DOD’s “Black-Start” Exercises Explore What Happens When Utilities Go Dark
(Source: Air Force Magazine; posted Oct 17, 2019)
Pentagon officials are running a series of “black-start” exercises designed to test the military’s resilience in the face of a major power outage or other utilities failures, they told lawmakers at an Oct. 16 hearing on how their installations are preparing for future threats.

“We can do all the tabletop exercises in the world, but when you actually pull the plug, the question is, what actually goes on?” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment Robert McMahon said at the hearing hosted by two House Armed Services subcommittees. “Perhaps the most important lesson that I’ve seen is a lack of appreciation and understanding by our senior leaders at the installation level, all the way up to my level, of what we thought was going to happen versus what actually occurred, and then being able to apply those lessons learned.”

McMahon said his office has held four productive Black Start exercises so far, and is planning two more. Each exercise costs between $250,000 and $500,000.

Plenty of tactical issues remain even as they learn more about strategy, he added. The services are starting to build on that work in their own exercises and analyses.

John Henderson, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for installations, environment, and energy, said in written testimony the service has partnered with McMahon’s office and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory to create a comprehensive framework for “pull-the-plug” exercises. The framework helps set a baseline for what bases can do to maintain power and to look at vulnerabilities, requirements, and potential improvements. (end of excerpt)


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