Recent drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities have begged the question, could it happen here? Particularly, here in Alaska.

While Alyeska Pipeline Company says it doesn't do interviews on sensitive subjects, like security, a spokesperson did say that the company has a number of surveillance methods to protect the pipeline from both physical and cybersecurity threats.

"We also have ongoing communication and collaboration with federal and state law enforcement agencies," added Michelle Egan, Chief Communications Officer for the company. 

The scale of the attacks in Saudi Arabia is unprecedented, in part, because of the improved capabilities of the unmanned aircraft involved. According to the New York Times, the attack last weekend was the most destructive blow to Saudi Arabia since it began waging war in Yemen more than four years ago. 

"The new technologies, both cyber and drone technology, do allow for greater penetration of the front line," said UAA professor of public policy and former security intelligence analyst, Chad Briggs. "It's not really clear exactly who is going to be at risk."

But Briggs says Alaska's location and the vast landscapes surrounding the pipeline make a drone attack unlikely here.  

"A drone attack itself is difficult to surveil," said Briggs — citing a recent drone protest at Heathrow Airport in London. "However, drones can only fly for so long. And the larger ones, which are necessary for an attack like this,  importing them to Alaska, having places where they could be launched, that's very difficult to produce."

As for national energy security intelligence capabilities, Briggs says the U.S. may be more advanced than any other region in the world — adding that the U.S. military and Department of Energy are continually performing threat analyses and identifying critical infrastructure. 

Briggs describes his own work with the Department of Defense's Minerva Research Initiative, aimed at security planning in a 2013 online article

"In contrast to predictive models, we applied military planning methods to scan potential risks, allowing a wider assessment of critical vulnerabilities," Briggs wrote. 

As for emerging threats, Briggs says cyber attacks are more concerning. In 2017, a cyber-attack cut power for more than an hour in part of the Ukranian capital, one of several such attacks on the country.

"That tends to focus much more on electrical infrastructure than oil and gas, but it is possible," Briggs said. 

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