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Critical Infrastructure: The National Asset Database

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CRS Rept. for Congress

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The Office of Infrastructure Protection OIP in the Department of Homeland Security DHS has been developing and maintaining a National Asset Database. The Database contains information on over 77,000 individual assets, ranging from dams, hazardous materials sites, and nuclear power plants to local festivals, petting zoos, and sporting good stores. The presence of a large number of entries of the latter type i.e. assets generally perceived as having more local importance than national importance has attracted much criticism from the press and from Members of Congress. Many critics of the Database have assumed that it is or should be DHSs list of the nations most critical assets and are concerned that, in its current form, it is being used inappropriately as the basis upon which federal resources, including infrastructure protection grants, are allocated. According to DHS, both of those assumptions are wrong. DHS characterizes the National Asset Database not as a list of critical assets, but rather as a national asset inventory providing the universe from which various lists of critical assets are produced. As such, the Department maintains that it represents just the first step in DHSs risk management process outlined in the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. DHS has developed, apparently from the National Asset Database, a list of about 600 assets that it has determined are critical to the nation. Also, while the National Asset Database has been used to support federal grant-making decisions, according to a DHS official, it does not drive those decisions. In July 2006 the DHS Office of the Inspector General released a report on the National Asset Database. Its primary conclusion was that the Database contained too many unusual and out-of-place assets and recommended that those judged to be of little national significance be removed from the Database.

Subject Categories:

  • Information Science
  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History

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