DHS Invites Public Comment on Infrastructure Protection

06.23.08 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In a noteworthy contrast with the secrecy that prevails in much of government and often within its own ranks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is soliciting public comment on revisions to the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP), which is the framework for defending essential infrastructure, ranging from agriculture to transportation, against attack or natural disaster.

The request for comment places DHS in the rather unfamiliar posture — for a national security agency — of actively seeking to engage public interest and to invite public feedback on a matter of broad public policy.

“We’re hoping to get inputs from across the country,” said Larry L. May of the DHS NIPP Program Management Office in an interview today, “and from everyone concerned with critical infrastructure protection.”

Some of the NIPP policies that are under review are trivial, such as changes in terminology. But others are profound, such as the relative emphasis in the Plan on “protection rather than resiliency.” Where “protection” seeks to anticipate, deter and defend against particular threats that are intrinsically uncertain, “resilience” focuses on capabilities needed for rapid response and recovery from a broad range of hazards. They imply vastly different strategies, including public information disclosure strategies.

Are there significant numbers of Americans who care enough about such issues to express their views to DHS? Apparently so.

Mr. May said that the last time DHS conducted a review of the NIPP in 2006, some 10,000 comments were submitted.

Why does DHS care what the public thinks? Basically, Mr. May said, “all of us are in this together, if you will.”

Additional information on the NIPP, including the most recent 2006 iteration, may be found here.