Vulnerability of Concentrated Critical Infrastructure: Background and Policy Options [Updated September 12, 2008]   [open pdf - 174KB]

This is an updated report from the Congressional Research Service on how concentrated critical infrastructure is especially vulnerable to natural disasters and attacks. "'Critical infrastructure' consists of systems and assets so vital to the United States that their incapacity would harm the nation's physical security, economic security, or public health. Critical infrastructure is often geographically concentrated, so it may be distinctly vulnerable to events like natural disasters, epidemics, and certain kinds of terrorist attacks. […] Congress has been examining federal policies related to the geographic concentration and vulnerability of critical infrastructure. […] The 110th Congress is considering additional policies which may affect critical infrastructure concentration. […] Congress and federal agencies also have adopted policies affecting the capacity and location of critical infrastructure, including prescriptive siting, economic incentives, environmental regulation, and economic regulation. Some federal policies have been developed specifically to address perceived threats to critical infrastructure. […] Some analysts may argue that little government intervention is necessary to alleviate geographic vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure because the private sector will adjust its practices out of its own financial interest. However, if Congress concludes that federal intervention is needed, it may employ a number of policy options to encourage geographic dispersion (including eliminating policies that encourage concentration ), ensure survivability, or ensure that effective infrastructure recovery capabilities are in place to mitigate impacts of concentrated infrastructure disruption. Addressing geographic vulnerabilities may call for a combination of options. Congress may also consider whether other legislative proposals with the potential to affect critical infrastructure development -- directly or indirectly -- are likely to relieve or exacerbate geographic vulnerability."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL33206
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