A capability for locking and controlling manhole covers remotely, and for monitoring at points of access to underground utility systems in urban cores, would help protect key distribution lines. Today, when underground access points are secured (e.g., for a visit of a head of state or other major event), it is typically by welding and/or bolting the covers shut. This current labor-intensive case-by-case approach both increases the likelihood that the system will not be secured as often as it should be, and increases the likelihood that key access points will be overlooked.

Improved and expanded security systems would be useful in protecting key underwater cable systems. This could include multi-zone motion detection, automatic alarmed calls, live and recorded video transmission, remote control via use of information technology, and simultaneous streaming video transmission to operation centers. Some newer cables are now well protected, but some older cables still need attention.

Highly critical facilities require perimeter protection systems—including cameras, sensors, intrusion devices, access controls, lighting, fencing, buffer zone security, and so on—that are specifically tailored to the substation environment described in Box 3.1.

The DHS is currently working with industry security officials to build cooperation with local law enforcement in order to map out potential attacker approach and egress routes as part of the DHS Buffer Zone Protection Plan effort.


Electric power providers in other countries have been challenged to restore service, especially when transformers at substations have been attacked. The availability of spare parts at remote areas, site access for needed repairs, and transportation of heavy, large-load high-voltage transformers to the sites all complicate the recovery process. These issues are discussed further in Chapter 7.

In assessing vulnerability, repair and restoration capabilities must also be considered. Electric utility systems have an outstanding record of reliability due to facilities’ maintenance policies and ability to restore or bypass common outages quickly. The pooling of equipment and manpower contributes greatly to this record. Experience has proven that a vulnerability-risk analysis is applicable to any power system. The degree of risk is balanced against past ability to repair equipment and restore service in an acceptable length of time. Personnel and equipment inventories for making repairs are maintained to meet historic requirements. Many of these issues are discussed at greater length in Chapter 7.

Replacement of damaged equipment following a multi-site coordinated attack on major components could take many months or, in absolute worst cases, several years. For example, substation and generator step-up transformers can require as much as 12 to 16 months to manufacture even under ideal conditions. Transporting, installing, and testing them can take several more months. The availability of special transportation equipment itself could pose serious delays. Utilities have enough skilled personnel and equipment under their control for smaller emergencies, but having the skills required to safely repair a severe multi-site attack on electrical equipment requires extensive planning, the availability of spare equipment, and activation of already-in-place mutual aid agreements. Recent regional natural disasters have also pointed out that there is a clearly defined need for state and federal government support and coordination in recovery and restoration efforts.

It has taken many years to engineer and build the nation’s electric power systems. It is likely that reconstructing them after widespread, intelligently planned damage will require many months of highly skilled effort, assuming that the capability exists to manufacture or acquire the requisite components. The U.S. domestic ability to manufacture these components has eroded and moved offshore over the past 30 years, and is not likely to return without government action to bring manufacture of critical equipment back to the United States. Chapter 8 elaborates further on system restoration and the need for a critical parts inventory, particularly power transformers.


Since our modern society is almost totally dependent on electrical systems, the widespread loss of choke points on systems that serve clusters of key defense bases, critical infrastructure assets, and major metropolitan areas would have a very detrimental effect. Pumping of potable water, sewage, and irrigation water; sewage treatment; food and fuel supply and storage; refrigeration; medical facilities, prisons, banking, communications, refineries, shipping, transportation, commerce, and home/commercial life-support systems (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) all depend on a continuously operating power supply in an interoperable system. Should these interoperable critical infrastructures cease to function for an unacceptable length of time, the consequences to national security, public health and safety, and the economy would be huge.

The federal government is concerned about the existing level of domestic electric power system vulnerability primarily because of the threat posed by international terrorists. The White House has provided briefings to industry on its concerns. The DHS has been organizing relationships with industry. Efforts to integrate national security considerations into electrical system reliability planning continue to evolve, and the utility industry is integrating low-cost security measures to strengthen bulk power supply systems, particularly those that serve key national defense or critical infrastructure assets. These efforts are coordinated through the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) or the newly created Electric Reliability Organization (ERO).

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