Critical Infrastructure Protection a Central Focus for GITA

By Bob Samborski

If there is one issue that will command our attention in the coming year-as it did throughout 2003-it is the issue of how best to protect our critical infrastructure: the vital network of physical assets that determine our standard of living and enable our way of life.

GITA's board of directors has placed primary emphasis on a critical infrastructure protection initiative that involves a broad range of programs, projects, and educational activities geared toward helping infrastructure managers address the myriad challenges that CIP entails.

An early draft of the National Response Plan, commissioned by the president and developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), stated that 85% of the nation's infrastructure was owned, operated, and maintained by the "private sector." In federal parlance, this includes utilities and telecommunications companies.These are GITA's members.

Because our constituents are responsible for building, operating, and maintaining electric, gas, water, wastewater, pipeline and public works facilities, we have found ourselves in a very unique position. By their own admission, federal agencies have not been very successful in dealing with these utilities.One morning in September 2001 set the stage for significant change in these relationships, however, and GITA has taken a lead role here.

The response and recovery we saw in New York City and Washington, D.C.was an incredible display of teamwork, sacrifice, dedication, and resolve.Ironically, the situation shed a bright light on the value and use of geospatial information; the ability to share critical data was never so urgent.In New York City, over 70 local government agencies, utilities, military organizations, first responders, and private sector companies of all types were able to forge a coordinated response and recovery effort due primarily to the wealth of digital data that was able to be shared-and shared quickly-for a common purpose.By no means was this a perfect scenario.In addressing a Steering Committee meeting of the Federal Geographic Data Committee in Washington, 2003, Department of Homeland Security CIO Steve Cooper said, "Everything we had was used in the response.What wasn't there cost lives."

So what is the perfect scenario? What kind of system or approach should we have to be better prepared in the event there is a next time? Beyond terrorism, how can we best position ourselves to deal with severe natural disasters-much more frequent and deadly in their aggregate than terrorist attacks? Day-to-day damage to the infrastructure as a result of routine excavation activity occurs across North America, costing billions of dollars and significant numbers of lives, albeit with far less public notice.How can we effectively provide for Homeland Security and address critical infrastructure protection at a local level at a time when local budgets are so severely strained?

In considering answers to these questions, the leadership of GITA developed an approach that includes several distinct, but related initiatives.

The Geospatial Leadership Coalition

With an assistance grant from the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), GITA formed the GLC as a forum for infrastructure-based associations and government agencies to discuss common needs and interests related to the use of geospatial technology.As a result of quarterly meetings in Washington, D.C., over the past year, several interesting initiatives have come to fruition.
  • Two Emerging Technology Summits were held in Northern Virginia.Co-sponsored by the Open GIS Consortium, and supported by several GLC association partners, the ETS series was initiated to bring leading-edge technology and infrastructure managers together.The first ETS covered interoperability, while the second focused upon spatial Web services.
  • A research project, "Business Case Development and Return on Investment Methodology for Geographic Information Technology," was developed in conjunction with the AWWA Research Foundation, which is contributing funding.Very recently, GeoConnections Canada came forward with additional funding and GITA is actively identifying interested utilities as project participants. Originally planned to involve just water utilities, interest in the "ROI of GIS" is so strong that the initial project may likely include other vertical utility markets.We are now working with the American Gas Association, Gas Technology Institute, and the Pipeline Research Council International to assess potential additional interest.
  • In November 2003, a study mission to conduct field research on the Road Administration Information Center (ROADIC) in Tokyo, Japan was conducted. A team of eight people representing the broadest possible range of utility industry markets, government, and private sector expertise was assembled. Partial funding for the study mission was provided by the GLC.ROADIC offered a glimpse at a highly successful, national-level example of organizational collaboration.A final report, based on the comments, impressions and perspective of the members of the study mission, is nearing completion.This document, and the experience that produced it, will be used as GITA evolves its CIP initiatives.
A National Geospatial Initiative for Critical Infrastructure Protection
As the impetus for a coordinated approach to addressing CIP issues became stronger and more focused, we began discussions with the Department of Homeland Security.The multi-association, multi-organizational approach we outlined appealed to DHS managers, and most of January was spent developing a strategy that responded to major elements of the presidential directive of December 17, 2003.The discussions reached the point where GITA representatives will deliver a detailed briefing to representatives of key federal agencies, proposing that one or more operational pilots be developed in major metropolitan areas.These pilots will finally begin to bring together all essential players-government, utility and the private sector-to make progress toward the goal of a national geospatially-enabled CIP action plan.

We at GITA are serious about taking a leadership role in these important national initiatives, and we are excited about the possibilities that will result.I invite you to follow our progress at

Published Saturday, March 6th, 2004

Written by Bob Samborski

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