Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

The Obameter

Prioritize security investments in refineries, pipelines and power grids


"Barack Obama will prioritize security investments in our refineries and pipelines and power grids."


Updates

First steps being taken in long effort to fortify critical infrastructure

As we have noted elsewhere, the Obama administration has moved slowly but tangibly toward fortifying the nation's critical infrastructure.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "prioritize security investments in our refineries and pipelines and power grids."

One of the key federal documents that governs the protection of refineries, pipelines, power grids and other forms of critical infrastructure was signed by Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7, signed on Dec. 17, 2003, focuses on "protecting” critical infrastructure.

Since then, though, there's been a push toward "resilience” -- a concept that includes protection but goes beyond it as well.

Various government reports have used somewhat different definitions for "resilience,” but one of the broadest was offered in an August 2009 report by the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute, a federally funded research institute. The institute's definition used three "mutually reinforcing objectives.” One was the ability to avoid hazards altogether; the second was the ability to "bend but not break” in the face of threats; and the third was the ease with which service can be restored after damage occurs.
   
Initially, resilience took a back seat under Obama. "Most infrastructure projects initiated as a part of the economic stimulus efforts in 2009 were undertaken without the addition of any new requirements that infrastructure be more resilient in the face of manmade and naturally occurring dangers -- these ‘shovel-ready' projects were completed using pre-existing construction criteria,” said Stephen Flynn, the founding co-director of the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security at Northeastern University.
   
But that's changing. The White House appears to be redrafting this directive so that it includes the standard of "resilience," and the homeland-security page on the White House website says that "ensuring the resilience of our critical infrastructure is vital to homeland security.”
   
Spending on "infrastructure protection and information security” in the Department of Homeland Security budget has fluctuated from year to year, but it was $52 million -- or 6 percent -- higher in fiscal year 2012 than it was in fiscal year 2009, and the administration has requested a 31 percent bump for fiscal year 2013 compared to fiscal 2012.
   
We should note, as we did in our previous update, that critical infrastructure goes well beyond the reach of the federal government, since most pieces of it are owned and operated by either the private sector or by states and localities. So while the Obama administration can provide guidance and funding, other levels of government and the private sector are the ones who have to carry out the necessary upgrades.
   
Making the nation's critical infrastructure more resilient will be a years-long, or even decades-long, process, but the administration has moved the ball forward. We rate this a Compromise.

Sources:

Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7, accessed Dec. 18, 2012
   
White House, homeland security home page, accessed Dec. 18, 2012
   
Government Accountability Office, "Critical Infrastructure Protection: Update to National Infrastructure Protection Plan Includes Increased Emphasis on Risk Management and Resilience,” March 2010
   
Department of Homeland Security, main budget page, accessed Dec. 18, 2012
   
National Infrastructure Advisory Council, "Critical Infrastructure Resilience: Final Report and Recommendations,” Sept. 8, 2009
   
American Public Works Association, "APWA Emergency Management Committee Meets in D.C.,” April 2012
   
Email interview with Stephen Flynn, the founding co-director of the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security at Northeastern University, Dec. 18, 2012

Obama takes steps to improve the grid

Energy security was a big part of Barack Obama's campaign platform. Among the promises he made was to increase the security of refineries, pipelines and power grids.
 
The president has made some headway.
 
Earlier this year, Congress passed a stimulus bill that includes $4.5 billion to upgrade the nation's electricity grid . Part of that funding will be used to support technological research aimed at making the system more impervious to cyber attacks. For example, in April 2009, intelligence officials told The Wall Street Journal that cyberspies have infiltrated the grid, leaving behind software programs that could be used to shut down our electricity system and cause havoc around the country.
 
Such concerns were outlined in Obama's Cyberspace Policy Review, a document published by the White House earlier this year that signaled Obama's seriousness about the issue. But on refineries and pipelines, there's been no substantial action. We'll keep an eye on that for now, but because Obama has made progress on part of his promise -- to invest in power grid security -- we'll move this promise to In the Works.

Sources:

Fox News, As Obama Announces Smart Grid Initiative, Security Chiefs Weigh Potential Risks , By Cristina Corbin, Oct. 27, 2009

The White House, Cyberspace Policy Review , accessed Dec. 31, 2009