Critical Infrastructure as Complex Emergent Systems
Lewis, Ted G.
Center for Homeland Defense and Security
Mechanical Engineering Department
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The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with “build[ing] a safer, more secure, and more resilient America by enhancing protection of the Nation’s Critical infrastructure and key resources (CI/KR) …” using an all-hazards approach. The effective implementation of this strategy hinges upon our understanding of catastrophes and their potential effect on the functioning of our infrastructure. Unfortunately, there has been no unifying theory of catastrophe to guide decisionmaking, preparedness, or response. We do not know, for example, why some catastrophes are “worse” than others, or if the rate of catastrophes is increasing or decreasing. Furthermore, DHS has adopted a risk-informed decision-making process, but has done so without defining key terms, such as “risk”, or quantifying the primary elements of risk – definitions that are badly needed before setting a course of action and allocating resources. We present a framework, based upon network science and normal accident theory that can be used to guide policy decisions for homeland security. We show that exceedance probability, which is commonly used by the insurance industry to set hazard insurance premiums, provides a unifying policy framework for homeland security investments. Furthermore, since the exceedance probability for catastrophic consequences obeys a power law, we define resilience, explicitly, as the exponent of that power law. This allows a mathematical definition of resilience that resonates with our innate sense of resilience. That is, the more resilient a given system, the larger it’s resiliency exponent. Such an approach also allows one to classify hazards as ‘high’ or ‘low’ risk, according to the resiliency exponent, and to guide investments towards prevention or response. This framework provides a more rigorous foundation for Federal investment decisions and a rational basis for policies to best protect the Nation’s infrastructure.
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