Vast infrastructure systems underpin nearly every aspect of modern life. The roads and transit systems we rely on to get to and from work; the pipes that transport the water we drink; the lines that bring electricity we need to power our homes and offices—all have become indispensable. This critical infrastructure also includes the digital and physical communications networks that form the backbone of our financial systems and are central to our day-to-day business. When infrastructure fails it can have catastrophic consequences on cities, regions, and the nation.
Infrastructure is ubiquitous and essential, but the ownership and control of this infrastructure is not central—it is owned and controlled by a wide range of private and public organizations at many levels. Keeping these complex systems operating requires an immense amount of coordination and participation from parties at the federal, state, and local level and across public and private sectors.
The National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) was established in 2001 by executive order as a way for the President to receive input from owners and operators outside of the federal government, who have deep insight into how our critical infrastructure systems operate, the challenges they face, and what is needed to keep them secure. The NIAC examines national-level infrastructure issues and brings the experience and expertise of senior leaders from a variety of backgrounds, infrastructure sectors, and public and private organizations.
Given the Council’s rich and diverse backgrounds and experience, the NIAC is able to conduct studies that engage the highest experts in their fields. The comprehensive studies result in recommendations to the President through the Secretary of Homeland Security that are informed by the perspectives of both federal agencies and infrastructure owners and operators, making them both practical and actionable.
Over the past 15 years, the White House has tasked the NIAC with 27 studies on various critical infrastructure topics. Each NIAC study has included recommendations for changing federal policies, programs, and actions to strengthen critical infrastructure security and resilience. We’ve written before about the work NIAC has done on key areas of critical infrastructure security and resilience:
- Six Takeaways on Strengthening Regional Resilience from the NIAC about the NIAC’s 2013 Strengthening Regional Resilience through National, Regional, and Sector Partnerships report.
- Engaging CEOs to Solve the World’s Problems about the 2015 Council’s Executive Collaboration for the Nation’s Strategic Infrastructure report.
- Electric Sector CEOs Discuss Resilience Issues at a Roundtable Panel, which provided an overview of a landmark roundtable session conducted as part of the NIAC’s 2010 study, A Framework for Establishing Critical Infrastructure Resilience Goals.
This is just a fraction of the work the NIAC has done over the years, but it is important to highlight the Council and its work as we close out Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month. In its latest study—scheduled to be completed in the spring—the NIAC is looking for ways to improve its study process, develop more impactful recommendations, and identify future study topics that are highly relevant to today’s risk landscape and where they can add value. Infrastructure is central to everything we do and ensuring its security and resilience requires engaging public and private sector experts across all levels of government.