Late Tuesday a third key component in an emerging national strategic architecture was highlighted on the White House website. The Implementation Update for the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security outlines progress made (and if you read carefully between the lines, problems experienced) over the last twelve months since the Strategy itself was released.
This update — and the original National Strategy — should be read along side Presidential Policy Directive: Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience (February 12, 2013) and the Executive Order: Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (February 12, 2013).
Together these documents frame a new Trinitarian order: three distinct strategies of one substance, essence, and nature. Trade depends on production, transport of goods and communication of demand. We can also say economic vitality depends on these factors. Often life itself depends on these mysteriously mutual movements.
The Supply Chain is a particular manifestation of the mystery that benefits from specific attention. Most minds will not immediately apprehend the wholeness of cyber, critical infrastructure and supply chains. A purposeful focus can help. But the Implementation Update is explicit regarding the connections and — much more than connections — the interdependence and indivisibility of the Strategic Trinity:
Priority actions include… building resilient critical infrastructures by creating new incentives… to encourage industry stakeholders to build resilience into their supply chains, which then strengthens the system overall; mapping the interdependencies among the supply chains of the various critical infrastructure sectors (such as energy, cyber, and transportation); and creating common resilience metrics and standards for worldwide use and implementation.
There are, however, heretics. Personally I tend toward a Unitarian perspective. Others insist on the primacy of Cyber or of Critical Infrastructure. Some others recognize the relationship of Cyber and Critical Infrastructure but dismiss equal attention being given to Supply Chain. There are also “Pentecostals”, especially among the private sector laity, who celebrate Supply Chain almost to the exclusion of the other aspects of the Trinity. I might extend the analogy to principles of Judaism, Islam, and other worldviews. I won’t. (Can I hear a loud Amen?)
If this theological analogy is not to your taste, then read the three policy documents along side a fourth gospel: Alfred Thayer Mahan’s The Influence of Seapower Upon History. Admiral Mahan wrote:
In these three things—production (with the necessity of exchanging products) shipping (whereby the exchange is carried on) and colonies (which facilitate and enlarge the operations of shipping and tend to protect it by multiplying points of safety)—is to be found the key to much of the history, as well as of the policy, of nations…
The functional benefits of colonies have been superseded by the signaling capabilities of multinational corporations, global exchanges and transnational communication, but the Trinitarian structure persists. Mahan called the Sea the “great common” from which and through which “men may pass in all directions, but on which some well-worn paths show that controlling reasons have led them to choose certain lines of travel rather than others.”
Around these lines of travel, civilization is constructed, information is exchanged, and trade is conducted. A bridge (critical infrastructure) may determine the direction of trade (supply chain), but the information and money exchanged (cyber) in the village beside the bridge may send supply in previously unexpected directions. Today the bridge may be a digital link, the village an electronic exchange, and the product an elusive formula for the next new wonder drug. But still the three must work together. Corruption or collapse of one aspect will unravel the other two.
Our secular trinity is not eternal. There are ongoing sources of corruption. There are prior examples of collapse.
I was involved in some of the activities and consultations noted in the Implementation Update. Some personal impressions: Many government personnel are predisposed to control. Many in the private sector have a deep desire for clarity. Each tendency is understandable. Each tendency is a potentially profound source of dysfunction. I know this is not exactly a surprise.
But… the desire for clarity can easily become reductionist, even atomist. Imposing such radical clarification leads to a kind of analytical surrealism. Some “lean” supply chains are absolutely anorexic. The desire for control is justified by (sometimes self-generated) complication. The more complicated the context, the more — it is said — that control is needed. The more the laity seeks to deny complexity, the more the priests justify the need for their control. Both tendencies miss the mark. (Sin in Hebrew is chattath, from the root chatta, the Greek equivalent is hamartia. All these words mean to miss the mark.) The purpose of our secular Trinity is to hit the mark when, where, and with what is wanted.
There is at least one explanation of the sacred Trinity relevant to our secular version. John of Damascus characterized the Trinity as a perichoresis — literally a “dance around” — where, as in a Greek folk dance, distinct lines of dancers (e.g. men, women, and children) each display their own steps and flourishes, but are clearly engaging the same rhythm, maintain their own identity even as each line dissolves into the others… in common becoming The Dance.
Rather than obsessive control or absolute clarity, the Trinity is a shared dance. We need to learn to dance together.
Just getting private and public to hear the same music would be a good start.