“In anticipating the event of a power grid going down . . . the process will have to be streamlined and rehearsed. During the time that it takes to alert and dispatch military personnel and to mobilize the National Guard, local and state police will need to immediately secure the stores and warehouses containing essential supplies that will otherwise be stripped bare in a matter of hours. The authority exists, but without the regular conduct of combined exercises specifically designed to respond to the aftermath of a grid going down, critical supplies will be gone before law enforcement even arrives on the scene . . .” ~ Ted Koppel, emphasis added.
Ted Koppel’s important conclusion followed from his discussion of the organizational problems of responding to a major electric power grid shutdown on pages 231-2 of his excellent book emphasizing the Cyber Threat, “Lights Out.” In particular, he emphasized NORTHCOM’s problems of assuring prompt, effective response of the National Guard to aid local communities. Given the Federal-State-Local “chain-of-command issues” and Posse Comitatus legal constraints, the burden for protecting the average citizen will fall on the local community and its preparedness.
This Conclusion Applies for Countering All Threats to the Grid.
Previously (e.g., click here for my April 14, 2014 message), I have emphasized that Northern Command (NORTHCOM) is responsible for America’s so-called Homeland Defense, but is failing to protect the people of the United States against the all too real electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat — even though the Colorado Springs “powers that be” well understand the EMP threat and how to protect against it.
This sad fact leads to the irony that the American People are being left vulnerable while almost a billion dollars is being spent to harden operations in its Cheyenne Mountain headquarters to improve confidence in carrying out their Cold War mission of providing warning of a ballistic missile attack on the United States.
That valid hardening effort under their North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command responsibilities betrays a major policy and bureaucratic disconnect that is leaving American citizens vulnerable to the existential EMP threat — while we, in fact, know how to protect against it.
The bottom line is highlighted by Ted Koppel’s statement above, derived at least in part from Federal-State-Local “chain of command” issues and Posse Comitatus legal constraints.
Citizens are pretty much on their own in dealing with a major shutdown of the Grid. Furthermore, no one is actually in charge of changing these conditions — or in helping local communities prepare for such a calamity.
Moreover, I concur with Mr. Koppel’s testimony in the May 18, 2016 hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that the power companies and associated regulatory regime actually understate the threat of a major grid shutdown, whether caused by cyber, physical or EMP attacks.
Senate Hearing Illustrates Dysfunctional Regulatory Arrangements.
At the same Hearing, Mr. Scott Aaronson, the Managing Director for Cyber and Infrastructure Security of the Edison Electric Institute, at least exaggerated in his denial of our lack of preparedness to deal with the threat. For example, without justification he claimed that the threat was minimal because of the inherent resilience of the Grid and its thousands of substations and industry’s preparations. And his assurances that things were on track for significant improvement rang hollow.
That the threats to the electric grid are all too real has been stated by numerous obviously more competent authorities, such as in November 2014 when the Director of U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, warned of a major cyber attack within a decade. And a Natural EMP from a Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD) caused by a massive solar emission will one day occur, as the Obama administration agrees — the only question is when. And the manmade EMP Threat is in the hands of other nations who, as is well known, include deploying such capabilities in their military doctrine.
Thankfully, Committee Chairman Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — and other Senators — seemed appropriately skeptical of Mr. Aronson’s claims about the viability of the Grid to any and all of these threats. I urge you to find a couple of hours to watch this entire important Hearing by clicking here.
Among misinformation from Mr. Aaronson was that, in addition to his agency, the North American Electrical Reliability Corporation (NERC) is effectively dealing with these issues — and that the Electric Power Research Industry (EPRI) is doing research to determine how to prioritize efforts to protect the Grid. (I’m curious about what additional research is needed to move beyond the well-known effects and how to counter them, based on over a half century of the Defense Department’s programs to harden our key strategic systems. Sounds like stalling to me.)
NERC is a 40-year old creation of the electric power industry — funded by the power industry, originally focused on providing coordination for connectivity for slow-paced integration of the grid, while working toward deregulation for the industry. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) originally focused on keeping tariffs under control and preventing gaming of the process — and has never been given the needed authority and resources to assure the reliability and resilience of the Grid.
In 2003, a major cascading breakdown of the Northeastern grid was triggered by a foliage interaction with a powerline in Ohio. Following major changes to the Federal Power Act in 2005, re-regulation loomed large except that Congress gave the reliability standards job to NERC, not FERC. And NERC has continued its heritage of seeking to avoid — or at least stall — new regulation of the Grid, sometimes to an absurd degree and with FERC’s implicit if not explicit approval.
As an example of the NERC-FERC ineffectiveness, consider that it took over a decade for NERC-FERC to provide guiding standards to control the “tree-branch threat” in response to the aforementioned 2003 cascading breakdown of the Northeastern Grid. It seems that trees grow faster than it takes NERC-FERC to provide industry standards for the Grid.
More recently, NERC’s State of Reliability-2016 Report made the absurd claim that there had been no cyberattack on the American Grid. How can it be that the NERC is ignorant of actual numerous incidents in 2014 and 2015 as provided to me by George Cotter, identified by Ted Koppel as his key source on cyber threat matters? As I understand it, in 2014 there were 79 cyber incidents related to conventional segments of the Grid (e.g., coal, hydroelectric and gas power plants) plus 6 at nuclear sites. In 2015, there were 46 such cyber incidents plus 7 involving nuclear sites.
So, NERC-FERC is supposed to develop standards to counter cyber threats to the grid? And what about their help re. the EMP threat?
Don’t Wait on Washington and Consider the Combined Threat!
Credible EMP attack scenarios could include cyber and physical attack components and create even more difficult conditions for emergency managers. For example, most if not all communications and normal means of transportation could be lost — at least initially. Local communities would likely be on their own and how responders cope would depend on prior preparations.
