Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Discuss the vulnerabilities to America’s various areas of critical infrastructure and key resources. Also, discuss what might be done and make recommendations for how to better - Writeden


Discussion Board #6

Due: by 10am Thursday 6/15/2023

500-word count and Bible content and APA format


Discuss the vulnerabilities to America's various areas of critical infrastructure and key resources. Also, discuss what might be done and make recommendations for how to better secure and protect these areas.


The United States’ vulnerabilities to terrorism

The United States’ vulnerabilities to terrorism


 by Dean Klovens  ,  December 31, 2015

Is watching over your shoulder here to stay? GRI looks at America’s vulnerabilities to terrorism post-San Bernardino.

A lot has happened these past weeks to American vulnerabilities which have taken a hit thanks to Syed Farook and Tasfeen Malik, the San Bernadino terrorists.

Coupled with the terror attacks led by jihadi extremists in Paris, the ingredients of change when terrorism occur become a reality. These scenarios on two different continents equate to various adjustments to the state here and there.

Not only is human life and infrastructure at stake, but what we also need to be aware of are the vulnerabilities that don’t get much play, or are criticized.

Terrorism presents and creates public policy challenges, constitutional vulnerabilities, and fear upon the human psyche, subjects that will briefly presented here.

The psychology and anatomy of terror

Vulnerability is the state of being open to injury; in these instances we’re talking about how terror impacts the political process and human nature, an injury to the soul and to political well-being.

Terror is the state of fear and submission by terrorization. Therefore we prepare ourselves for these moments knowing that no matter how the US fortifies itself against external or indigenous terrorism, people should knowingly prepare for an inevitable attack on the homeland, post San Bernadino.

To bolster this statement, the latest data from the New York Times and CBS poll shows  Americans  more fearful now than ever before.

There’s even more concern that another  attack  may take place in only a few months. US Secretary of  State  John Kerry also emboldened the notion of an attack by saying that a Paris-style assault is a strong possibility in the United States.

A view that doesn’t bode well coming from a figure within national security circles and the Obama Administration. It is these signs that make us fearful of attacks happening again and skeptical of what government can do to protect society.

Much has been written on the effects of terror on the human psyche that equates to how we protect ourselves but also how the psychology may translate to what people do on a day by day basis.

In other words, Americans do submit to the notion of terror, to the point where the public may avoid venues that they believe are soft targets to those who are willing to kill themselves in name of Allah or Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The ability of the Islamic State to strike indiscriminately may possible stick in people’s minds.  The  American Psychological Association agrees that, “the violent actions are random, unprovoked and intentional, and often are targeted at defenseless citizens,” which bolsters the conventional thinking that the idea of avoiding certain venues makes sense.

Terror defines public policy changes and challenges

The United States is a reactionary republic that does not create law or policies until changes are necessary due to circumstances.

The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and subsequent events have helped execute new policy changes to current legislation while adding new laws to the books and creating new bureaucracies while increasing budget shares to intelligence, law enforcement, and defense spending.

Our policy processes has become more vulnerable to the scales balancing security and liberties. Now more than ever has the argument of the balance between safety and privacy been so robust and apparent.

There is legitimate public concern questioning whether measures have made us safer or have skewed the system of checks and balances, a basic foundation of U.S. democracy, while seeing a consistent increase on budgets for intelligence and defense.

It should be noted, as Klovens and Gockerman have presented, that prior to 9/11, there was not a Homeland Security Department. The CIA was responsible for gathering, analyzing, and conducting covert operations outside of the United States.

The FBI was responsible for internal investigations of a criminal nature. And, there was a  legal barrier preventing the CIA and the FBI from sharing information. Reorganizational reforms post 9/11 resulted in the establishment of Homeland Security and, at least formally, the barrier on information sharing between the CIA and FBI was removed.

Damn if you do, damn if you don’t: terror defines leadership

All indicators point to national security becoming the new qualification for president in the 2016 campaigns. As a result of the Paris terrorist attacks and the terrorist killings in California, American presidential leadership will be tested again in the future leaving the meaning of leadership in a vulnerable spot because citizens expect their president to exude leadership in times of catastrophes, particularly post-traumatic incidents.

Being an effective  leader  is no easy task because it is a rather abstract concept that is informed by one’s experiences. Being a leader means defining and exhibiting moral and ethical courage and setting an example for everyone in the country.

Being a leader and leadership is the ability to inspire or influence others towards the leader’s goal; at this point in time, I am not positive Mr. Obama has delivered the message of courage to the American people in relation to Syria, ISIS and terrorism.

