The defense of energy infrastructure against well orchestrated systems sabotage will continue to be ineffective. Even if plans for sensor grids, UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) patrols, and dedicated guards are fully realized, it will likely prove insufficient to stop ongoing sabotage. These defensive systems are extremely vulnerable to feints (false attacks) and counter-measures. Additionally, the very essence of systems sabotage works against effective defense:
- Maneuver. Small attacks that are both simple and fast. Prior warning is non-existent. Existing public transportation infrastructure enable rapid movement to target locations. See Swarming.
- Indirection. Systems saboteurs will almost always select targets (in many cases there are tens of thousands of miles of vulnerable infrastructure) that are undefended.
- Leverage. The network will extend the impact of attacks over great distances. Cascades of failure can rapidly disable primary infrastructures miles from the site of the attack. Prior network analysis can reveal the locations that will provide the maximum impact.
The only method demonstrated to work reliably over the last several years is rapid repair. This capability can contain the economic damage and societal dislocation caused by induced infrastructure failures to 20-30% of its potential. Unfortunately, global guerrillas are finding ways to trump this capability:
- Tactics of Delay. Time of failure is key to maximizing damage for saboteurs. A day of delay can mean hundreds of millions in additional damage. Typical tactics that accomplish delays include anti-vehicle and anti-personnel mines (or remotely triggered IEDs) as well as assaults on the perimeter of an active repair site. Both of these methods typically result in extensive security delays.
- Team attrition. Ongoing assaults on repair teams prior to an attack have been successful. The elimination of key personnel can radically slow repairs and impair team effectiveness. Team members are particularly vulnerable while in transit to and from work and at home. Assaults of this type have become commonplace in Iraq. Additionally, teams on deployment for ongoing maintenance efforts are often extremely vulnerable to attack.
- Supply interdiction. Rapid repairs require specialized equipment (as the capability improves, the equipment used will likely become even more specialized). This equipment is usually stored in centralized storage depots that are vulnerable to assault. Assaults on this equipment have proven to be effective.
What This Means
The result of these innovations means that the quantity of damage that system saboteurs can accomplish will remain at unacceptable levels. At the strategic level, this will dictate that:
- Iraqi oil exports will remain below prewar levels.
- Saudi energy systems, with its emphasis on defensive and repair capabilities, will continue to be vulnerable to system saboteurs.
- A shortage of supply will cause oil prices to climb to new heights in response to each future disruption effort.