Homeland Security unveils strategy to protect physical infrastructure

The Department of Homeland Security on Friday unveiled a national strategy for protecting the vast network of roads, industrial plants and energy systems that make up the country's critical infrastructure from possible terrorist attack.

"[The strategy] provides a unifying structure, defines rules and responsibilities, and identifies major initiatives that will drive our near-term protection priorities," said President Bush in a foreward to the document.

The first-of-its-kind document outlines what government and the private sector should do to safeguard the country's 5,800 hospitals, 2 million miles of pipeline and 80,000 dams, among other vital assets. It calls on business sectors to form centers for sharing information on threats and promises federal guidance to help state and local governments assess the vulnerability of key infrastructure components. Where possible, the strategy pledges to use public-private partnerships, and not regulation, to tighten security at privately owned parts of the infrastructure.

"Many of the critical infrastructure sectors are currently highly regulated, and additional regulatory directives or mandates should only be necessary in instances where market forces are insufficient to prompt the investments necessary to assure critical infrastructure…protection," the strategy stated. The Treasury Department will also work to create financial incentives for companies that voluntarily adopt tighter security measures.

To help companies protect their workplaces, the government will set standards for protecting critical employees and develop a certification process for companies that perform background checks. The government will also share research on building security with the private sector.

The 96-page plan outlines how government will protect federal buildings and federal offices located in facilities owned by firms. The Homeland Security Department and General Services Administration will work with real estate associations to create screening procedures for buildings with federal and private offices. These departments will also create a standard methodology to determine the vulnerability of federal buildings, according to the strategy.

The strategy outlines additional security measures that agencies will pursue:

  • The Defense Department will add infrastructure protection requirements to contracts with private companies.
  • The Department of Interior will develop standards for protecting national monuments.
  • Homeland Security officials will develop a nationwide security program for the country's 80,000 dams, and create emergency action plans for communities that are downstream from dams.

The strategy is organized around eight principles for protecting critical infrastructure. But it does not contain performance measures that would show the quality of security being provided by the government. Such measures are common in agency performance plans required under the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act.

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