Monday, July 19, 2010

Canada-US Action Plan

Today DHS updated their Critical Infrastructure Protection landing page. They added a link to a web page about the recently released Canada-U.S. Action Plan for Critical Infrastructure. While this page was established last week (and announced in a DHS press release) the infrastructure protection aspects of the document were down played for some reason at that time. Placing the link to this page on the CIP landing page now highlights those aspects of the plan. This is a typical ministerial level document; that means that there are plenty of motherhood and apple pie generalities and little in the way of concrete proposals. There are a few of those generalities that, if followed-up upon, could have a positive affect on chemical security efforts. The cross-border shipments of high-risk chemicals of interest could have serious chemical security implications. The coordination of efforts to protect such shipments from origin to destination will enhance the security of both nations. Public-Private Cooperation One of the generalities is the identification of the need to coordinate the efforts of the government agencies responsible for public-private cooperation in critical infrastructure protection. The document assigns a joint action item of:
“Provide mechanisms and opportunities for the U.S. Sector and Government Coordinating Councils and the Canadian sector networks to work together to improve sector-specific cross-border collaboration.” (pg 6)
Since so many companies operate in both countries, it is likely that many of those companies already coordinate the security operations of facilities on both sides of the border. Facilitating the cooperation between companies that don’t have cross-border corporate ties is certainly a good idea. Inter-Government Communication Of course, one of the problems with this cooperative effort among the government agencies is working out the issue of information sharing. With so much of the critical infrastructure information protected by national laws on both sides of the border, finding legal methods for sharing that information while protecting proprietary information will be difficult. This new document recognizes this problem and outlines an appropriate action item of:
“The United States and Canada will work together to develop compatible mechanisms and protocols to protect and share sensitive critical infrastructure information.” (pg 7)
This is likely going to require modification of the laws mandating the information protection protocols. Intelligence Analysis Sharing A similar problem with sharing of intelligence information is also identified in the document. Again a general action item statement addresses the issue stating that:
“The United States and Canada will work together to identify public and private sector information requirements to support the development of valuable analytic products.” (pg 7)
Moving Forward It will be interesting to see if DHS and its Canadian counterparts actually take any concrete action to further these goals. If these goals are to see any real success it will require action on the part of Congress to authorize many of these actions. Trying to get that agenda acted upon will almost certainly have to wait for the 112th Congress. The outcome of the fall elections will certainly have a major impact on how Congress proceeds with this process next year.

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