Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 8, 2008

The Resilience Debate Begins

Filed under: Infrastructure Protection,Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on May 8, 2008

One of our readers offered a healthy does of skepticism about resilience as a concept. I thought it would be valuable to make this part of a new post to follow up the recent coverage of this topic and the hearings in the House this week.

>>[Jonah does] not include concerns about response in this concept: “Turning victims into patients is important for response, but resilience is different.” Yet your guest poster, Robert Kelly, does: “That is the essence of resilience – the ability to rapidly respond to and recover from a catastrophic event.”

I see a difference between response/recovery and resilience. Being resilient should render the ability to respond effectively. However, rapidly flying in emergency food and water to a hurricane zone, for example, to limit the hardship of the victims would be response, while resilience would be building homes less vulnerable to the effects of a hurricane and getting the ports and businesses up and running. (I should note that my guests on this blog don’t have to agree with me and vice versa.)

>>And Steve Flynn includes it among his “four pillars of resilience” in his recent Foreign Affairs piece: “Second is resourcefulness, which involves skillfully managing a disaster once it unfolds…Ensuring that U.S. society is resourceful means providing adequate resources to the National Guard, the American Red Cross, public health officials, firefighters, emergency-room staffs, and other emergency planners and responders.”

It is important to take Steve’s four factors as a whole. If we selected only the third factor — rapid recovery — I could see the point that my separation of response and resilience would be problematic. However, Steve’s factors are robustness, resourcefulness, rapid recovery, and the means to absorb new lessons. Taken together, I think you’d agree that resilience is more than emergency response, but nevertheless dependant on it being executed well.

>>Unfortunately, I think the concept requires a lot of refining. But hopefully these hearings will not be the only cuts at this effort.

I, too, hope these hearings are the beginning of a sustained effort to build in, rather than bolt on, the important capability of resilience. But the concept of resilience already has been refined to a point that enables action. First steps would include making resilience a strategic goal as part of such plans as the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.

To refine this concept further, consider the following parameters:

  • Resilience should afford a deterrent value: Terrorists are not deterred by fear of retaliation, but by fear of failure. Resilience delivers a deterrent value by reducing the likelihood that the impact of an intentional attack will transpire.
  • Resilience helps to avoid self-inflicted wounds: Resilience — if done right — affords the decision maker the enhanced ability to focus response efforts on the part of the system that is actually stressed.
  • Investments in resilience should be “dual use” in nature: Investments in resiliency not only address vulnerabilities due to terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Resilience also facilitates the global flows of trade/travel.
  • The private sector is an asset first, a target second: This is a critical step toward being able to make the case for private sector engagement. Several options exist.
  • Redundancy is not resiliency. Having costly back-up systems or two of everything is the easy and most expensive way to “bend and not break.” If done correctly, resiliency is more akin to the concept of Intelligent Immunity we put forth in the latest GMM paper.
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    1 Comment »

    Comment by William R. Cumming

    May 8, 2008 @ 8:59 am

    It would interesting to see if the VPs for Risk Management now in vogue in large caps and mid-caps corporate structures view resiliency as something to plan and pay for or just another unfunded mandate from the FEDS. Hope critical analysis is forthcoming. Congress should fund more studies of this issue. If there is a public benefit, so be it. If none then probably no need for market economics to not control. Don’t know if this requires macro or micro analysis but probably both by many disciplines.

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