April 14, 2016


Statement of
the honorable Andrè Carson
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on economic development, public buildings and emergency management
house transportation and infrastructure committee

“Blackout! Are We Prepared to Manage the Aftermath of a Cyber-Attack or Other Failure of the Electrical Grid?”

April 14, 2016


                Good morning. I want to thank Chairman Barletta for scheduling today’s hearing and join him in welcoming today’s witnesses.

The electrical grid is a critical part of the daily life of every American.  Most of our critical infrastructure depends on electricity for operation, including mass transportation, energy generation, communications, and much more. Because of this dependency, our Nation must better prepare for power outages, whether they result from a natural disaster or an act of terrorism.

As hurricane season is fast approaching, this morning’s hearing on our preparedness for an electrical grid failure is timely. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused intense damage and left  some areas of New York and New Jersey without power for over 11 very long days. That storm tested our response plans as first responders from across the country, from all levels of government, and the private sector, were eventually able to restore power, but it still took days. We learned a great deal from that storm, and I am very interested in hearing how emergency response plans have been improved, and what still needs to be done to better protect our infrastructure against natural disasters.

 While Mother Nature has caused most of the power outages, realistically, a sophisticated cyberattack can potentially cause widespread damage to our Nation’s grid. Ukraine recently experienced a coordinated cyberattack on its power system.  I’ve heard competing opinions – from those who say it can never happen to us, to those who say we are completely unprepared. Given views by cyber experts and security agencies that our grid is not as secure as needed, I believe there is the possibility of a cyberattack on our power grid. But I also believe that with better oversight and preparation, we must take steps now to further mitigate and lessen the severity of impacts from future outages. We must take a cyberattack threat seriously and ensure that we are prepared for this possibility here.

While many of the response and recovery efforts will be the same for a power outage caused by a natural disaster or manmade attack, we must make sure that the roles and responsibilities of all parties are clearly defined. This may be complicated by the fact that most of the Nation’s electrical grid infrastructure is privately owned and operated. Because of this, we should ensure continued and effective communication and coordination efforts between the federal, state and local governments, and the owners and operators of the electrical grid systems.

Being prepared means not only having contingency plans in place but also regularly exercising those plans with robust testing and comprehensive drills. I look forward to hearing about last year’s GridEx III outcomes and subsequent training, plus identifying any gaps that need to be filled.

I look forward to your testimony, and again, thank you for participating in today’s hearing.