The U.S. needs a stronger domestic supply chain in the event of an attack

Posted by TGarland on 03/04/2014

Where lies the United States' greatest vulnerability to a physical terrorist attack? Transformers.

No, not the robots in disguise: Those large gray boxes of steel that move power across the country pose a serious risk to our power grid. In a new article, Rebecca Smith of the Wall Street Journal reveals that only a handful of companies build them in the U.S., and shipments from overseas could take months or years to arrive if one is unexpectedly damaged.

The manufacturing process itself can last more than a year, in part because a transformer can't be bought off the shelf but rather must be made to measure for its substation ... If attackers damaged enough of the nation's 2,000 biggest transformers at critical locations, they could cause extended blackouts.

Sound familiar? The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) published a report in 2012 detailing the risks our aging infrastructure poses to our national security. The report was co-authored by Tom Ridge, former secretary of the  Department of Homeland Security, and Robert B. Stephan, a former assistant secretary within the department. Said Stephan:

The nation’s worn out infrastructure is the soft underbelly that provides an inviting target for attacks that can have a widespread, devastating impact. Hardening our critical infrastructure is key to preventing and mitigating disastrous events such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters concerning power plants, pipelines, and transportation systems.

Just two years ago, extended power outages persisted in the New York/New Jersey region after Hurricane Sandy due to a lack of domestically made power generators.

Read more about Ridge's risk report here.

Image by Flickr user cowlet, used following Creative Commons guidelines.

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