Blackout! The National Guard’s Response to a Cyberattack on the Grid

  • September 17, 2016
  • Lieutenant Colonel James P. Schreffler

The United States power grid is a vital piece of the country’s infrastructure. However, due to an increased reliance on computers, the system has become increasingly susceptible to a cyber attack. This paper provides an overview of the power grid and discusses its vulnerability to a cyber attack that would result in a catastrophic blackout. The National Response Framework is examined to include the role of the National Guard in a response to such an attack. The paper finds that the Guard focuses more on its wartime mission and is not structured or equipped to provide effective assistance to state governors during a catastrophic blackout. The author raises several proposals and further research questions to include the establishment of a National Guard pre-positioned stocks program as well as the establishment of separate home defense forces at the state level.