NIAC gets additional White House study requests

Wednesday - 4/14/2010, 7:07am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

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By Max Cacas
Reporter
Federal News Radio

One of the President's top advisory commissions is getting some extra homework on the issue of "resiliency."

This quarterly meeting of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council -- better known as NIAC -- marks the second time that the group has met this year.

For those who came late, NIAC, is a Presidential advisory commission based within the Department of Homeland Security, that brings together leaders from private industry, academia, and state and local government to research, discuss and issue special reports on critical issues around the safeguarding of key national infrastructure.

As we reported last January, NIAC is currently working to make sure the nation's electrical grid, water and sewer systems, and other infrastructure systems are capable not only of withstanding a possible attack or catastrophic failure, but also recovering quickly in case that happens -- "resiliency."

NIAC is currently running two major studies on behalf of the White House to explore critical issues around infrastructure and resiliency. But yesterday, Todd Keil, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security for Infrastructure protection, said the President and his staff want to know more.

On behalf of the Secretary (DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano), we'd like you to look at intelligence sharing, review and update. We'd like to see the council review and assess the current view of information sharing between the government and infrastructure owners and operators, and identify progress, gaps and recommendations for improvement.

Keil says that in his encounters with state and local first responders and other stakeholders, improved information sharing with federal officials is one of the most often cited requests.

Keil also told the NIAC members that the White House and DHS would like them to explore yet another key infrastructure resilience topic.

The second task is we'd like you to look at the emergency services sector. Review and asses the structure, participation, and focus of the emergency services as a sector. Review the critical role that emergency services plays relative to critical infrastructure protection. And consider NIAC's definition of resilience to the sector.

In response, NIAC Chairman Erle Nye, who is chairman emeritus of the TXU Corporation, said that he welcomes the additional study commissions from the President and DHS Secretary Napolitano, but points out his 30-member panel is already in the midst of two significant resiliency studies on related topics. He also used the opportunity to remind DHS that NIAC, a mainly volunteer panel of mainly infrastructure corporate executives, is currently short as many as five members, with special need for new representatives from the emergency services and telecommunications sectors.

Nye says that for now, NIAC is evaluating the two requests for additional studies from DHS and the White House, and is expected to make a decision on launching those studies at its next quarterly meeting on July 13th.

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Related links:

DHS/NIAC - Critical Infrastructure Resilience Final Report

Federal News Radio - Tags: mngt, homeland security, DHS, NIAC, Todd Keil, Erle Nye, Max Cacas