The brief power outage that hit the White House, the State Department and other government buildings Tuesday demonstrated the vulnerability of the nation's power grid, the head of U.S. Northern Command said.
"All of our critical infrastructure is fragile," said Adm. William Gortney, commander of NorthCom and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) with responsibility for defending the U.S. against external attack and coordinating the military's efforts with civilian agencies.
A power blackout "could be a mission kill for NORAD and NorthCom," Gortney said, and the outage in Washington, D.C., showed that "we have a lot of vulnerabilities out there."
The outage apparently was caused by a small explosion and fire at a power substation in Maryland at about 12:45 p.m., shortly before Gortney was to give a Pentagon briefing on NorthCom's status.
The Pentagon was not affected by the power failure, and the Department of Homeland Security later said that the cause of the failure appeared to be accidental and not the result of malicious intent. Despite the outage, Gortney said he had been assured that "everything worked, all the backup systems worked."
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