April 28, 2011

The DOD-DOE MOU & the Grid

At a White House Energy Security Summit on Tuesday the
Departments of Defense and Energy reaffirmed their
commitment to the joint memorandum of understanding
they signed in July
2010. As Deputy Secretary of
Defense William J. Lynn III explained it
on Tuesday

“The key to this partnership is focusing
DOE’s unique knowledge on meeting defense requirements. By taking technology
from labs to the battlefield, the Department of Energy can once again [use] its
scientific ingenuity in service of our nation’s most important mission- our national
security. Innovative energy technology can increase the operational
effectiveness of our forces.”

Towards this end, the MOU has led to creation of some innovative
programs such as the Smart
Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security
, or
SPIDERS for short. The SPIDERS program deploys smart microgrids to military bases and installations in order to
improve energy efficiency by using advanced meters and integrating different
energy sources. During
his remarks on Tuesday
, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman told the
audience that while only three SPIDERS programs are currently underway, “These
projects, one under each of the major services, will demonstrate smart, secure
and reliable microgrids that can be replicated throughout the military.” Based on CNAS conversations with folks involved with this program, we suggest that Poneman is including cyber security in his "secure and reliable" definition. 

Those outside the military may also come to benefit from the
DOD’s pursuit of smart grid and other energy technology. Indeed, the panelists at the White
House on Tuesday regularly touched upon the subject of commercializing the
technological innovations made through efforts to reduce DOD’s
energy consumption. DOD’s size, funding and warfighting needs - and cyber security needs - make it an
attractive place to accelerate the development of new energy technology. Recognizing
this, the department has undertaken initiatives like the
Installation Energy Test Bed program which seeks to centralize technological innovation efforts to a greater
extent, as well as harness the size and scale of DOD’s operations to test promising new

For these reasons, DOD has
notable influence in setting the standards that others in the industry may come
to adopt. This makes it troubling that the panel did not devote greater
attention to the threat cyber attacks pose to smart grid technology. As Will
noted in his post yesterday
, one of the central challenges in getting the
industry to take cybersecurity into account when developing new technology is the government’s
inability to enforce the standards it sets. In this sense, then, placing a high
premium on cyber security for the technology DOD purchases makes sense not only
for protecting the effectiveness of our military, but also for contributing to
a better standard for technology used for civilian purposes. In order to
realize these gains, DOD must remain vigilant in giving due
weight to new technologies vulnerability to cyberattacks when making
procurement choices.

You can watch the video of
the White House Energy Security Summit on the White
House’s website here