Critical Infrastructure Protection Act at Risk of Being Watered Down

Upon learning of attempts by the electrical utility lobby groups to water down the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, a group of former national security policy leaders wrote the following letter to House Homeland Security Chairman, Mike McCaul to address the issue…

 

Hon. Michael McCaul

Chairman

House Committee on Homeland Security

131 Cannon HOB

Washington, D.C. 50515

 

Dear Chairman McCaul:

 

Thank you for your leadership in supporting the passage in the 114th Congress of Reps. Trent Franks and Pete Sessions’ bill, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA, H.R. 1073) and for that you provided last year that prompted the House of Representatives in the previous Congress to vote unanimously for nearly identical legislation.

As you know, CIPA is designed to protect the U.S. homeland from the existential threat posed by a natural or man-made electromagnetic pulse (EMP). It would do so by requiring the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop specific plans, technologies, recommendations and best practices to protect the national electric grid and other critical infrastructures.

Accordingly, it is vitally important that the integrity of the carefully crafted language of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act not be compromised by special interests whose resistance to securing the grid to date has put us in our present position of grave national vulnerability.

We understand, for instance, that the electric power industry is seeking to strike CIPA’s language requiring the Department of Homeland Security to develop “plans” and specific best practices and technologies for protecting critical infrastructures. They favor, instead, restricting DHS to merely developing “strategies” and general goals. This would leave specifics for protecting the electric grid and other critical infrastructures to be determined by industry alone, without DHS playing more than a merely symbolic role.

Such an alteration in the language of CIPA would render the bill meaningless, DHS ineffectual, and perpetuate the current situation where industry has failed to protect our critical infrastructures from EMP and other threats. By contrast, the current CIPA language would harness the deep expertise resident in DHS, and potentially in other departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, to assess the risk of an EMP event and to identify the specific plans and technologies needed to help industry address the threat.

The electric utilities lobby is reportedly also seeking to insert the phrase “wherever practicable” in passages calling for protection of the electric grid and other critical infrastructures from natural and manmade EMP. This phrase is obviously intended to provide an escape clause for industry to negate CIPA by simply declaring impracticable any DHS plans and recommendations for protecting against EMP that they dislike.

In addition, the electric power industry evidently seeks to replace in CIPA the term “natural EMP” with its preferred term, “Geo-Magnetic Disturbance” (GMD). This is part of industry’s longstanding effort to avoid responsibility for contending with electromagnetic pulses. By using the semantic device of GMD rather than EMP, they hope to suggest that the former is completely different from the latter.

This stance then enables the utilities to claim they have no responsibility to protect against what they contend is the only kind of EMP – that delivered by a high-altitude nuclear detonation. For instance, what amounts to the industry’s trade association, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), has testified before Congress that it is solely the job of the Department of Defense to address the threat of nuclear attack.

As it happens, the Department of Homeland Security in testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee has used the phrase “natural EMP” to describe the threat to power grids from geomagnetic storms. Moreover, what industry calls “geomagnetic disturbances” is similar to the late-time EMP generated by the high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon.

The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act is necessary because the utilities, the NERC (which also serves as the principal regulatory agency for the bulk power distribution system) and the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC, which oversees NERC and the electric power industry, but has limited authority to hold either accountable) have failed to date to protect the electric grid.

For a sense of just how serious this failure is, please consider the attached critique of the “GMD Standard” recently proposed by NERC and approved by FERC for protecting the national electric grid from geomagnetic storms. The critique, by two of the Free World’s foremost EMP experts, Dr. William Radasky and John Kappenman, concludes that the GMD Standard is hollow. In fact, it appears to be deliberately concocted to grossly underestimate the real threat from geomagnetic storms so industry will be obliged to do little or nothing in the way of protecting the grid, yet secure protection against liability.

A recent article in the scholarly journal Risk Analysis (authored by members of Johns Hopkins University, the electric utility Constellation Energy, and the international energy consulting firm Accenture)warns:

We conclude that while the approaches taken in reliability standards have made considerable advances in enhancing the reliability of power systems and may be logical from a utility perspective during normal operation, existing standards do not provide a sufficient incentive structure for the utilities to adequately ensure high levels of reliability for end-users, particularly during large-scale events. (Emphasis added.)

The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act as introduced will help correct the failure of the utilities to protect the nation and the American people from a natural or man-made EMP catastrophe. We urge you and your colleagues on the Homeland Security Committee to resist efforts to neuter this legislation and the important contribution it can make to securing the grid, and all those reliant upon it.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dr. William R. Graham

(Former White House Science Advisor to President Ronald Reagan, Administrator of NASA, and Chairman of the Congressional EMP Commission)

Ambassador R. James Woolsey

(Former Director of Central Intelligence and Chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies)

Ambassador Henry Cooper

(Former Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative and Chairman of High Frontier)

Mr. Fritz Ermarth

(Former Chairman of the National Intelligence Council)

General Ken Chrosniak

(U.S. Army War College)

General Robert Newman Jr.

(Former Adjutant General to the State of Virginia)

Dr. William Radasky

(President of Metatech, Lord Kelvin Medal for International Electromagnetic Protection Standards)

Dr. George Baker

(Former Chief Scientist for EMP Protection at the U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency)

Gueta Maria Mezzetti

(Former Co-Chair, Defense science Board Energy Security Task Force (Policy) and Former Technical Co-Chair, Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel on Energy Security)

Mr. John Kappenman

(President, Storm Analysis Consultants)

Mr. Frank Gaffney

(President, Center for Security Policy and Secure the Grid Coalition)

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry

(Executive Director, EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security)

Mr. Kevin Freeman

(Chairman, NSIC Institute)

Cynthia E. Ayers

(Deputy Director, EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security)

Michael Maloof

(former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense)