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Members of the Vermont Air National Guard to Return from Middle

Members Of The Vermont Air National Guard To Return From Middle Members Of The Vermont Air National Guard To Return From Middle

Members of the Vermont Air National Guard will return to the Green Mountain State, after serving three months in the Middle East, according to a press release. Guard officials did not give a specific date, but said members would return at the end of February. When reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Captain Tracy Morris, spokesperson for the Air Guard, said the mission went smoothly, and there were no reported injuries. Morris said for safety and security reasons, she could not release if the airmen were flying directly home.

The 158th Fighter Wing was deployed[1] as part of Operation Inherent Resolve a U.S. led effort against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

While overseas, members helped with air-to-ground attacks, guard officials said.

Past stories:

Vermont Air National Guard Prepares for Deployment[2]

Vermont Air National Guard Gets Deployment Orders[3]

Vermont Air National Guard Members to Deploy: What s Next?[4]

Vermont Air National Guard Deploys Overseas to Fight ISIS[5]

Vermont s Congressional Delegation Reacts to Air Guard s Deployment[6]


  1. ^ deployed (
  2. ^ Vermont Air National Guard Prepares for Deployment (
  3. ^ Vermont Air National Guard Gets Deployment Orders (
  4. ^ Vermont Air National Guard Members to Deploy: What s Next? (
  5. ^ Vermont Air National Guard Deploys Overseas to Fight ISIS (
  6. ^ Vermont s Congressional Delegation Reacts to Air Guard s Deployment (

Jim Kenyon: For Sam Ramsey, a Case of Dungeons and Dragons

Sam Ramsey began to struggle with mental illness in elementary school. He s spent the last 11 years half of his life, so far living in institutions, starting with a Vermont residential school for emotionally disturbed boys in fifth grade. The institution where Ramsey has spent the last 3 years is a Vermont state prison, a place where far too many people with mental illness end up and if Ramsey s experience is typical, where they receive little treatment. It s been a rare Sunday morning that Kerrie Ramsey hasn t made the 125-mile drive from Windsor to the Northern State Correctional Facility, Vermont s 400-bed prison on the Canadian border in Newport. She stays for two hours, which is all the visiting time the Department of Corrections allows each week.

On her next visit, she won t go home alone. Nine days from now, Sam Ramsey will complete his sentence for an assault that occurred at the state s only locked facility for juveniles when he was 16. (The state couldn t ship him to an adult prison until he turned 18.)

I ve waited so long for this, Kerrie Ramsey told me. I can t believe he s actually coming home this time. It s been a hard road. In the summer of 2000, Kerrie and her three sons were living in a Hartford campground. That s where I met them while working on a series called The Other Side of the Valley. Sam was 5. A few years ago, I re-connected with Kerrie who told me about her youngest son s struggles with several psychiatric illnesses and his incarceration. I ve written occasionally about Ramsey s time in prison, including when he earned his high school diploma in 2015. Last Friday, he reached another milestone graduating from Community High School of Vermont s workforce readiness program that teaches inmates valuable technology skills, among other things.

Ramsey is now scanning the help-wanted ads, eyeing a warehouse job that pays $14 an hour. He s also planning to apply at convenience stores and restaurants.

I ll take whatever I can get, said Ramsey, who hopes to start classes at Community College of Vermont this summer. But his freedom could be short-lived. Why? Last June, Kerrie Ramsey mailed her son a book that was part of a role-playing fantasy board game, sort of like Dungeons and Dragons, that inmates are allowed to play.

Prison security must approve inmates reading materials that come through the mail. Ramsey s book passed muster. Shortly thereafter, he was flipping through the book when a guard noticed a page with a picture of a gun, which is against prison rules. Or, at least, this particular guard s rules. Ramsey didn t take the news well that a book from his mother that had already been approved by prison security was being confiscated.

According to a state police affidavit, here s some of what followed:

Standing outside his cell, Ramsey became highly agitated and began using four-letter words. A guard ordered Ramsey back into his cell. When he didn t comply, another guard blasted Ramsey with pepper spray. He was also handcuffed. At this point, at least four guards were involved in hauling Ramsey, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 230 pounds, to the box prison slang for solitary confinement. A guard reported that Ramsey spit at him, hitting him in the eye. Ramsey, who suffers from asthma, told me that it was unintentional. The pepper spray had flooded into his mouth, nose and eyes. Being in handcuffs, he couldn t wipe his face, he said.

Ramsey spent 38 days in the box, passing the time doing push-ups and reading science fiction novels. He was allowed out for an hour a day to shower and stretch his legs. Determining what happened between Ramsey and the guards should be fairly easy: The prison has a hand-held camera for guards to videotape use-of-force encounters. But when a state police investigator asked for video, he was told that none existed.

Mike Touchette, director of facility operations for the Department of Corrections, told me that when the incident occurred, the hand-held camera was being used to video a facility staff drill. The battery was exhausted and before a new one could be retrieved the incident had ended. Orleans County State s Attorney Jennifer Barrett charged Ramsey with assault with bodily fluids on a correctional officer. If convicted of the misdemeanor, he faces up to two years in prison. The case is likely headed for trial this spring. But Ramsey is in a tough spot: His public defender is leaving this month. His replacement will have to hurry to get up to speed on the case.

Ramsey turned down a plea deal that called for a prison sentence of 11 to 12 months. That doesn t sound like much of a deal. The last thing he needs is more prison time. What he needs is a little time to put his life together and state officials who recognize that the best way to deal with his mental illness is through outpatient treatment, not incarceration. In last Wednesday s column about the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, I goofed. I wrote that the cancer center had arranged for a massage therapist to treat a patient at her home following surgery for a malignant brain tumor.

Norris Cotton, through money raised in the annual Prouty, provides massage therapists for patients, according to its website. But in this patient s case, the therapy was provided by The Hand to Heart Project, a nonprofit that provides free in-home massage to people with advanced cancer.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at

Interdependence Key to Cyber Efforts, Congress Told

By Rich Heidorn Jr.

WASHINGTON It was Congress on its best behavior, for a change. The House Subcommittee on Energy met Wednesday for the latest in its hearings on cybersecurity in the electric industry. It was a sober, reasoned discussion, in a bipartisan spirit almost unimaginable amid the anger roiling Capitol Hill over President Trump s candidates for the Supreme Court, EPA and other cabinet offices.

Interdependence Key To Cyber Efforts, Congress Told

Pallone | RTO Insider

Downstairs we re fighting like cats and dogs, but in this subcommittee, on this issue, we re hugging each other, said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). The subcommittee s nearly two and a half-hour session wasn t a complete cease-fire zone. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) railed over Trump s decision to add controversial political strategist Stephen Bannon to the National Security Council s Principals Committee while apparently excluding the secretary of energy. This, Pallone said, despite Congress approval of legislation two years ago to make the secretary the lead federal official responsible for electric grid security.

Interdependence Key To Cyber Efforts, Congress Told

Cauley | RTO Insider

Essentially, President Trump has chosen his top political security adviser over the nation s top energy security adviser and that s a recipe for disaster, Pallone fumed. But that was the exception, as a panel including NERC CEO Gerry Cauley brought the panel up to speed with discussions of the 2015 attack on utilities in Ukraine, the discovery of malware on a Vermont utility s laptop and the cybersecurity talent pool.

The reliability of the bulk power system has improved over the last 10 years, Cauley said, citing data on the number and severity of outages. We re always learning from every single event: small, medium and large.

Interdependence Key To Cyber Efforts, Congress Told

Rep. McKinley | RTO Insider

Cauley s other panelists SPP Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Security Officer Barbara Sugg; Scott Aaronson, the Edison Electric Institute s executive director for security and business continuity; and Chris Beck, chief scientist and vice president for policy for the Electric Infrastructure Security Council generally agreed. In response to a question from Barton, all graded Cauley s leadership an A. But Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) was unconvinced.

We ve been told that Everything is going to be fine. Everything s under control, McKinley said, recounting hearings he has attended over his six years in office. He quoted UCLA basketball legend John Wooden s admonition against confusing effort with accomplishments.

Interdependence Key To Cyber Efforts, Congress Told

Aaronson | RTO Insider

McKinley also repeated testimony two years ago by Thomas M. Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems, who said he and a team of 10 engineers from the University of California Berkeley could shut down the grid between Boston and New York within four days. Now that was after all the testimony about all the safeguards we had in place. So is Mr. Siebel wrong? he asked.

I don t think any of us today are saying it s 100% under control, responded Aaronson, speaking on behalf of the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council. While an attack that has an impact is always within the realm of the possible, the resiliency and redundancy that has grown up, and the ability to respond makes me a lot more comfortable in our ability to deal with these sorts of [threats].


Interdependence Key To Cyber Efforts, Congress Told

Beck | RTO Insider

A recurring theme in the panel s comments was interdependence. They cited generators need for cooling water, the use of trains and trucks to transport spare transformers, and grid operators reliance on the telecommunications and financial services industries.

I don t ever expect there s going to be an attack that s just on the grid, said Cauley, who added that the electric industry must increase its coordination with other sectors. Beck agreed. Simultaneous attacks on the oil and natural gas subsector, on water systems, communications, government, emergency response or other infrastructures could both create new categories of severe disruption and seriously complicate power restoration operations, he said in his opening statement.

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, response activities typically commence once the immediate danger has passed. In a cyberattack scenario, it is possible, or even likely, that the attacker could launch subsequent attacks to disrupt response and recovery efforts and/or cause further damage. Information technology and operational technology professionals, however, are typically a limited resource. In a large enough attack, availability of such expertise will likely be too limited to address the need. In addition, especially given the problem of sustained or follow-on cyberattack, CEOs may be reluctant to flow critical personnel to assist others when they might be the next target. To bolster the intra-electric sector mutual support, external support is also necessary.

Interdependence Key To Cyber Efforts, Congress Told

Sugg | RTO Insider

The speakers also cited concerns over the supply chain for equipment used on the grid and Internet of Things consumer devices that could be vulnerable to hackers.

I think we should put more emphasis on the manufacturers and really hold them accountable for developing things that are easy to maintain security with not things that you just plug in and forget about, said Sugg, representing the ISO/RTO Council. She said that certification of equipment could help.

We used to buy a relay for the system and it would just be a couple of contacts and a core of copper wire, said Cauley. Now you have a box and it has 10,000 lines of code, making them vulnerable to being reprogrammed by hackers. So I think we have to think about long-term partnerships with suppliers, vendors and manufacturers in terms of building better security into systems.

Fast Act

In response to lawmakers questions, the panelists said they welcomed the Fixing America s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, which amended the Federal Power Act to designate the Energy Department as the lead federal agency for energy sector cybersecurity. It also gives the secretary of energy authority to take emergency actions to protect the grid.

Interdependence Key To Cyber Efforts, Congress Told

House Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing on Cybersecurity in the electric industry | RTO Insider

Cauley said the law corrected the lack of clarity on how the federal government would respond in a grid security emergency and increased protection of sensitive information. To comply with the law, FERC in November approved a rule updating its processes for the handling of Critical Energy Infrastructure Information (CEII). (See FERC OKs Information Security, FOIA Rules[1].)

Aaronson said the law further solidifies the relationship between industry and the federal government.

Pros and Cons of Distributed Generation

In response to a question from Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Cauley said he was deeply concerned about distributed generation, saying that while it can provide resiliency to the grid, its equipment is more vulnerable to hacking. In October, major websites were hit with a distributed denial-of-service attack[2] that used thousands of Internet-connected devices such as cameras, baby monitors and home routers.