Herein lies the problem. In the case of a president, the problem is the expectations a sovereign people seek from its leaders, which in this instance is the US president’s effectiveness in fighting terrorism and punishing those that commit attacks and protecting the country from future attacks.

Is vulnerability to terrorism here to stay?

A country can be vulnerable not only to physical destruction or to homeland security gaps but by abstract thought in terms of presidential leadership, public policy, and human fears.

From a public policy perspective, helping to provide security for the public regardless of the potential impact laws potentially have on liberties prior to or after a terror attack. In examining public fear one cannot go too far from recent polls. According to a published poll after the November 13 Paris attacks conducted by  Reuters /Ipsos, 63 percent of Americans fear that an attack like those in Paris could happen near them.

In fact, they were more afraid of the possibility than they were immediately after the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013. For some in New York who had endured previous terrorist attacks; the violence in Paris served as a reminder of the need for a heightened awareness, until the San Bernadino killings occurred.




How America Could Go Dark; Dozens of break-ins examined by The Wall Street Journal show how orders to secure the power grid have still left tens of thousands of utility substations vulnerable to terrorist saboteurs Smith, Rebecca

ProQuest document link

ABSTRACT The following year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the country's interstate power system, began requiring that utilities better protect any substation that could disable parts of the U.S. grid if attacked. Major power sources–gas-fired generators and nuclear-power plants, for example–connect to substations that raise voltages to ferry electricity long distance over a network of power lines. FULL TEXT   An early morning passerby phoned in a report of two people with flashlights prowling inside the fence of an electrical substation in Bakersfield, Calif. Utility workers from Pacific Gas &Electric Co. later found cut transformer wires. The following night, someone slashed wires to alarms and critical equipment at the substation, which serves 16,700 customers. A guard surprised one intruder, who fled. Police never learned the identities or motive of the burglars. The Bakersfield attacks last year were among dozens of break-ins examined by The Wall Street Journal that show how, despite federal orders to secure the power grid, tens of thousands of substations are still vulnerable to saboteurs. The U.S. electric system is in danger of widespread blackouts lasting days, weeks or longer through the destruction of sensitive, hard-to-replace equipment. Yet records are so spotty that no government agency can offer an accurate tally of substation attacks, whether for vandalism, theft or more nefarious purposes. Most substations are unmanned and often protected chiefly by chain-link fences. Many have no electronic security, leaving attacks unnoticed until after the damage is done. Even if there are security cameras, they often prove worthless. In some cases, alarms are simply ignored. The vulnerability of substations was broadly revealed in a Journal account of a 2013 attack on PG&E's Metcalf facility near San Jose, Calif. Gunmen knocked out 17 transformers that help power Silicon Valley; a blackout was narrowly averted. The assailants were never caught. The following year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the country's interstate power system, began requiring that utilities better protect any substation that could disable parts of the U.S. grid if attacked.


FERC's new rule, however, doesn't extend to tens of thousands of smaller substations, including Metcalf and the one in Bakersfield. Security experts say a simultaneous attack on several of these substations also could destabilize the grid and cause widespread blackouts. Gerry Cauley, head of the North American Electric Reliability Corp., –which writes standards for the grid–was asked at a FERC hearing in June on grid security what kept him up at night. He said the prospect of "eight or 10 vans going to different sites and blowing things up." Recovery from a coordinated attack, he said, could take weeks or months. The Metcalf substation, while undergoing security upgrades, was hit again in August 2014. Intruders cut through fences and burglarized equipment containers, triggering at least 14 alarms over four hours. Utility employees didn't call police or alert guards, who were stationed at the site, according to a state inquiry. Three days after the break-in, Stephanie Douglas, PG&E's senior director of corporate security, sent a memo to the utility's president saying security was in a fail mode, and her department lacked clout and resources: She had 26 full-time jobs to protect 900 substations, as well gas pipelines and other utility assets. Ms. Douglas, no longer with PG&E, declined an interview request. PG&E spokesman Matt Nauman said the utility has responded with a $200-million program that includes better security equipment, more training and hiring. The sprawling U.S. electric system is regulated by government but mostly owned and operated by utility companies and grid operators that monitor electricity supply and demand every minute, every day. The system is always on– and for years few thought anyone would try to turn it off. The motive of most substation break-ins appears to be theft. Intruders and, potentially, terrorists also could be trying to hack into control systems through computer equipment in substations–either to cause immediate damage or to gather information for later use. "A substation is not an obvious target for criminals like a bank," said Joseph Weiss, a security consultant to utilities. "Common sense says they want to get into the electric system." Complex system The U.S. power grid is like a giant puzzle that can be configured in different ways to deliver power where and when it is needed. Major power sources–gas-fired generators and nuclear-power plants, for example–connect to substations that raise voltages to ferry electricity long distance over a network of power lines. At cities and other destinations, substations lower the voltage to safely deliver electricity to homes and businesses. Substation computers help grid operators control those electrical flows. The grid was cobbled together during the electrification of the U.S. over the past 125 years. It is a fragile, interdependent system generally more vulnerable in summer when it is running closer to its limits. It is also at risk during low-demand periods, when power-plant operators and linemen perform maintenance. Fewer plants and transmission lines operating mean fewer options for delivering electricity during emergencies. There is so much variability in the grid that what causes a catastrophe one day might not the next, which makes


