06 August 2007

Red Team: The Unknown Adversary...

As the dust settles on the details of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, many states are in a review of their own critical infrastructure. What other bridges that also provide key fiber optic right-a-ways for telecom companies and crucial paths for other utilities could be at risk?

The investigation into the causes of the Minnesota bridge collapse may take as long as 18 months, the US National Transportation Safety Board says.
  • But while the exhaustive inquiry is set to last until 2009, computer technology may mean quicker answers than in past bridge collapses, officials say.
  • Debris from the eight-lane bridge, which collapsed at evening rush hour on 1 August, still blocks the Mississippi.
  • Five people have been confirmed dead and eight are unaccounted for.
  • Meanwhile, a state highway has been converted into a freeway in a bid to reduce commuter traffic disruption around Minneapolis following the destruction of what was the city's busiest bridge.
  • The timing of traffic signals has also been changed, new turn lanes have been created and access roads have been closed, while more city buses are running and car pooling is being encouraged.

When the analysis is done and the finger pointing is over, we will have one more example of why the public private partnership is essential for the future of government and business. Who owns the bridge? Who owns the utilities that use these bridges for the essential paths to service their customers? Organizations such as WashingtonDCFIRST, ChicagoFIRST and others around the the US are working on putting more emphasis on critical infrastructure resiliency.

Infragard in the Nations Capital or any of the other major metro areas is another example of how private business is interacting with government in the context of cooperation, coordination and connecting tens of thousands of subject matter experts. The people who can make a difference long before an incident or minutes after one occurs can be found in each of these local chapters. How the local community takes advantage of these resources is up to leadership.

Anticipating risks and potential threats to critical assets takes a "Red Team" mentality. Communities and companies need to be training, planning and adapting to all hazards whether they be the structural failure of a bridge or the next attack on the homeland. Having this mentality can save lives and dollars through the continuous exercise and approach to discovering and repairing vulnerabilities:

The ability to anticipate an opponent’s intent is critical to many forms of planning, analysis, design, and operations. While this need is recognized in the military and intelligence communities, infrastructure providers and first responders find themselves on the front line facing a range of potential threats that in many cases exceed the defenders’ direct experience.

Critical infrastructures and key resources are so vital to our national security that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on the defense, economic security, public health or national confidence of the United States.

Critical infrastructures are physical and cyber-based systems that are essential to the minimum operations of the economy and the government.

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