The challenge is that all the devices are communicating with something else, and in some cases they re much closer to the Internet than the bulk power grid, he said. So it s going to create a much greater surface to attack and create multipliers in the attack. When you have common devices that are out there, instead of there being three breakers of a certain model, there s 1.5 million devices that are exactly the same and could be simultaneously hacked.

Three Incidents

Interdependence Key To Cyber Efforts, Congress Told

Among those in the audience were former Rep. Mike Ross, SPP s senior vice president for government affairs and public relations and Kurt Bilas, executive director of government relations for MISO. | RTO Insider

The panelists also commented on several other recent incidents, including the April 2016 power outage in D.C., the December 2015 attack on utilities in Ukraine and the discovery of malware on a utility s laptop in Vermont. The power outage that darkened the White House and much of D.C. on April 7 was caused by the failure of a 230-kV lightning arrester at a substation 40 miles south of the capital. (See Failed Lightning Arrester Caused April Outage[3].)

Aaronson recalled that in the first hour after the lights went out, the cause was unclear. He said Pepco Holdings Inc. officials got on the National Incident Communications Conference Line with the Department of Homeland Security and White House officials, allowing the White House press secretary to announce that it was not the result of terrorism. He said a real cyber incident would result in immediate high-level coordination between the ESCC and industry CEOs along with senior government and NERC officials and the team from the Electricity Information Sharing & Analysis Center, which manages the Cybersecurity Risk Information Sharing Program.

When a Vermont utility found[4] malware associated with Russian hackers on a laptop in December, Aaronson said, 30 top utility CEOs were on an emergency conference call within four hours. That is exactly the way it s supposed to happen, he said.


Cauley expressed confidence that the utilities under NERC s authority would not have fallen victim to the attack that knocked out power to 225,000 customers in Ukraine for several hours in December 2015. The hack had been set in motion in the prior spring, when attackers entered three Ukrainian electric distribution companies through infected Microsoft Office files. After gaining entry, the hackers spent six months conducting reconnaissance and testing before taking control of the systems in late December. (See How a Phantom Mouse and Weaponized Excel Files Brought Down Ukraine s Grid[5].)

Cauley acknowledged that the spear phishing technique used to get into the utilities in Ukraine is the greatest vulnerability we have. But he said the attack would not have been successful here.

We would not allow that software to go unchecked and for the perpetrators to get elevated credentials so they could actually operate the system. Those are extreme violations of all our rules, he said.


Interdependence Key To Cyber Efforts, Congress Told

Rep. Rush | RTO Insider

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) asked whether the industry was having trouble attracting talent to its mission, citing an estimate by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers of 1 million unfilled[6] cybersecurity engineering jobs worldwide.

It s a challenge. There are a lot of needs and not a lot of people to fill it, Aaronson acknowledged. This is something that s going to require a long-term, concerted effort, starting with STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] education and moving up to attracting the workforce to this particular critical infrastructure industry. Sugg said the industry is addressing the problem by partnering with universities to develop relevant curriculum. Universities are producing some really skilled graduates that challenge our way of thinking about security in a very healthy way, she said.

Beck said another challenge is breaking down communication barriers resulting from stove pipes and tunnels. Stove pipes or silos can inhibit communication between government agencies and infrastructure sectors. Tunnels refer to the levels of decision-making.

So CEOs understand each other and they have a certain view of the situation. The engineers that work on cybersecurity have a different understanding, he said. We need to break down both silos and tunnels so that there s a common operating picture and mission.


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  1. ^ FERC OKs Information Security, FOIA Rules (
  2. ^ attack (
  3. ^ Failed Lightning Arrester Caused April Outage (
  4. ^ found (
  5. ^ How a Phantom Mouse and Weaponized Excel Files Brought Down Ukraine s Grid (
  6. ^ unfilled (
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