Dr. Paul Stockton speaks on cross-sector resilience at CSU

Audrey Weiss

With the possibility of cyber attack, Dr. Paul Stockton approaches a population deeply rooted in technology and the implications of such events.

Stockton joined Colorado State University to discuss cross-sector resilience at the ASPIRE Lecture Thursday evening. The event was hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Energy Institute and Computer Sciences.


Stockton’s academic background includes his government Ph.D. at Harvard University and his post graduate work in international programs at Stanford University. Stockton worked closely under President Barack Obama’s administration as the assistant secretary of defense. 

Stockton’s current projects include research on adaptive adversaries and the implications of extraordinary orders. 

Superstorm Sandy initiated these studies and his experience working with the Obama administration at that time. Stockton recalled the incredible lack of preparedness at the time.

“The president turned to Secretary (Leon) Panetta and said, ‘Leon, the number one job for the department of defense … is to get the power turned on in lower Manhattan so that Wall Street can function,'” Stockton said.

Stockton’s overseer at the time was Panetta, and he described the events as fearful due to the absence of a plan as determined by the Department of Defense. 

The immediate response included the support of liquid fuels and restoration equipment, among other things, to return the area to functionality. 

“Energy, both electricity and the flow of fuel on which electric power generation depends, is foundational to everything in the United States,” Stockton said.

Stockton compared the havoc wreaked upon the country as a result of Hurricane Sandy to the potential of intelligent, adaptive adversaries to inflict upon the foundation of U.S. national security. 

Countries of potential threat, such as China and Russia, both have a stronghold in our technological infrastructure through the concept of cyber attacks, according to Stockton. 

With the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act as passed by Obama in 2015, energy distribution is run primarily by the Secretary of energy and gives an abundance of power to this official through the use of emergency orders, according to Stockton.


“It’s a huge sweeping grant of authority to the secretary of authority,” Stockton said. “You can imagine how important it is that the secretary gets it right.”

The enormity of emergency orders is not presently understood, and Stockton is proposing what actions should be employed by the secretary. 

Stockton stated that a cyber attack is imminent, and therefore, the designs set in place to respond to these attacks must be tried and tested in order to ensure a secure and adequate response. 

Through his research, Stockton determined that a potential solution to the threat of cyber war is regulating power outages in order to prevent attack and provide power for military bases that require such power surges in order to be fully functional. 

The problem therein lies in the unrest of the general population sure to ensue with such power outages, according to Stockton.

“What do you tell the American people when the nation is under attack about how you’re conducting extraordinary measures?” Stockton said. 

Stockton proposed the concept of a strategic power island in which power is not pulled from the eastern interconnect, but rather through managing a reliable flow of power to a power island through stored energy.

“If we’re able to strengthen the resilience of the U.S. power grid … that might make (adversaries) less eager to attack the grid if the chips are down,” Stockton said.

Stockton’s future project lies in dealing with civil unrest in response to the distortion of media by oversea enemies. 

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the event Paul Stockton spoke was hosted by the School of Global Environmental Sustainability. The event was hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Energy Institute and Computer Sciences.

Collegian reporter Audrey Weiss can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Audkward.