DHS should stockpile generator equipment, National Research Council says

Report on electrical grid terrorist attacks declassified after 5 years
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In case of a terrorist attack on the electric grid, the Homeland Security Department should develop a national inventory of portable generator equipment, the National Research Council says in a newly released report.

DHS should first assess what equipment is available, potential sources of power generation--including truck-mounted generators, ships, power barges, and trains--and the logistics of transporting it, the report says. When the department finds shortages, it should plan to develop inventories, stockpiles and mobilization plans for more equipment.

The NRC completed the report in 2007 and says it intended to release the report that year. But DHS classified the report in its entirety. The NRC pushed for its release, and DHS reversed its decision this past August.

"The report's key findings remain highly relevant," the NRC says, warning of dire consequences if an attack takes place.

An attack on the electric grid could cause turmoil, and if a prolonged outage were to happen during extreme weather, many people could perish in the heat or cold, the report says. The U.S. economy could also lose billions of dollars.

High-voltage transformers are particularly vulnerable to attack, the report says. They are large, hard to move and custom-built--usually outside the United States--so they aren't easily replaced.

Cyber attacks are less likely to cause extended outages, the report says, but they could worsen a physical attack.

Fortunately, the report says, most of the technologies that could protect the grid aren't terror-specific--they would benefit the system's functionality in general. The report calls on DHS to fund basic technology research for power delivery, perhaps in conjunction with the Energy Department.

For most individual infrastructure operators, it's doesn't make financial sense to invest in security to the extent necessary to protect the national interest, so it's critical for the government to take the lead, the report stresses.

For more:
- go to the report webpage

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