A Few Attacks Could Knock Out U.S. Grid


A few well-coordinated attacks could knock out the U.S. electrical grid, according to a news report.

Nine, to be precise.

Strikes against just nine key substations during a period of peak usage would be enough to leave the country dark for weeks or possibly months, according to an article by Rebecca Smith of The Wall Street Journal. That’s based on a previously unreported study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Out of a network of some 55,000 substations, the electrical grid relies on 30 key high-voltage substations to move power around the country, according to the report. Using software to simulate what would happen if critical substations faltered in each of the Eastern, Western and Texas regions, the commission “found that different sets of nine big substations produced similar results,” it stated.

The idea of attacking the country’s electrical infrastructure isn’t so far-fetched.

Last year in Silicon Valley, a gunman or gunmen reportedly fired 150 rounds from an assault rifle for over 20 minutes at a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. substation south of San Jose, Calif., knocking out 17 transformers, according to a report by CNN. The saboteur or saboteurs of the April 16, 2013, attack, who also reportedly cut a fiber-optic telephone cable, remain at large.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation deemed the shooting an act of vandalism, not terrorism.

Nevertheless, the incident has prompted calls from lawmakers and officials — including former FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff — to better protect the nation’s grid. Until Congress authorizes an agency to require large-scale infrastructure changes, Wellinghoff is urging utilities to adopt improvements such as replacing fencing with solid or concrete barriers, and adding more lighting and recording devices to the perimeter, the network reported.

The industry is expected to propose new standards for protecting substations and property by June in response to an order from the commission, according to the Wall Street Journal.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

21 Comments on "A Few Attacks Could Knock Out U.S. Grid"

  1. And you don't even need to target a whole country to trigger the next Executive Order 9066.

    Just take out California's power, especially during wildfire season. The disruption would be considerable.

  2. We will get power grid security the same way we got air travel security. After a disaster occurs not before. That's how we roll in America. We already have given the country away to Mexico because we refuse to put a border in place. We are now North Mexico.

  3. There's been some really weird stuff going on in recent weeks. From economic data (China), to Ukraine, to power grid vulnerability articles (this is now the 9th I've read), to the Malaysia airlines flight that's taking a week to find, etc. It feels like things are being manipulated, and more so than usual. Anyone else getting that feeling?

    I come here when I need to stop reading Zerohedge. Come on Defensetech you're not helping!!!

  4. I was going to state some good facts. But the fact of the matter is that no one inside the Beltway could care less.

  5. I got a weapon that CAN do it…a EMP which Iran China and North Korea can make in days. Russia has them too.

  6. Even without terrorism, the grid has serious problems: aging infrastructure, aging experts, and no incentive to make it more robust.

  7. Misleading title there. It implies that it wpuld be difficult to knock put yhe grid.

  8. Oops. My fat fingers can’t type on this phone.

  9. Stephen Russell | March 13, 2014 at 6:46 pm | Reply

    Good, no precise locales given but now to beef up substations & change policies & OK armed units nationwide.
    Screen guests, vendors & employees to plants alone.
    Oversee repairs made & when due

    More can be done & cheaply but effectivley

  10. The dangers are real all who have ever worked in the energy area know this. Our power grid was not built with the idea of having to be protected from deliberate sabotage.

  11. We have already had widespread outages due to small random failures. They were studied and the problem is well known, the grid needs to become smarter. This is a topic for experts, not hystericals.

  12. The same people who make life miserable for anyone on the globe who is getting on an airplane are also busy looking into how to take down the electric grids in the civilized world. I know where they all live in North Waziristan in case anyone is interested in simply pounding them all into a red whiskery dust and living normal lives again. Its sad what a bunch of wimps we have become.

  13. But Obama and his liberal stooges care more about continuing the lies about global warming than fixed the grid. Idiots.

  14. Throw some armor plate around the things and call it day.

  15. Remember when ONE squirrel took out the northeast power grid. Just get the terrorists to recruit a bunch of suicide squirrels. …

  16. They do not need to take down the grid. They can just reroute the power to another state, like Enron did to California, remember? It's a software hack, like Stuxnet.

  17. How about Obama's network of flaming oil delivery trains? Could those be attacked?

  18. anthony bauwens | March 15, 2014 at 8:26 am | Reply

    We have Homeland Security ,agencies we dont even know of but we can handleit if they tried getting in our harms way in own country.

  19. Decesed and former President Reagan should have approved cloning – just think – if he had been cloned and was still president – we would still be a nation with a fearless leader – AND a nation that others would fear and/or respect.

  20. Other countries just as easy to take out but we have generators, HomeDepots with more and even an automobile creates electricity.

    Improve the system if possible. Secure it better if not…

  21. based on WSJ? Forget it. Not worth the time.

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