security issues complex. Small problems can quickly spiral out of control. On Sept. 8, 2011, equipment problems and human error caused a large transmission line in Arizona to trip out of service. The grid is supposed to withstand the loss of any one line. On this day, electric current shifted to nearby lines and overloaded them; that overtaxed transformers at two small substations, which shut down defensively to prevent equipment damage, and disruptions spread. San Diego was blacked out 11 minutes later. Traffic snarled. Flights were canceled. Raw sewage flowed into the ocean. Altogether, 2.7 million utility customers lost power in California, Arizona and Mexico. Federal officials have long known about the vulnerability of electrical substations. A 1990 report from the federal Office of Technology Assessment warned that "virtually any region would suffer major, extended blackouts if more than three key substations were destroyed." A 2012 report from the National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences looked at different parts of the electric system and concluded that substations were "the most vulnerable to terrorist attack." "We've known we had an issue for a long time and have been very slow to do anything about it," said M. Granger Morgan, a professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who studied the San Diego blackout. Security adviser James Holler said his company, Abidance Consulting, inspected nearly 1,000 substations over the past year for utilities in 14 states. "At least half had nothing but a padlock on the gate," he said. "No cameras. No motion sensors or alarms." One utility lost a set of substation keys that were in a truck stolen for a joy ride. After the truck and keys were recovered, Mr. Holler said, the utility didn't change the substation locks. Richard Donohoe, director of security for the consulting firm Black &Veatch, said the security departments of utility companies are often so low in the pecking order that "the rest of the organization ignores them half the time." After the gunfire attack on the Metcalf substation, FERC required enhanced protection for individual substations "that if rendered inoperable or damaged could result in widespread instability," or cascading blackouts in any of the three separate sections of the U.S. power grid. That is a high bar. Utility experts aren't sure how many substations the new rules cover but estimate it is fewer than 350 out of approximately 55,000. They say more protections are needed at smaller substations that could trigger blackouts if attacked in combination. The exact combinations depend on energy demand and the direction of electricity flow. In spring, for example, hydroelectric power plants send electricity from the Pacific Northwest to California. In winter, electricity flows in the opposite direction, mostly from gas-fired and nuclear power plants in California and Arizona. One security-focused nonprofit group called the Foundation for Resilient Societies has called for an analysis of the impact of simultaneous attacks, both physical and cyber. Thomas Popik, chairman of the group, told FERC in June that existing grid protections were inadequate and his group believed the grid was "a battlefield of the future" that required military-type defenses for key infrastructure.


Michael Bardee, director of the Office of Electric Reliability at FERC, said the agency could do more to study security vulnerabilities at the thousands of substations not covered by the new rule. FERC expects a progress report on the new rule later this year. "Clearly, there's some sense that as events go on we may need to re-evaluate the applicability of this standard," Mr. Bardee said, and possibly expand its reach. The Vermont Electric Power Co. approved a $12 million program to beef up security at 55 locations after substations were penetrated more than a dozen times by thieves stealing copper during break-ins from 2012 through early 2014. "We haven't seen a theft in over a year," said Kerrick Johnson, a spokesman. The utility installed more secure fencing and better security cameras. Most utilities are reluctant to spend money on security unless under government orders. They must justify their expenses to regulatory agencies to pass on the costs to ratepayers, said John Kassakian, an emeritus professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Security upgrades generally include cameras, lights and motion sensors, as well as password-controlled doors and gates that electronically monitor entries and exits. Terror threats, Mr. Kassakian said, probably seem less pressing than spending to comply with federal environmental rules. Alarms unheeded Utilities don't always report attacks despite a legal requirement to notify the Energy Department within six hours of any event that could interrupt electricity or if a break-in targets security systems. No utility has been fined for failing to comply as far as he knew, said David Ortiz, deputy assistant secretary at the Energy Department: "I don't have an enforcement team." The Journal found nine substation break-ins over the past two years where theft wasn't the apparent motive. The tally and details of the break-ins were gleaned from interviews and public records requests. The count included attacks affecting the federally owned Liberty substation in Buckeye, Ariz. The substation, about 35 miles west of Phoenix, is a critical link in the southwest power corridor, delivering electricity to heat homes in northwestern states during winter and cool buildings in the southwest during summer. On Nov. 5, 2013, someone slashed fiber-optic cables that serve Liberty, as well as the larger Mead substation near Hoover Dam. It took workers about two hours to re-establish proper communications and normal controls. Liberty is operated by the Western Area Power Administration, which controls 17,000 miles of high-voltage power lines used by utilities serving 40 million people in 15 states. If this system suffered a catastrophic failure, it would take down other utilities with it, experts said. Alarms signaling trouble at Liberty began ringing at a utility operations center in Phoenix 13 days after the communications outage. Dozens of alarms sounded over two days before an electrician was dispatched.


