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A year after an attack on an electrical grid, major vulnerabilities still exist

On the first anniversary of a nearly devastating attack on the Metcalf Substation outside San Jose, California, a group called, “Secure the Grid Coalitionconvened a symposium on Wednesday on whether the electric grid has been made appreciably more resilient against these types of attacks and other types of assaults, whether by enemies of this country or solar storms.

California power lines
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

At the symposium, seven key senior legislators, former Speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich, and national security experts joined the Center for Security Policy, warned that our electrical grids are not secure, and it could be hit again and be much worse.

The participants also included Rep. Pete Sessions who is the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee and Rep. Trent Franks, who co-chairs the House EMP Caucus.

Appearing as well and in person at the Reserve Officers Association venue were Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, a former staff member of the Congressional EMP Threat Commission, Michael Del Rosso, former Chairman of the IEEE Critical Infrastructure Committee, and Major General Robert Newman, the former Adjutant General of Virginia.

Each provided videotaped statements, as did Thomas Popik, the chairman of the Foundation for Resilient Societies and the program was moderated by Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy.

Speaker Gingrich observed, “This is a very important topic. I believe it may be the most important topic in national security because an electromagnetic pulse event or a very, very large solar event are the only things I can think of that could literally cripple the society so decisively, barring a spasm nuclear war with hundreds of warheads.”

One of the highlights of the symposium presented was that if the Metcalf Substation attack, that occurred late at night on April 16, 2013, had succeeded, they would likely have destroyed seventeen, and perhaps all twenty-one of the facility’s extremely high-voltage transformers.

The disruption of power to Silicon Valley and parts of the San Francisco Bay area for a protracted period would have been devastating. The perpetrators of the Metcalf Substation attack have not been apprehended and are assumed to still be at large.

Another highlight stated the fact that enemies of this country have as part of their cyber-warfare doctrine, to use these types of attacks involving, direct physical assault, radio frequency weapons, cyber-attacks and high-altitude electromagnetic pulses to destroy our grid.

When it comes to solar events, the grids, if left unprotected, will be more devastating by a naturally occurring “Carrington event.”

These are powerful solar flare-induced geomagnetic disturbances that occur roughly every 150 years. The last one occurred in 1859, one hundred and fifty-five years ago.

The experts stated that the reality that eleven different studies have been performed or commissioned by the U.S. government over the past decade to examine threats to the electric grid. Each one, whether addressing man-caused or naturally induced dangers have all arrived arrives at the same conclusion that the protracted disruption of the grid that would result from such events would pose an existential threat to the nation.

The Center for Security Policy recently published a compilation of the executive summaries of these studies under the title, “Guilty Knowledge: What the U.S. Government Knows about the Vulnerability of the Electric Grid, but Refuses to Fix”, was disseminated at the symposium.

Symposium moderator, Center for Security Policy President, Frank Gaffney warned, “The U.S. government knows about the grid’s vulnerability, so do the utilities…and so do our enemies. In fact, the only folks being kept in the dark about this problem and the disaster that it invites are the American people. And, if something is not done swiftly to secure the grid, they may be kept in the dark permanently.”

The coalition also created a website called SecureTheGrid where more information can be found, including a petition to be signed calling for the country’s most indispensable critical infrastructure to be hardened.

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