Resilience

Author: Gary Hart

The most innovative strategy for homeland security has been proposed, a few years back, by Stephen Flynn.  He is an extraordinary citizen: former Coast Guard commander; Ph.D; advisor to the U.S. Commission on National Security; former senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations; now the new president of the Center for National Policy.

Steve’s strategy is simply called resilience.  In a word, he argues that our critical infrastructure–communications, finance, transportation, and energy–be reconstructed in such a way that any of its major systems, if attacked, could resume operations virtually instantaneously by constructing on-line, back-up systems.

Having this resilient capability itself is a deterrent to attack.  Why attack the U.S. communications system, if you are al Qaeda, when you know it will be up and running almost immediately?  Resilience is a national insurance policy.

Though Dr. Flynn has been arguing this case, including in books, articles, and speeches, for years, I doubt that you’ve heard of it.  The media have given it little consideration.  A good deal of the resistance to resilience is from the private sector ownership of these major critical industries.  Why spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make your systems resilient when it comes off the corporate bottom line and creates no immediate profits, revenues, or bonuses?  The U.S. government, for its part, is reluctant to create legislative mandates to require the private sector to do what is necessary, even though it is in our national security interest.

Our system of capitalism is all in favor of national security, that is except when it requires private investments to be made.  Thus, we are not resilient.  We are still vulnerable to attack.  And, unless leadership courage is demonstrated in Washington and in private board rooms across the nation, we will continue to be.

7 Responses to “Resilience”

  1. AndyPattison Says:

    I read the beginning of Flynn’s book, very interesting. I would like to see the concept of decentralization made integral to this strategy of “resilience”. Decentralizing power plants and water treatment facilities for instance for the sake of safety (they are huge targets for attack) though has to be balanced with efficient energy production and distribution. That said, there is much progress that could be made in wider scale implementation of local (neighborhood scale) solar and wind energy production. Andy

  2. Gary Hart Says:

    Andy: properly said. De-centralization, I am sure Dr. Flynn would agree, is a key part of the resilience strategy. The more targets there are, and the (relatively) smaller they are, the less each becomes interesting to a would be terrorist.

  3. Michael Califra Says:

    Despite the “de-centralization” of our national infrastructure making perfect sense, don’t look for it to happen any time soon. Requiring corporate investment of this kind smacks of a national industrial policy, which has been taboo in Washington for 30 years. While we subsidize everything from agriculture to the export of chicken McNuggets with our tax dollars (as a result of corporate campaign financing of lawmakers), the Kool-Aid of Reaganomics has been consumed far and wide by our policymakers, and they are as addicted to it as an addict to heroine. Obama is no exception, despite his rhetoric during the campaign. The sea change in the mindset that governs our economics, which would allow this kind of practical policy, is not about to happen until the whole thing collapses. And a lot of good it will do then.

  4. Gary Hart Says:

    In response to Michael, one way to manage this is through risk insurance measures. The nuclear energy industry got underway because of the Price-Anderson Act protecting the industry against catastrophic damage. Something like this might be offered to industries willing to invest in resilience and de-centralization.

  5. Tom Gleason Says:

    To assert that the Resilience strategy would deter al Qaeda attacks on our
    Communications systems appears somewhat naïve. Terrorist strikes are driven by religious fervor and the expectation of a reward in the afterlife–not a rational asessment of how complete or permanent the damage might be.

  6. Lubna Dovel Says:

    Tom, that is not entirely true. Not all terrorists are driven by their expections of a blessed afterlife – take the unibomber and the abortion clinic bombers – even the ones that do while using their religion as an excuse still use strategic planning to do damage where it will hurt or dishearten us the most. At this time, they are still aiming for symbolism, such as with the world trade towers (trade being one of the many ways that the West is corrupting their God-fearing world) and the Pentagon. However, they will eventually move to try and cripple our technologically dependent society, and for that practically guaranteed eventuality, we must be prepared. I am more concerned that the terrorists that do so will come from within, either by being born or naturalized citizens, somewhat educated, employed in the US, and with no connections to Al-Qaeda or anyone we have thought of as a terrorist for the past 9 years.

  7. Gary Hart Says:

    I agree with Lubna on this. Bin Laden has consistently said that his goal is to bring down the US economy, not kill as many Americans as possible. Individual walk-on terrorists may be zealots interested in martyrdom, but the al Qaeda network is targeting our national infrastructure. 9/11 targeted the symbols of our economic and military power. The next attacks will do likewise.

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