Source: Anony Mee

On February 15, President Biden addressed the nation and the world regarding the crisis in Ukraine. At 2:18 in the video, he said “From the beginning of this crisis I have been absolutely clear and consistent. The United States is prepared no matter what happens.” And at 6:04 “…we’ve been transparent with the American people and with the world about Russia’s plans and the seriousness of the situation…”

The short talk about an impending war was grim. At 12:05 it took a very ominous turn:

And if Russia attacks United States or our allies through asymmetric means like disruptive cyberattacks against our companies or critical infrastructure we are prepared to respond. For we are moving in lockstep with our NATO allies and partners to deepen our collective defense against threats in cyber space.

Whoa! Did Biden just toss out there a doomsday scenario? TEOTWAWKI — the end of the world as we know it? If so, he’s in good company. A significant amount of post-apocalyptic fiction is based on such an event. Non-fiction, too, but more on that later.

Is Biden predicting catastrophic disruption of our critical infrastructure, including the electrical grid, banking and finance, water and sanitation, food supply and health services, transportation, and communications? If so, for how long and how widespread? If so, We the People ask what does he know and when did he know it?

A more conspiratorially minded person than I would wonder if this is another case of lefty projection. They frequently seem to place at the feet of others the very thing they are contemplating. From my perspective, that would be beyond imagining, no matter how deep into the pockets of our adversaries this administration is.

Two days later after that speech, Russia, unhappy with our negative reply to her proposals that we back up, back down, and butt out, had this to say,

In the absence of the readiness of the American side to agree on firm, legally binding guarantees of our security on the part of the United States and its allies, Russia will be forced to respond, including through the implementation of measures of a military-technical nature.

And what does that mean, exactly? In April 2021, Dr. Peter Pry, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Policy and executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, wrote an article in which he quoted Margarita Simonyan, Director of Russia’s state-run media RT and Sputnik:

War is inevitable. [snip] I do not believe that this will be a large-scale hot war, like World War II, and I do not believe there will be a long Cold War. It will be a war of the third type: the cyber war. [snip] Russia will invade Ukraine, sparking a conflict with the U.S. that will force entire cities into blackouts…All-out cyber warfare, nation-wide forced blackouts.

In the remainder of the article, Dr. Pry analyzed America’s current vulnerabilities.

Ted Koppel also wrote about this possibility in his 2015 bestseller, Lights Out, A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath. He spoke with Howard Schmidt, President Obama’s advisor on cybersecurity, who indicated that Russia “would likely be constrained from launching a full-scale cyberattack on an American power grid. Could they do it? Yes. Would they? Only in the context of an expanding crisis.” (Emphasis mine.) Welp, there you go.

Dr. Pry’s 2021 book, Blackout Warfare: Attacking The U.S. Power Grid, A Revolution in Military Affairs, provides an updated review of the threat and our lack of readiness to defend against it. We are not prepared, no matter what the White House says.

At the beginning of the nuclear age and in the early years of the Cold War, many Americans perceived “civil defense” to consist of assuming protective postures in the event of an attack (picture children cowering under their school desks) and families being ready to wait out an extended period until an all-clear was sounded. Basements, backyard fallout shelters, and root cellars that often doubled as tornado shelters were stocked with survival necessities.

We’ve gotten away from that now. Civil defense has morphed into emergency preparedness, with its efforts directed to mitigating localized disasters like floods, forest fires, tornados, hurricanes, and other weather-related crises. 9/11 was an outlier event that Americans rose to address. FEMA manages logistical operations, along with the Red Cross and local first responders. Folks flood in from across the country with supplies, power restoration services, fire-fighting crews, and the like.

Over the past few decades, the government has encouraged folks to have some supplies on hand to use while waiting for assistance to arrive. It used to be three days’ worth, then a week, then two weeks, and now it’s however much one determines one needs for the common local disasters. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve got them all—fire, flood, volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes and, yes, even the occasional tornado. I don’t think Antifa counts, but it probably should.

Image: The United States at Night. NASA image; no copyright.

But if Biden’s remarks presage a nationwide catastrophe, what then? Ted Koppel wrote, “For the most part, public reaction to the possibility of a massive cyberattack has not even risen to the level of apathy.” If all of us are affected, there will be no one coming to our aid from within our borders. If America is brought low, how long will it take for the world to rally to our shores and help us restore our common services? Months? Will local and state governments be able to manage their dependent populations? I would guess not.

Dr. Pry has written on the subject of comprehensive infrastructure failure since the inception of the Congressional EMP Commission 20 years ago. The Commission’s reports can be found here.

So, what’s being done to deepen our defense against cyber warfare? On Friday, February 18th, USA Today published an article “ ‘Shields up: Biden administration moves to protect U.S. targets from Russian cyber attack.” It’s a very reassuring article. Drilling down, however, reveals that the new document circulated “among infrastructure owners and operators with guidance on how to identify and mitigate the risks of possible Russian cyberattacks” is a three-page paper that discusses how to identify “tactics like misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation (MDM)” that seek to control or change a narrative. Nothing on how to prevent disruptions to power, communications, and water delivery. Cyberwarfare has already begun in Ukraine.

In December 2021, DHS’s CISA (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency) released its “Status Update on the National Critical Functions.” CISA has identified 55 National Critical Functions (NCF), 294 primary sub-functions, and 1,059 secondary sub-functions. CISA is working to strengthen the NCF Framework. That’s it. That’s all for right now.

Biden may be ready to respond externally to such an attack. However, he has done nothing yet to secure the lives and futures of Americans should a successful, comprehensive cyber blitz happen. Department of Defense projections, over the past few years of analyzing the consequences of a grid-down scenario, are consistent that most Americans would not survive a year of the hunger, disease, and chaos that would result from the take-down of our critical infrastructure.

For a riveting depiction of what such a catastrophe might look like I highly recommend William Forstchen’s excellent novel One Second After. It describes how a community endures a year after the grid goes down.

The pandemic may have altered the scene, however. As most of the country locked down and stayed down for months, Americans began to expand their pantries and medicine cabinets. Unpredictable availability of necessary items like food, medications, fuel, and repair parts led many folks to lay in supplies just in case they were needed but lacking in the marketplace.

Adding to our at-home supplies is a prudent path. It’s time to take stock and restock, just in case we end up truly on our own in these uncertain times. As always, it will be We the People who secure the continuation of our great experiment in liberty.