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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Defense will be hard-pressed to respond in any meaningful way to a catastrophic failure of the civilian electric grid infrastructure due to an electromagnetic pulse event, whether natural or man-made, according to a little publicized study.
There not only would be the loss of electricity and communications “on a massive scale, but little in the way of preparation has been done for the loss of the electric grid, despite the significant volume of information” available to local to federal agency levels, it said.
“Preparing for months without a commercial source of clean water (city water pressure is often dependent on electric pumping to storage towers) and stoppage of sewage treatment facilities will require net methods of survival particularly in populated areas,” according to the little known May 2011 military study put out by the U.S. Army War College.
The study was based on a three-day workshop by its Center for Strategic Leadership which deals with issues using the project team concept.
The study, entitled “In the Dark: Military Planning for a Catastrophic Critical Infrastructure Event,” concluded that there in fact is “very little” in the way of back-up capability to the electric grid upon which the communications infrastructure is vitally dependent.
The study pointed out that likely scenarios caused by solar storms and EMP forecast a power grid in failure mode for much longer than any backup power source would last, “maybe even a year or more if a significant number of high power transformers are destroyed and would have to be remanufactured.”
“In some cases, such grid components are manufactured offshore causing even more delay,” the report said. “The net effect of the collapse of the electric grid is that communities would become localized and insular.
“They would be disconnected from the more regional conditions, the possibility of outside assistance such as food and medicine, and the chances of recovery to normal…there might be no return to normal as was previously known.”
The nation’s critical infrastructure is both “our lifeline and our Achilles heel,” according to Col. Bobby Towery, deputy commandant of the U.S. Army War College. He said that military installations require partnerships with civilian agencies and authorities and that agreements are needed to formalize this mutual involvement – an observations which indicated that few, if any, U.S. military installations are establishing such partnerships with local civilian agencies.
“This report is essentially a wake-up call for the DOD which indicates that current plans are insufficient,” said Col. Jim Markley, director of science and technology, Center for Strategic Leadership.
Thomas Pappas, director of Analysis and Production/Threat for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command G-2, said that the U.S. has an exposed technology base that potential enemies can readily adapt to, and do so cheaply.
He said that the U.S. infrastructure of 104 nuclear reactors, mines, roads, bridges and airports are exposed and there are insufficient funds to protect all of them.
“Cultural fault lines are being drawn, and rather than being a melting pot nation, the United States is composed of religious and political groups, plus hundreds of hate groups,” he said.
“The expanding information enterprise can be a global network platform which can be used against our nation by anonymous enemies gaining asymmetric advantage,” Pappas said.
“Retrenchment of the continental U.S. military and multiple deployments makes the United States vulnerable to attack.”
Among the top threats to the U.S., Pappas said, are:
- Threat of extremists who would not hesitate to take down the electric grid and take credit for it.
- Cyber warfare, citing the recent Stuxnet virus.
- The “immense amount” of information on the Internet which enable the threat of EMP weapon devices.
In connection with cyber warfare, WND/G2Bulletin recently referred to sources who pointed to cyber warfare as similarly targeting the U.S. national electric grid system as an EMP would.
These sources pointed out that if the national grid is protected from an EMP, then this will help mitigate against any cyber attacks which are expected to be aimed at the grid system and the nation’s other technology-based critical infrastructures, according to recent testimony from National Intelligence Director James Clapper before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Clapper said that within the next two years there would be a chance of a major cyber-attack against critical U.S. infrastructure systems that could lead to “long-term, wide-scale disruption of services, such as a regional power outage.”
Such an attack from Russia and China would be unlikely, Clapper said, but the greater likelihood of an attack would come from “isolated state or non-state actors (who) might deploy less sophisticated cyber-attacks as a form of retaliation or provocation. These actors could access some poorly protected U.S. networks that control core functions, such as power generation, during the next two years.”
In the U.S. Army War College symposium, John Kappenman of Storm Analysts Consultants said that two probable areas of greatest impact from a geomagnetic storm would be the U.S. Northwest and the area from the Midwest to the East Coast “where results can be catastrophic.”
“Permanent damage to the grid can result and take years to repair or replace,” he said. “If several regions are affected simultaneously, the difficulty of restoring the electric grid is greatly increased,” he said.
The Defense Department relies some 99 percent on the U.S. national electric grid system.
However, it doesn’t control the grid and must work with the civilian sector and develop good relationships and collaboration, according to John Schauffert of U.S. Northern Command.
Expressing dismay over the lack of action to protect the American civilian infrastructure, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry warned that given the current state of unpreparedness, an EMP attack or a geometric storm will result in “an estimated two-thirds of the U.S. population perish(ing) from starvation and societal collapse.”
“Why has the USG failed to act on the EMP commission’s recommendations to protect civilian critical infrastructures?” Pry asked.
“Congress has tried to implement the EMP commission’s recommendations,” he said, referring to the report and recommendations from the 2008 congressionally mandated EMP commission. “However, our biggest EMP vulnerability is not technological, but bureaucratic and cultural.”
He pointed to just such a potential bureaucratic squabble between the Department of Homeland Security which doesn’t include EMP as one of its national planning scenarios, and the Department of Defense.
“DHS so far refuses even to include EMP as a national planning scenario, arguing that defending against a nuclear EMP attack is outside DHS jurisdiction and is a DOD responsibility,” he said. “The DOD so far refuses any responsibility for protecting civilian critical infrastructures from EMP because these infrastructures are under the jurisdiction of DHS.”
DOD’s position, he said, is that there is a greater likelihood of an EMP from a natural disaster such as a great geomagnetic storm, making that the responsibility of DHS.
“So while the bureaucrats continue to argue, no progress is being made protecting the civilian critical infrastructures from EMP,” Pry said.
“This is an added benefit for the enemy to exploit,” he said. “Our bureaucratic barriers are a vulnerability for us, not like the enemy whose totalitarian and authoritarian systems do not allow such democratic foibles as legal jurisdiction to get in their way.”