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The term "resilience" refers to the ability to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies.  Whether it is resilience towards acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters, our national preparedness is the shared responsibility of all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and individual citizens.

Foundations of Resilience

The United States officially recognized resilience in national doctrine in the 2010 National Security Strategy, which states that we must enhance our resilience—the ability to adapt to changing conditions and prepare for, withstand, and rapidly recover from disruption. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also recognized resilience in the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, which established a series of goals and objectives in the areas of critical infrastructure, global movement and supply chain systems, and cyberspace.  Further, one of the five QHSR missions is devoted to resilience: Mission 5 – Strengthening National Preparedness and Resilience. 

In 2011, FEMA announced the release of the country's first-ever National Preparedness Goal. Required by PPD-8, the Goal sets the vision for nationwide preparedness and identifies the core capabilities and targets necessary to achieve preparedness across the following five mission areas: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery.

Resilience in Practice

At DHS, operationalizing resilience is a spread-out enterprise.  It is mainly bucketed within the rubric of three concepts:

Adapting to Changing Conditions

The DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection’s Regional Resiliency Assessment Program identifies opportunities for regional homeland security officials and critical infrastructure partners to strengthen infrastructure resilience.

The DHS Office of Health Affairs is creating a Community Health Resilience Planning Template to enable state, local and private sector interests coordinate health resilience.

Withstanding Disruptions 

NPPD is leading USG efforts to greatly enhance critical infrastructure and cyber resilience through the Integrated Task Force.  The Task Force is coordinating dual-implementation of Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, and the Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Presidential Policy Directive.

S&T’s Resilient Systems Division, a subcomponent of HSARPA, was created late in 2012 to specialize in R&D that builds resilience across critical infrastructure systems and for disaster response and recovery purposes.

Resilience STAR, a DHS pilot project, provides a Government-backed label for homes and critical infrastructure that are resilient.  Modeled after the EPA’s successful ENERGY STAR, Resilience STAR incentivizes stakeholders nationally through identifying the business case, or ROI, that comes with being resilient.

Ensuring Rapid Recovery

FEMA released the National Disaster Recovery Framework which was developed in partnership with stakeholders representing local, state, tribal and federal governments, private organizations, professional associations, academic experts, and communities recovering from disasters.  The Recovery Framework defines how federal agencies will work together to best meet the needs of states and communities in their ongoing recovery, by aligning key roles and responsibilities among all our partners.

FEMA’s Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Certification Program encourages the adoption of continuity standards and practices by businesses everywhere as a way to build the Nation’s resilience.

Launched in February 2003, FEMA's Ready campaign is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to get the public involved and ultimately to increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation.

Resilience Today and Going Forward

While DHS is still new to resilience, there has been significant maturation over the past few years.  In 2010, it was not uncommon for meetings to be dominated with a discussion of ‘What do we mean by resilience?’  Now, the principles of adaptability, withstanding and rapidly recovering are generally understood and accepted.  The focus of the meetings today is on action.

Super storm Sandy reinforced the need to be resilient.  Reports commissioned by The President, the Governor of New York and Mayor of New York  all underscore its value; particularly in the realm of rebuilding resiliently. 

In addition, DHS’s Climate Action Plan focuses keenly on resilience in both departmental programs and guidance for stakeholders across the Nation.

Last Published Date: September 10, 2015

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