JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
In March 2019, members of the San Antonio-Electromagnetic Defense, SA-EMD, and Joint Base San Antonio-Electromagnetic Defense Initiative, JBSA-EDI, mapped out a basic strategy to ensure military operations in San Antonio will continue in a post-electromagnetic pulse, or post-EMP, environment.
Once the strategy was refined, work began to bring the groups’ goals to fruition through their four lines of effort by way of working groups.
“The first line of effort is infrastructure resiliency,” said Lt. Col. Eddie “Thumper” Stamper, JBSA-EDI's mission coordinator. “We focused on a series of scenarios that could compromise the power grid and cause a long-term regional power outage.”
The Alamo Area Council of Governments, or AACOG, worked with JBSA through its Public to Public, Public to Private, or P4, community partnership initiative, to support SA-EMD. On behalf of JBSA, AACOG solicited a Defense Economic Adjustment and Assistance Grant, or DEAAG, from the State of Texas to harden the power infrastructure supporting JBSA.
In April 2020, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the $5 million award from the Texas Military Preparedness Commission to AACOG.
Along the way, AACOG worked closely with San Antonio’s power provider, CPS Energy, which supplies electrical infrastructure and power to the majority of JBSA’s installations, and the energy provider committed $3.4 million in matching funds and $600,000 for in-kind contributions for electrical infrastructure improvements that will affect JBSA.
Paula Gold-Williams, CPS Energy's chief executive officer, said having a secure electrical infrastructure for JBSA is a priority for the public utility.
“CPS Energy participates as the local utility and power grid experts and works with other subject matter experts to support the efforts to create resiliency across our power grid and our community,” said Fred Bonewell, chief security, safety and gas solutions officer for CPS. “The goal is to create mitigation protocols and resilience best practices for EMP defense that not only makes our CPS Energy infrastructure more secure and resilient, but can possibly be recreated and rolled out to more of our community and may set a standard of excellence for the entire industry.”
Hardening San Antonio’s power grid against any type of disruption, natural or fabricated, is of the utmost importance to the city and the military missions located here.
“Nation-states, criminals and terrorists look to the energy system as a mechanism to disrupt and destroy society, and there is an explosion of technology to aid in these efforts,” Bonewell said. “To keep up with these growing threats, CPS Energy has leveraged key partnerships to augment our expertise and resources.
“We are working with several partners, including SA-EMD and Electric Power Research Institute, to consider every phase of an EMP and its impact on CPS Energy’s critical infrastructure, the likelihood of widespread disruption and our ability to recover,” he said. “This includes reinforcing existing defenses, determining the additional mitigations needed to our unique critical infrastructure, prioritizing our mitigation efforts, and partnering to achieve cost-effective solutions as quickly as possible. Our focus is on mitigation, hardening and recovery through security and resiliency.”
While SA-EMD and JBSA-EDI members are working all four lines of effort to prepare for an electromagnetic pulse, hardening of the power infrastructure was at the top of their list.
“We are pursuing countermeasures against multiple threats and wanted to immediately mitigate risks from a physical attack,” Stamper said.
While CPS officials cannot disclose the specifics of their hardening efforts, their projects are on track to be completed within the projected timeline and within budget, according to Bonewell.
“Increasing the physical security and resiliency of area substations improves the overall security posture of CPS Energy, Joint Base San Antonio, and our service area by enabling more reliable power distribution for all our customers,” he said. “That security and reliability enable our military partners to maintain force readiness to succeed in their missions and empowers our community to thrive and grow.”
In addition to providing the needed protections and sustainability to the area’s power infrastructure, SA-EMD initiatives will have an economic impact, according to Larry Dotson, the AACOG compatible use program manager who is leading SA-EMD efforts.
“Substation protection projects will infuse the local economy with $8.4 million in economic construction that will go toward the companies that bid on, are awarded, and complete the work,” he said.
Diane Rath, AACOG’s executive director, sees the funding from the state and CPS as a win for the Alamo Region and JBSA as well.
“We are grateful to the Governor for funding this initiative to solidify JBSA and the surrounding neighborhoods,” Rath said. “This strengthens our entire community.”
Stamper also applauds the area’s commitment to San Antonio’s power resiliency.
"CPS’s commitment to this project makes it a leader nationally in correcting power infrastructure vulnerabilities,” he said, adding that he is thankful that CPS Energy is committed to the project to meet a concern expressed by JBSA during the SA-EMD's earliest discussions on pursuing a holistic approach to resiliency of military operations.
“The fundamental principal guiding our combined efforts is, military readiness is enabled by community resilience,” Stamper said. “Physical hardening of sub-stations now and electromagnetically hardening them in the near future are components of our community focused process to improve resiliency of all critical infrastructures that support national security, the economy and our way of life.”