Along with Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), I recently introduced H.Res.762, with which we mean to express “the sense of the House of Representatives regarding community-based civil defense and power generation.” The Resolution is intended to “encourage community based civil defense preparations, including distributed generation of 20% of local electricity needs.”

The U.S. electric grid is one of our nation’s most critical infrastructures—none of the other 17 critical infrastructures will function properly without it. America’s grid is vulnerable to widespread blackouts of extended duration from any and all of the following threats: cyber attack; solar geomagnetic storm electro-magnetic pulse (EMP), coordinated physical attack; nuclear EMP; or a pandemic. It is critical that we in Congress send the message that it is in the interest of national security that every community and institution, especially our military, reestablish their capabilities to be self-sufficient independent of the electric grid.

This Resolution has received support from first responders and national security experts, including former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey, former National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane, Chuck Manto, lead, EMP SIG of Infragard, the Reserve Officers Association, and the Reserve Enlisted Association. Mr. Woolsey has said that the bill “will encourage America’s best-in-the-world hackers, inventors, engineers, first responders and entrepreneurs to help lead the rest of us toward having a much more resilient electric grid.  Local communities and organizations that take steps to generate 20% of their electricity load independent of the grid will strengthen our national security by becoming more self-reliant and self-sustaining.”

The federal government’s acknowledgement this summer of a 17-fold increase between 2009 and 2011 of cyber attacks on American infrastructure by criminals, hackers and other nations underscores the urgent need for action. However, there are significant regulatory and political obstacles for federal government top-down initiatives. That is why it is of critical importance that individuals, communities and organizations take steps to move forward to secure themselves and mitigate against threats to our electric infrastructure. I’d like your input about how we can do so.

Specifically: What technical, policy and political challenges stand in the way of the United States realizing a fully 20% distributed electricity system that can operate independent of or in partnership with owners and operators of grid assets? Who/what are key stakeholder(s) and organizations that may be supportive? How can the U.S. move toward such a system most cost-effectively and expeditiously? In addition to disaster preparedness, what secondary benefits would come with such a system? What are other key questions, second and third order effects to consider?