Power Out

The recent attack on the power grid in North Carolina raises a lot of questions and also signals how fragile our infrastructure is.

The area the attack took place, in the vicinity of Fort Bragg, home of Special Forces, in the area where the JFK School routinely trains its students across the countryside, the fictional Pineland, also is a red warning light.

As a student and instructor at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School for years, I spent a lot of time in that area. We did assessments of many targets, including power grid, ports, nuclear power plants and other facilities. We also ran a course called SOTIC, Special Operations Target Interdiction Course. The goal was to train snipers not just to shoot people, but critical nodes of infrastructure and negate enemy capability.

I’m not going to speculate on who did the attack or why. My thoughts right now are on how the CARVER formula might be applied to this attack and where the perpetrators really screwed up (besides breaking the law).

C: Criticality. They didn’t just knock down some power lines. They went for key pieces of gear that will take time to repair. There are even more significant pieces of equipment, mostly unguarded, that could take out large swathes of our grid for months. They will remain un-named, but it’s time we wake up and start protecting the grid. And we need to build the capability to replace those parts, some of which are manufactured overseas and would take a while to even get in country. So, these terrorists did find a critical node.

A: Accessibility. They knocked down a gate. Easy accessibility. Hell, they could do damage just shooting from the road. This happened before, by the way in California in April 2013, with gummen destroying 15 million dollar’s worth of gear at a substation. No one was ever caught.

R: Recognizability. Anyone with rudimentary understanding of the grid can locate these nodes. They’re not hidden.

V: Vulnerability. The results show how soft these targets are. No hard wall around them that would at least require breaching. Almost our entire grid is extraordinarily vulnerable given how critical it is to everyday life. If the grid in a large area goes down for a couple of weeks, we’ve got big trouble. Much worse than most people know,

E: Effect. This is where they screwed up. There are a lot of pissed off people living in the affected area. A basic maxim is just because you can blow something up doesn’t mean you should. If the goal was to stop a drag show, as some say, it was overkill. They hurt the lives of everyone in the area. Whatever their cause is, they didn’t gain allies.  

R: Recuperability. How long will it take to fix what was destroyed. Again, they went overboard if their goal was to stop a show. Lots of people are going to be without power for days. Almost all who had nothing to do with the show.

I told my wife this might be part of the beginning of guerilla warfare by extremists that has been prevalent the last few years. We had an attack on our capitol two years ago, that, politics aside, contained well planned elements by terrorist organizations. Recent convictions of sedition by some planners make that a fact.  

We need to prioritize our vulnerable nodes using CARVER and harden them accordingly.

I cover CARVER in The Green Beret Guide for Success: The Strategies of the Quiet Professionals which is free today, 5 December.