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The Impact of Infrastructure on National Security

The myopia of national security issues has focused specifically on military defense, nuclear weapons, and cyber security threats. While these issues are vital in defining and addressing national security, we as a nation should take a step back to integrate these concerns along with our internal threats such as infrastructure, climate control, and economic sustainability. Our nation’s crumbling infrastructure is one of internal national security concerns that will be addressed.

Unpacking and defining national security is crucial for the future of our nation in understanding its expectations, but also limitations. Historically, since the birth of the Cold War, there has been an ongoing debate whether national security should be narrowed or broadened. Under the traditional approach, the term “national security” focused on the external or military threats. [1] However, the definition of national security has broadened in scope as times have changed, and September 11, 2001 has brought to the forefront new types of threats America must face. [2]

Presently, national security is loosely defined, and varied in the range of potential risks that the country faces. On May 26, 2010, President Obama issued the National Security Strategy (NSS), which posits a 21st century, Hamiltonian definition of national security including: military security, energy security, environmental integrity, and economic competitiveness. [3] This expansive definition of national security complements the United States efforts to integrate homeland security with national security including the “seamless coordination among Federal, state, and local govern­ments to prevent, protect against, and respond to threats and natural disasters.” This integration is further illustrated in the Executive Order – National Defense Preparedness.

On March 16, 2012, the President issued an Executive Order called National Defense Resources Preparedness. According to this Executive Order, “[t]he United States must have an industrial and technological base capable of meeting national defense requirements and capable of contributing to the technological superiority of its national defense equipment in peacetime and in times of national emergency.” [4] The definition of “national defense” is found in section 801(j) of this order:”[n]ational defense” means programs for military and energy production or construction, military or critical infrastructure assistance to any foreign nation, homeland security, stockpiling, space, and any directly related activity. [5]

Under this definition, the United States must be capable providing critical infrastructure. Some examples critical infrastructure include: “[f]inancial systems operating 24/7 linking intermediaries globally, power plants and electrical grids, gas and oil distribution pipelines, water treatment systems, oil and chemical refineries, transportation systems, and even essential military communications.” [6]

Specifically, infrastructure can be bifurcated into “physical or cyber-based systems essential to the minimum operation of the economy and government.” [7] Hurricane Katrina caused massive destruction, and loss of life, and is easily a textbook example of the dire consequences that accompany loss of physical infrastructure systems and, hence, the need for resilient infrastructure. [8] Moreover, due to rapid advancements in technology and the shift towards digital era, cybersecurity threats and online attacks on infrastructure poses a huge national security threat to terrorism. “Because of technological developments, especially increased reliance on interconnected computer and telecommunications networks, a broad range of modern economic activity is now more vulnerable to exploitation.” [9] “Over the last four years, foreign hackers have stolen source code and blueprints to the oil and water pipelines and power grid of the United States and have infiltrated the Department of Energy’s network 150 times.” [10]

In applying the definition of “national defense” according the to Presidential Executive Order – National Defense Resources Preparedness, critical infrastructure is a requirement to defense measures. Thus,“rebuilding an infrastructure that will be more secure and reliable in the face of terrorist threats and natural disasters” should be a level of priority and importance in national security. [11] Further, in order to grow as a nation, our progressive view on national security should be aligned with focusing and building a stronger foundation in all aspects not just in infrastructure, but also in a sustainable environment, climate control, education, economic security. [12]

Consequently, infrastructure is one of the sources of creating strength at home.By taking preventive measures and ensuring that infrastructure will be reliable in the event of a terrorist threats and natural disasters the United States can foundationally create a safer nation.


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