The National Commission on Grid Resilience, co-chaired by General Wesley Clark and former Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), is a bipartisan effort to secure the nation’s grid. The commission released a report, “Grid Resilience: Priorities for the Next Administration,” calling for declassifying and providing utilities with greater access to information about threats facing the U.S. electrical system.
“Our electricity grid’s resilience—its ability to withstand shocks, attacks and damages from natural events, systemic failures, cyberattack or extreme electromagnetic events, both natural and man-made¾has emerged as a major concern for U.S. national security and a stable civilian society,” stated the report.
Rising international tensions have increased the risk of directed aggression against civilian populations, and the power grid is highly vulnerable to attack and attractive to potential adversaries due to the dependence of all other critical infrastructures on it.
“A widespread power outage lasting weeks or months would have severe and staggeringly lethal consequences,” the report noted. “Imagine a pandemic lockdown without telecommunications, water, food, refrigeration or working fuel pumps.”
The risks are not theoretical, according to the Commission. In the past decade, incidents have accelerated, and attacks and probing have become increasingly sophisticated.
“As these threats have revealed themselves, the nation’s best scientific and business minds have dedicated considerable efforts toward understanding vulnerabilities and improving the grid’s resilience, and, for some vulnerabilities, substantial progress has been made in a short time,” the report added.
However, more needs to be done in record time. For example, the widening attack surface of grid-connected devices requires diverse sets of expertise: cybersecurity; industrial control systems; artificial intelligence; civil, electrical and mechanical engineering; materials science; grid architecture; interdependent systems analysis for gas and telecommunications considerations; systems management; public policy design; and many others.
The report offers nine specific recommendations related to the “bare minimum” of what the government and industry must undertake to meet the challenges and circumstances of the next two decades.