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An Overview of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan

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Before the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States did not have a full governmental infrastructure plan.  Once Al Queda showed that they can use aircraft as weapons to destroy important critical infrastructure the President and the Whitehouse sprang into action.  The president appointed Tom Ridge the as the first Director of the Office of Homeland Security in the White House.  Finally, a year later in November of 2002 the passing of the Homeland Security Act made the department an official Cabinet-level department. (Creation of the Department of Homeland Security) This act tasked the new department with developing an all-encompassing and detailed national plan to secure critical infrastructure and key resources essential to the United States.(6 U.S.C. 121(d)(5) (2006) The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) completed its task by the act and released the  National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) in 2006. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 may have tasked the DHS to develop the plan, but the Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-7: Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection mandated that DHS complete the plan within one year from the issuance of the directive. (The CIP Report, George Mason University)

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The NIPP presents a completely unified approach to critical infrastructure protection. It should be thought of as the Master-plan that brought together all levels of government to include tribal with the private sector and necessary international players. (The CIP Report, George Mason University) The NIPP is intended to be adaptable and flexible and maintaining this idea requires regular updates.  The latest updated plan was released in 2013 and is titled “National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) 2013: Partnering for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience.” (NIPP 2013)

The NIPP 2013 states that there are a few key concepts that must be understood and are influential to the protection of critical infrastructure and aid the community to ensure security and resiliency. These key concepts are known as Critical Infrastructure, Partnerships, Resilience, Risk Management and Security. According to the NIPP, Critical Infrastructure is defined as systems and assets that are either physical or virtual, which the United States depends so vitally on, if damaged or destroyed would have a serious impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination. (NIPP 2013) There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the Presidential Policy Directive 21 (PPD-21). A few examples are Nuclear Reactors, Materials and Waste Sector, Government Facilities Sector and the Transportation Systems Sector. (CISA) Security is defined as reducing the risk to critical infrastructure by developing better means to protect physical structures or cyber assets from intrusions or attacks, or any natural or manmade disaster. (NIPP 2013) PPD-21 defines resilience as the ability to adapt and prepare for everchanging conditions. Being able to analyze and identify risk, communicate that risk and when necessary accept, avoid, control and transfer risks at an acceptable level with an acceptable cost is considered risk management. (NIPP 2013) Partnership is intertwined interests that two or more parties have and try to achieve their shared goals by working closely together. The overarching goals of the NIPP is to build a safer, more secure, and more resilient nation. This is done by enhancing the protection of the Nation’s critical infrastructure and key resources (CI/KR) in order to deter, mitigate and prevent any efforts of destroying or incapacitating of our essential assets by terrorists. The second portion of the goal is to strengthen national readiness, improve response times and ensure a rapid recovery should an attack, natural disaster or any other emergency ever take place again. (NIPP Overview Brochure)

The Critical Infrastructure Management Framework is the foundation of the planning process. Public and private-sector owners and operators making risk-informed decisions are essential in the effort to strengthen security and resilience. It is important that the owners and operators share their information utilizing important partnerships between the public and private-sector.  These partnerships improve the understanding of threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences.  Physical, cyber and human are the three essential elements in critical infrastructure that make up the Framework.  They are integrated throughout the five steps of the framework process which are known as Setting Goals and Objectives, Identify Infrastructure, Assess and Analyze Risk, Implement Risk Management Activities and Measure Effectiveness. (NIPP 2013) It is important to note that information sharing is necessary throughout the entire risk management process.  Continuous improvement of security and resilience efforts can’t be met without the willingness to share new information gained by all parties. When the community shares vital information, it is documented which allows us to develop better practices in filling gaps by lessons learned. Without the understanding of risk management there would be a chaotic approach in handling threats and hazards that are likely to occur. Each infrastructure sector would end up wasting critical man hours and funds for their own development.

The NIPP is a very extensive and comprehensive document that is vital in aiding the critical infrastructure community with a unified mission to mitigate security issues and develop resiliency of critical infrastructures. The national plan was developed by experts collaborating to build a combined process but needs active participation from all the identities within the community to continue to be successful.  This important National Plan will continue to integrate cyber and physical security and resilience efforts, and will continue to require international collaboration by each sector’s participants.  It can only be met by a detailed Call to Action shaped by each sector’s priorities and responsibilities.

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