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Critical Systems Are Interdependent

The Commission report astutely pointed out that separation of these infrastructures into different domains tends to obscure the real vulnerabilities—namely, interdependencies between these categories, which support the effectiveness and daily operation of each other system. Consider telecommunications, for example. The telecommunications infrastructure requires power that is delivered by the electric power infrastructure. It is anticipated in the telecom industry that power will be disrupted due to blackouts, cable cuts, and other causes. That’s why the industry has long used backup batteries that supply the –48 volt power used by most telecom components. When power delivery is disrupted, as it often is, telecommunication central offices and other substations will run for a while (up to three days or so for larger installations or central offices, less than a day for Remote Terminal equipment). It would then need to switch to backup generators powered by diesel or natural gas.

In the case of diesel, the generator’s operation would rely on fuel, first from on-site storage and then conveyed to a central distribution point by the energy distribution infrastructure, ultimately ending in the delivery of diesel by the transportation infrastructure to the telecommunications substation paid for by the components of the financial infrastructure. Each and every one of these systems could be compromised by an EMP and thereby affect other systems. We could indeed end up with no phones to fix the power as well as no power to fix the phones!

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