This combined threat possibility is not a hypothetical condition. Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey and Dr. Peter Vincent Pry (Executive Director of the EMP Task Force for National and Homeland Security) have pointed out that the cyber military doctrines of Russia, China and the “rogue states” of North Korea and Iran explicitly include EMP as a component. There is no reason to believe that terrorist cells like the Islamic State would not also use such a combined attack plan if they gain EMP capability.
Still, Mr. Koppel’s views are pertinent because the cyber threat alone can be used to take down the grid — as has already been demonstrated by attacks on Yeman, Turkey, Ukraine and Pakistan. And the Idaho National Laboratories’ 2007 Aurora Project demonstrated that focused cyber attacks potentially can cause permanent physical damage to critical difficult-to-replace major components of the grid. Click here for a video of this impressive demonstration.
My point is that we should be addressing all vulnerabilities of the Grid to combined threat scenarios. This issue does not offer “either or” alternative countermeasure choices.
Give Priority to Man-made Threats.
A related conclusion results from considering the threat of “natural EMP” associated with major Geomagnetic Disturbances (GMDs) that assuredly one day will be produced by a major solar emission that intersects the Earth in its orbit — several years ago one missed us by about a week. Hardening the Grid to counter this threat is being contemplated by a national program, and that’s a good thing. Such an event could take down the electric Grid.
But here’s an important problem!
Hardening to natural EMP alone will not protect the Grid from manmade EMP threats that include a major high frequency “electronic shock wave.” Nor will it protect the grid from cyber or physical attacks. Protection against the combined threat is most prudent and should be required. (Hardening to the manmade EMP threat will take care of the natural EMP case — but the converse is not true.)
Finally — as should be clear from my above comments, I completely agree with Mr. Koppel’s perspective, in his book and illustrated in his May 18, 2016 testimony before Senate Homeland Security Committee, that neither the government nor the electric power industry is prepared to cope with this threat — which in fact is an existential threat that could lead to the death of most Americans within a year after an extended loss of the Grid.
This sober warning of an existential threat to all Americans was a conclusion of the EMP Commission in its 2004 and 2008 reports and its Commissioners’ testimony to Congress. The Commission was re-established by the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act and can be a major ally in rectifying the above described dysfunctional conditions.
In my opinion, if this threatening condition is to change, it is critically important to have the local authorities and the electric power industry join forces — and make the right things happen, from the bottom up. Hopefully, our Lake Wylie Pilot Study (See below.) will provide a useful template for others to follow.
So, How Should the Responder Community Prepare?
What to do? Local communities, authorities and emergency managers are key to assuring the survival of all we hold dear, in the face of these existential threats—and not only for the reasons Mr. Koppel explicitly mentioned.
For the local responder community, don’t expect much outside help following a Grid Blackout — unless you have prepared for it. Based on my experience in dealing with EMP issues, I have little confidence that the entire grid will ever be completely hardened, so focus on what can be done locally to help restore the Grid as soon as possible.
In my opinion, the best way forward is not unlike that followed by the Department of Defense in designing, developing, deploying and maintaining our key strategic systems and their associated command, control and communications systems such that we were confident they would operate through an EMP attack and perform as designed afterward.
We never tried to harden everything — we focused on assuring high priority missions could be accomplished following an EMP attack. For those priority missions, we required rigorous simulation testing and independent assessments to assure this would be the case. I believed nothing about a system unless we had such independent assessment and testing activities.
NERC-FERC is nowhere near what is needed if we are to have confidence in the Grid in case it undergoes a major attack.
We should not try to harden everything. I believe we should prioritize key Grid system elements and assure that there are associated “Viable Islands” from which the neighboring Grid can be reestablished afterward a major Blackout. But how do we establish these Viable Islands?
A Key Pilot Study.
In my opinion, our nuclear power plants — which produce 20-percent of the nation’s electricity, should be the centerpiece in establishing such Viable Islands — and assuring the public safety following a major Grid Blackout. That is a major reason that I am working (pro bono) with Duke Energy, the nation’s largest power company, to pursue a Pilot Study on Lake Wylie on the Catawba River that flows between North and South Carolina. We want it to provide a template that others can follow to integrate the private sector and the local responder community efforts and assure the safety of the local citizens.
As illustrated in the map below, Duke Energy operates nuclear, hydroelectric and coal power plants on Lake Wylie. The nuclear and hydroelectric plants are in York County, SC. The coal plant is in Gaston County, NC. And Mecklenburg County is home of Charlotte, NC and Duke Energy’s corporate headquarters. Thus, our pilot study will engage key players in three counties and two states.
We are engaged with the York County Sheriff and his lieutenants, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the National Guard under the South Carolina’s Adjutant General, who is cognizant of our effort and has agreed for his staff to support it. We are currently seeking to address the above questions and others that must be answered to achieve the stated objective of our Pilot Study. We anticipate similar cooperation from North Carolina’s Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties.
Key members of the South Carolina Congressional delegation are members of the House EMP Caucus and will be supportive of this effort. North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor is leading an effort on how best NC can deal with the threat to the grid — and we will be coupled into that effort.
As we make progress in this study, we will seek to use what we learn to help a number of states that are also working seriously to counter the threats to the Grid, as discussed in several recent email messages. See www.highfrontier.org.
What can you do?
Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.
Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage www.highfrontier.org, for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.
Encourage them to review our past email messages, posted on www.highfrontier.org, to learn about many details related to the existential manmade and natural EMP threats and how we can protect America against them. I hope you will help us with our urgently needed efforts, which I will be discussing in future messages.
Click here to make a tax deductible gift. If you prefer to mail a check, Please send it to 500 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.
E-Mail Message 160607
Be sure to follow us on our Social Sites!