As defined by the U.S. Government, critical infrastructure consists of “systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, the national economy, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters” (42 U.S.C. 5195c(e)).
The U.S. National Strategy for Homeland Security succinctly recognizes the challenge and the opportunity:
“We will not be able to deter all terrorist threats, and it is impossible to deter or prevent natural catastrophes. We can, however, mitigate the Nation’s vulnerability to acts of terrorism, other man-made threats, and natural disasters by ensuring the structural and operational resilience of our critical infrastructure and key resources” (p. 27)
Thus, the National Strategy for Homeland Security states the infrastructure mission unambiguously:
“We must now focus on the resilience of the system as a whole—an approach that centers on investments that make the system better able to absorb the impact of an event without losing the capacity to function” (p.28).
The limited availability of investment resources to support this mission challenges infrastructure decision-makers at all levels of government, industry, and the military. Our research focuses on how to model and solve such investment problems.
We focus on two primary activities:
1. Determine how infrastructure systems will respond to major disruptions, whether they come from deliberate threat (e.g. sabotage, vandalism, terrorism, war) or non-deliberate hazard (e.g. accident, failure, natural disaster).
2. Identify optimal plans to invest limited resources (for hardening, redundancy, or capacity expansion) to make these systems resilient to worst-case disruptions.