The electrician expected a false alarm. Instead, he found the perimeter fence sliced open and the steel door to the control building "peeled back like a sardine can," said Keith Cloud, the utility's head of security. The substation's computer cabinets were pried open. The substation's security cameras proved useless: eight of 10 were broken or pointed at the sky, Mr. Cloud said. Most had been out of operation for a year or more. Two months later, on Jan. 30, 2014, Liberty was hit again. Two men with a satchel cut the gate lock and headed to the control building. They left after trying, unsuccessfully, to cut power to a security trailer outfitted with cameras and blinking lights, which were installed after the first break-in. This time, Mr. Cloud said, utility officials found 16 of 18 security cameras had failed. Most were installed after the first break-in and hadn't been properly programmed. Investigators retrieved a single fuzzy video from a thermal- imaging camera. Mark Gabriel, WAPA's administrator, said the utility has "taken steps to improve our physical security program and processes," including creating the security department in 2013 that Mr. Cloud now heads. A federal audit faulted WAPA in April for violations of security regulations, including broken or obsolete equipment, lax control over keys to critical substations and failure to install intrusion-detection systems. Mr. Gabriel said WAPA spends a couple of hundred million dollars on capital improvements annually, which includes money for security improvements. "The bigger story is how that break-in and others in the industry changed the thinking," he said. Mr. Cloud said he has received about $300,000 for security upgrades at a handful of WAPA's 328 substations, including Liberty. To protect the system's 40 most important substations and control centers, he said, he needs $90 million: "I don't have the authority or budget to protect my substations." Write to Rebecca Smith at [email protected] Credit: By Rebecca Smith DETAILS

Subject: Electricity distribution; Electricity; Public utilities; Electric utilities; Cameras; Blackouts; Security management; Nuclear power plants; Electric currents

Business indexing term: Subject: Public utilities Electric utilities; Corporation: Pacific Gas &Electric Co; Industry: 22112 : Elect ric Power Transmission, Control, and Distribution

Location: United States–US; Bakersfield California; California

Company / organization: Name: North American Electric Reliability Corp; NAICS: 813910; Name: Pacific Gas &Electric Co; NAICS: 221122; Name: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission–FERC; NAICS: 926110, 926130


LINKS Get It At Liberty

Classification: 22112: Electric Power Transmission, Control, and Distribution

Publication title: Wall Street Journal (Online); New York, N.Y.

Pages: n/a

Publication year: 2016

Publication date: Jul 13, 2016

Section: Page One

Publisher: Dow Jones &Company Inc.

Place of publication: New York, N.Y.

Country of publication: United States, New York, N.Y.

Publication subject: Business And Economics

e-ISSN: 25749579

Source type: Newspaper

Language of publication: English

Document type: News

ProQuest document ID: 1803543226

Document URL: pers/how-america-could-go-dark-dozens-break-ins/docview/1803543226/se- 2?accountid=12085

Copyright: (c) 2016 Dow Jones &Company, Inc. Reproduced with permission of copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

Full text availability: This publication may be subject to restrictions within certain markets, including corporations, non-profits, government institutions, and public libraries. In those cases records will be visible to users, but not full text.

Last updated: 2023-03-02

Database: ProQuest Central


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  • How America Could Go Dark; Dozens of break-ins examined by The Wall Street Journal show how orders to secure the power grid have still left tens of thousands of utility substations vulnerable to terrorist saboteurs