If the Lights Went Out: Exploring a US Power Grid Failure

The weakness of the United States power grid to cyber attacks poses a threat to national security and public welfare. Recent incidents, such as the targeted attacks in Moore County, NC, highlight the rising threat of extended outages. The noticeable increase in physical assaults on grid infrastructure also exacerbates the risk. The consequences of such an event would be catastrophic, with millions facing water shortages, transportation disruptions, and economic instability. Domestic extremists, emboldened by recent successes and spurred by ideological motives, pose a significant challenge to grid resilience and security. Despite efforts to enhance emergency response capabilities, the grid remains highly vulnerable to coordinated attacks. Such attacks could lead to long-term blackouts and irreparable damage.

Key Judgments 1. It is likely that the threats to the security of the US power grid are domestic and international and could be physical or cyber-attacks.   

Key Judgments 2. It is unlikely that current regulations and security measures adequately address the gaps of the US power grid to physical attacks.

Key Judgments 3. It is highly likely that a major attack on the US power grid could result in widespread and longer outages, causing significant societal disruption and economic damage.

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