More needs to be done to safeguard against electromagnetic threats
While the U.S. has taken steps to protect against electromagnetic risks, the power supply remains vulnerable and more needs to be done to safeguard the U.S. grid, a recent government report noted.
This week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released a report from March that analyzed U.S. vulnerability to threats posed by electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). The report is the GAO’s official response to a congressional request for review.
The GAO was asked to review and analyze any federal efforts that have been made to address electromagnetic risks to the U.S. electric grid. The GAO completed the review of recent federal efforts and also provided recommendations of actions that could be taken to enhance protection.
GAO Report to Congressional Requesters: “Electromagnetic risks caused by a man-made EMP [electromagnetic pulse] or a naturally occurring solar weather event could have a significant impact on the nation’s electric grid as well as other infrastructure sectors that depend on electricity, such as communications. These risks could lead to power outages over broad geographic areas for extended durations.”
Action has been taken, but more can be done
In short, the GAO concluded that, while federal agencies have taken multiple actions to address electromagnetic risks, more can be done to both assess risks and strengthen protection against those risks.
According to the GAO, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have all taken action since 2008 to safeguard against EMPs. Completed actions included the establishment industry standards and federal guidelines, and the completion of EMP research.
Overall, the GAO analysis discovered concerted efforts to increase understanding of EMPs and also increase protection against any risks they may pose. But despite the progress, more can and should be done, the GAO noted, as there are further opportunities to bolster federal efforts.
— U.S. GAO (@USGAO) April 25, 2016
One specific recommendation centers specifically on internal DHS operations. According to the GAO, DHS “has not identified internal roles and responsibilities for addressing electromagnetic risks,” which has limited the overall clarity and possibly hindered collaboration and/or coordination with external partners. With that in mind, the GAO recommended that DHS set up an internal structure to allow for more clarity on threats posed by EMPs.
Additionally, the GAO highlighted what it felt was a lack of collaboration between DHS and DOE, and thus urged a coordinated approach to both identify risks and implement strategies to safeguard against those risks.
Source → GAO
GAO Report to Congressional Requesters: “GAO recommends that DHS identify internal roles to address electromagnetic risks, and collect additional risk inputs to further inform assessment efforts; that DHS and DOE collaborate to ensure critical electrical infrastructure assets are identified; and engage with industry stakeholders to identify and prioritize risk-management activities, such as research and development efforts, to address EMP risks to the grid.”