is the founder of the Electromagnetic Defense Task Force. He earned his Masters in politics at The George Washington University and is a Doctoral Candidate at King's College London. Read David J. Stuckenberg's Reports — More Here.

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Besides the dangers posed by the high-power electricity on these networks, what is the danger, why did the president declare an emergency, and why now?
power grid, emergency, emp
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2020-41-15
Friday, 15 May 2020 09:41 AM
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