Fri, Oct 9, 2020

Effective resilience and national strategy: Lessons from the pandemic and requirements for key critical infrastructures

Report by Franklin D. Kramer

Coronavirus Crisis Management Cybersecurity Infrastructure Protection Resilience United States and Canada

FORWARD DEFENSE and GLOBAL STRATEGY INITIATIVE

REPORT RELEASE

The coronavirus pandemic has generated enormous health and economic costs to the United States and exposed significant security vulnerabilities, particularly in the cyber and biological arenas. The resilient capabilities of the health, economic, and security sectors have been inadequate to these challenges. The challenges presented by the virus are reflective of a broader spectrum of resilience risks facing the United States. Since the turn of the century, three converging factors—the ever-increasing reliance on information and communications technology, the globalization of supply chains, and the rise of China as a competitor—have created vulnerabilities that have put the United States at increasing risk. Along with the biological and health risks that the pandemic has exposed, these vulnerabilities call for an expanded focus on resilience as a key element of US strategy.

To deal with these issues, in Effective Resilience and National Strategy: Lessons From the Pandemic and Requirements for Key Critical Infrastructures, Scowcroft Center Distinguished Fellow Franklin D. Kramer proposes a strategic and operational framework to establish “effective resilience” as a foundational objective of United States national strategy. Effective resilience means the capacity to prepare for and withstand shocks of the magnitude of a major pandemic or equivalent such as a major cyberattack with any resulting disruption significantly less than that caused by COVID-19. Effective resilience also needs to encompass longer-term challenges, including those posed to the economy particularly by Chinese cyber espionage and state-driven economic practices. Achieving effective resilience in the United States should be a fundamental driver of executive and Congressional action that will necessarily be in full partnership with the private sector.

The report undertakes a multisector approach focused on key critical infrastructures because lack of resilience in any of these arenas can have cascading consequences resulting in devastating impacts on the nation as a whole. The report further takes a more extensive look at the health sector because of the potential consequences of a future pandemic. Overall, the main conclusion of the report is that it is extremely important to make effective resilience a coherent and comprehensive strategic national objective. 

To achieve that goal, the report recommends:

  1. A Strategic Framework for Key Critical Infrastructure Resilience, which would include “Resilient Industrial Bases” for key critical infrastructures including a plan for resilience of nationally critical supply chains; establishing “resilience stress tests” for companies in key critical infrastructures; and development and implementation of cybersecurity “resilient architectures” for key critical infrastructures;
  2. a Strategic Framework for Health Sector and Biological Resilience, which would include high levels of research and development funding on emerging and infectious diseases including “moonshot” initiatives directed to critical health problems; enhanced support for public health activities to increase the capacity for prevention of and response to pandemics or biological attacks; expanded utilization in the health arena of artificial intelligence through the establishment of trusted data bases available to researchers and analysts; a national plan to respond to a pandemic or biological attack that would be federally directed, pursuant to a new “Stafford Act-plus” legislative mandate; and expanded research and development and planning to enhance resilience to biological attack; and
  3. establishment by Congress of a Resilience Commission, with membership incorporating executive, congressional, state, local, private sector, and academic perspectives to undertake fact-finding and make recommendations on an ongoing basis regarding the implementation of an effective resilience strategy.

Since the turn of the century, three converging factors—the ever-increasing reliance on information and communications technology, the globalization of supply chains, and the rise of China as a competitor—have created vulnerabilities that have put the United States at increasing risk.

Franklin D. Kramer

About the authors

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