News Release

November 5, 2015

For Immediate Release
Contacts:
Whitney Doll, dollw@cna.org, (703) 861-1351
David Vordick, vordickd@cna.org, (703) 824-2015

Military Advisory Board: National Security Threatened by Outdated, Vulnerable U.S. Electric Grid

Arlington, VA – A report released today by the CNA Military Advisory Board finds that the current U.S. electrical grid – based on centralized power generation and interconnected and aging distribution architecture – is susceptible to a wide variety of threats.

National Security and Assured U.S. Electrical Power, signed by 13 retired Admirals and Generals who make up CNA's Military Advisory Board, reports that the increasing incidence of severe weather, physical attacks, and cyber attacks warrant the need for immediate action to modernize the grid system.

According to General Ronald Keys, USAF (Ret.), Chairman of the CNA Military Advisory Board, "Failure to address known vulnerabilities and unwillingness to improve the grid aggressively into one that is more adaptable, resilient, and reliable holds the nation's security at risk."

Severe weather is the leading cause of power outages in the United States, and incidents are projected to increase in coming years. Between 2011 and 2014, electric utilities reported 362 targeted attacks (primarily physical but a growing number of cyber attacks) that caused outages or other power disruptions. The growing threat posed by extreme weather, cyber attacks, and physical attacks highlight the vulnerabilities arising from aging transmission infrastructure and our reluctance to embrace a more modern, distributed generation model. The report finds nearly every part of the generation and transmission network is at risk to threats, and because the grid's interconnections are so complex, an attack in one location could result in a sustained power outage with consequences to major cities or entire regions of the nation.

The report offers specific policy recommendations to address vulnerabilities as well as to capitalize on new sources of energy and transmission such as distributed generation.

"The 21st Century has seen enormous advances in energy, yet we're operating with a grid from the early 20th Century," said Cheryl Rosenblum, Executive Director of the CNA Military Advisory Board; "Governments at all levels need to work together to usher in an advanced energy economy and that begins with grid improvements." 

The report predicts that a new energy production system will involve electricity production closer to consumers that is stored or shared until needed. As the U.S. electricity grid advances, it will be driven by technological advances, demand for increased flexibility, more secure and lower-cost power, and a growing public demand for cleaner energy sources.

The report finds that the United States is well-positioned to transition to an advanced energy economy now. In the short and medium term, existing technologies such as micro-grids, proven distributed electrical generation systems, evolving systems that will use distributed electrical generation plants, and emerging energy storage systems can increase electrical generation and distribution security. Through public and private investment, forward-thinking action by policymakers and utilities alike, incentives, and strong public policy, America can modernize and design a reliable, secure grid to serve our nation for the next one hundred years.  

The report can be found at www.cna.org/mab/assured-electrical.

CNA is a nonprofit research and analysis organization dedicated to the safety and security of the nation. It operates the Center for Naval Analyses — the only Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) serving the Department of the Navy — as well as the Institute for Public Research. CNA is dedicated to developing actionable solutions to complex problems of national importance. With nearly 700 scientists, analysts and professional staff, CNA takes a real-world approach to gathering data. Its one-of-a-kind field program places analysts on carriers and military bases, in squad rooms and crisis centers, working side-by-side with operators and decision-makers around the world. CNA supports naval operations, fleet readiness and great power competition. Its non-defense research portfolio includes criminal justice, homeland security and data management.

Note to writers and editors: CNA is not an acronym and is correctly referenced as "CNA, a research organization in Arlington, VA."


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