Part 6

The Homeland Security Impact Scale:  An Alternative Approach to Assessing Homeland Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection Efforts and a Frame of Reference for Understanding and Addressing Current Challenges


An extremely wide variety of perspectives is being brought to bear today on the subject of homeland security and critical infrastructure.  Indeed, the subject of infrastructure and critical infrastructure protection is being defined in different ways, using very different perspectives, and sometimes with different purposes in mind as well.   Is a common frame of reference possible?  Could a common frame of reference be useful in strengthening homeland security and critical infrastructure protection efforts?


The Homeland Security Impact Scale may provide a tool that can help advance understanding of homeland security and critical infrastructure security challenges, options, and goals while providing a common frame of reference.  The impact scale may also suggest ways of understanding impacts and the need to take action to reverse impacts.  The impact scale may also help in assessing interdependencies of critical infrastructure sectors and the possible consequences of cascading failures and impacts.


The idea for the Homeland Security Impact Scale comes from a similar approach that had been used as a survey tool in 1998 by the Washington, D.C. Y2K Group (WDCY2K).   WDCY2K was a group of professionals from the public and private sectors that met on a monthly basis in 1998 and 1999 to network, hear panels of speakers on topics relating to Y2K efforts, and discuss ways of addressing the challenges and threats posed by Y2K.  The Y2K Impact Scale was used to survey the membership of the group to get a sense of the different ways in which the possible impacts of Y2K were being assessed (For the results of these surveys, see Bruce Webster, 1999). 


The Homeland Security Impact Scale can be used to describe in a very general way the impacts and lingering effects resulting from 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks.  The Homeland Security Impact Scale" could be used as a means to describe or indicate in a very general way any or all of the following:


~ What the status of homeland security was prior to the attacks;
~ What the impacts have been since the attacks;
~ What the current status of homeland security has been at various points in time after the attacks; and
~ What the possible status of homeland security might be in the future given any of a range of possible scenarios involving a variety of conceivable factors, interventions, actions, or events. 


There are certain givens in the use of this impact scale.  To begin with all of the factors that are likely to affect the status of homeland security cannot be foreseen. In addition, because of the turbulent character of the current environment and the dynamically changing and unpredictable nature of the future, there is no tried and true way that the scale can be used to measure with any kind of precision the impact that certain interventions, actions, or events have had or are likely to have.  Indeed, if one shares the assumptions implicit in the scale, one realizes that there is no tool or analytic approach that can be used in any kind of precise way to measure impacts.  Just as suffering is not amenable to microanalysis and quantification, neither are the widely varied and multidimensional impacts, consequences, and implications of terrorist attacks. 


The scale can be used, however, as an educational tool that may help individuals consider or recognize and acknowledge what the "general" state of homeland security is, how it has changed or how it might change.  The impact scale can be used as a tool to suggest any or all of the following:


~ how well past impacts have been and are being addressed;
~ what possible kinds of impacts need to be protected against or prepared for given the immediate as well as the longer term effects of past attacks; and
~ what the importance might be of considering a wide range of problems, threats, and challenges that may need to be addressed in the future. 


Here then is the Homeland Security Impact Scale:


Homeland Security Impact Scale


0   No real impact on national security, economic security, or personal security

1   Local impact in areas directly affected


2    Significant impact in some areas that were not directly affected

3   Significant market adjustment (20%) + drop); some business and industries destabilized; some bankruptcies, including increasing number of personal bankruptcies and bankruptcies of small businesses, and waning of consumer confidence;


4   Economic slowdown spreads; rise in unemployment and underemployment; accompanied by possible isolated *disruptive incidents and acts, increase in hunger and homelessness


5   Cascading impacts including mild recession; isolated *supply problems; isolated *infrastructure problems; accompanied by possible increase in *disruptive incidents and acts, continuing societal impacts


6   Moderate to strong recession or increased market volatility; regional supply problems; regional infrastructure problems; accompanied by possible increase in disruptive incidents and acts, worsening societal impacts


7  Spreading *supply problems and *infrastructure problems; accompanied by possible increase in disruptive incidents and acts, worsening societal impacts, and major challenges posed to elected and non-elected public officials


8   Depression; increased *supply problems; elements of *infrastructure crippled; accompanied by likely increase in disruptive incidents and acts; worsening societal impacts; and national and global markets severely impacted


9   Widespread *supply problems; infrastructure verging on collapse with both national and global consequences; worsening economic and societal impacts, accompanied by likely widespread disruptions


10 Possible unraveling of the social fabric, nationally and globally, jeopardizing the ability of governments to govern and keep the peace


* "Supply problems" and "infrastructure problems may include food shortages; availability of potable water; degradation of water purity, water distribution and/or waste management; fuel/heating oil shortages, disruptions in utilities (power, gas, telecommunications), disruption in the financial sector, disruptions in transportation (airlines, trains, trucking, ports, ships); pharmaceutical shortages; disruption of health care services or emergency medical services; disruption of fire and public safety services; disruptions or inadequacies, or overwhelming of public works operations and services.


- "Disruptions" and "incidents" can include anti-war and other demonstrations, work stoppages, strikes, organized vandalism, looting, and riots.  Also included are sabotage and terrorist acts and attacks.   (These notations have been adapted in part from notations used in the Y2K Impact Scale in 1998 by WDCY2K.  See also Bruce F. Webster, 1999.)



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