Power Grid Is America's Biggest Weakness, New Security Report Confirms

Tara Dodrill

Power grid down disaster scenarios are not just fodder for movie plots -- they pose a pressing concerns for government and security experts as well. The United States electrical grid fails more than its counterparts in any developed nations, but system problems posed by weather and peak usage are only a fraction of the problems that could spell disaster for millions of Americans.

A power grid analysis compiled by USA Today from government records shows that the nation's power grid is vulnerable and is often subject to attack. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the United States power grid is comprised of 160,000 miles of transmission lines and 55,000 different sub-stations. Approximately once every four days, the electrical grid is struck by either a physical or a cyber attack. Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that a cyber attack worthy of taking down the power grid was a matter of "when" not "if."

The American Society of Civil Engineers reviewed the state of the power grid in 2013 and gave the vital piece of infrastructure a "D+" grade. The rating means the power grid is in "poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life." The engineering review stated that a "large portion of the system exhibits significant deterioration" with a "strong risk of failure."

General Keys expanded upon his power grid weakness concerns.

"I think it's like 9-11. We said 9-11 was a failure of the imagination. We had all the pieces and parts of 9-11, airplanes, terrorists. But we didn't put them together and think, what if they flew those things into buildings? What would be our defense against that? So now, it's a matter of, don't have a failure of imagination and go, 'it'll never happen.' The question you've got to ask is, what if it happens? How bad can it be?"

Here are some highlights from the USA Today Power Grid Report.

  • "More often than once a week, the physical and computerized security mechanisms intended to protect Americans from widespread power outages are affected by attacks, with less severe cyber attacks happening even more often."
  • "An organization funded by the power industry writes and enforces the industry's own guidelines for security, and decreased the number of security penalties it issued by 30% from 2013 to 2014, leading to questions about oversight."

"It's one of those things: One is too many, so that's why we have to pay attention," Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Cheryl LaFleur said. "The threats continue to evolve, and we have to continue to evolve as well."

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission former chair Jon Wellinghoff believes the power grid is "too susceptible to a cascading outage" due to the system's reliance upon a small number of "critical substations" and other physical equipment.

Are you surprised that the power grid is so vulnerable? Are you concerned about a grid down disaster?

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