R&D needed to protect U.S. critical infrastructure

In a world at war with terrorism, where the future may likely contain a terrorism attack on our own soil, America’s great infrastructures remain prime targets.

These infrastructures include not only such national monuments and icons as the Statue of Liberty, the Hoover Dam, the Capitol Building, or, as we sadly saw on September 11, 2001, our New York City Twin Towers, but also our transport, agricultural, food and water sectors, and our banking, chemical, defense, and telecommunications systems. Almost all these infrastructures are vulnerable to explosives, for instance, as well as chemical or biological attacks, insider threats, and many other kinds of attacks.

Along with the likelihood of human tragedy, an attack on any of the Nation’s infrastructures would disrupt the smooth functioning of our business and government activities, and chip away at our national sense of security and well-being. In 2003, the President mandated a national strategy for the science research and development needed to help protect the Nation’s infrastructures. That Plan is now in print and available to interested media and the public. The online version available at: http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/theme_home5.jsp

The National Plan for Research and Development in Support of Critical Infrastructure Protection covers seventeen critical infrastructures and key resource areas.* The research and development plan in place is structured around nine ways to examine and deal with each.±

For example, we know that our enemies are hard at work developing new ways to threaten and hurt us. In the area of New and Emerging Threats (which could be anything from new explosives that release no tracer chemicals, new toxins so unusual that we have no data as yet on them, or new software viruses that arrive in pieces and self assemble later), the Plan asks the critical question of “how well we can anticipate these threats,” and outlines research directions to detect, analyze, and enable actionable intelligence and decisions to deal with such threats.

One method indicated is “red teaming,” where examination of our adversaries, their tactics and weapons, etc., is juxtaposed with considerations of what they might develop next. Unlike other plans, this one clearly addresses the interdependency of the physical and the cyber worlds.

The September 11, 2001 attacks demonstrated the high vulnerability of America’s infrastructures, and the severe consequences of not protection them. This Plan puts a baseline in place.

From U.S. DHS

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