Vulnerability of Concentrated Critical Infrastructure: Background and Policy Options [December 21, 2005] [open pdf - 126KB]
"'Critical infrastructure' consists of systems and assets so vital to the United States that their incapacity would harm the nations 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. Disruption of concentrated infrastructure could have greatly disproportionate effects, with costs potentially running into billions of dollars and spreading far beyond the immediate area of disturbance. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita demonstrated this kind of geographic vulnerability by disrupting a substantial part of the U.S. energy and chemical sectors in 2005...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. The economic efficiency of public critical infrastructure and the efficient use of federal funds for infrastructure development may also be important considerations."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33206
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/