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  1. Science and Technology Directorate
  2. News Room
  3. Protecting Critical Infrastructure Is a Top S&T Priority

Protecting Critical Infrastructure Is a Top S&T Priority

Release Date: November 1, 2021

Throughout November, the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) will observe Infrastructure Security Month, a public-awareness campaign sponsored by our colleagues at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). 

Though this is an annual campaign to spotlight cooperative public- and private-sector efforts to safeguard the nation’s infrastructure, this year in particular the timing could not be more critical. Between an ongoing global health crisis, supply chain disruptions, severe weather events and more, the time is now to turn research into action.

At S&T, we are engaged in world-class research projects through an interconnected network of partners across government, academia, research institutes, businesses and other stakeholders to ensure all 16 critical infrastructure sectors, including energy, communications, and transportation systems, are secure and resilient.

Critical infrastructure is typically owned and operated by the private sector, though some is owned by federal, state or local governments. This fact explains why S&T is so broadly engaged with diverse partners to develop solutions to help secure these sectors and protect them from natural and human-caused threats. Below are a few snapshots of related announcements and activities.

Centers of Excellence (COE)

S&T taps into the power of our nation’s brightest academic minds through its Centers of Excellence, a consortium of hundreds of universities conducting groundbreaking research to address homeland security challenges. Later this month, the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI) COE at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will join S&T and CISA for a webinar focusing both on strengthening our infrastructure and on fostering a diverse workforce tasked with leading this mission. I hope you will join us for this presentation on November 16 and also take time to learn more about each of S&T’s COEs.

Resilient Electric Grid (REG)

Recently, Commonwealth Edison, an electric utility serving 4 million Illinois families and businesses, and AMSC, a leading provider of power-resiliency solutions, successfully integrated the REG system, which uses high-temperature superconductor wire to enhance the reliability, resiliency and performance of the electric power grid. S&T teamed up with these industry partners for more than a decade to study how the REG technology can ‘help keep the lights on’ during emergencies. The integration in Chicago will be the focus of an S&T feature article later this month.

Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT)

PNT services like GPS are essential to numerous critical infrastructure operations. Disruption to these services could have cascading effects on power grids, communication networks and more. S&T worked with CISA and industry partners to develop the Resilient PNT Conformance Framework, guidance that equipment vendors and critical infrastructure end-users can adopt to manage risks and implement mitigation measures. This summer, S&T transitioned stewardship of the Framework to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which will further refine it into international industry standards for resilient PNT user equipment.

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Guidance

EMP events pose significant threats to our critical infrastructure. By the end of 2021, S&T’s EMP and Geomagnetic Disturbance Resilience Project and CISA will release a joint report titled Electromagnetic Pulse Shielding Mitigation: Best Practices for Critical Infrastructure Operators and Owners for Implementing EMP Shielding. This document focuses on best practices that apply across all critical infrastructure sectors and can be achieved at a reasonable cost, including the use of enclosure mitigations and related EMP design considerations for protecting civilian critical infrastructure equipment against large-scale EMP events.

These projects are a small sampling of the many ways S&T is working diligently to ensure the national critical infrastructure is secure—we will highlight many more over the course of this month. So, the next time you turn on the lights, draw a glass of water, or call a distant family member, rest assured S&T is working every day to ensure these services are always available when you need them.

Last Updated: 11/01/2021
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