Critical Infrastructure Protections: The 9/11 Commission Report and Congressional Response
CRS Report for Congress
Critical Infrastructure Protections:
The 9/11 Commission Report and Congressional
Updated January 11, 2005
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Critical Infrastructure Protections: The 9/11
Commission Report and Congressional Response
Many of the recommendations made in the 9/11 Commission’s report dealt
indirectly with critical infrastructure protection, especially as the goals of critical
infrastructure protection have evolved to include countering the type of attack that
occurred on September 11. However, relatively few of the recommendations
addressed critical infrastructure protection specifically. Those that did called for
using a systematic risk management approach for setting priorities and allocating
resources for critical infrastructure protection. None of these recommendations
advocated a change in the direction of, or the organizational structures that have
evolved to implement, existing infrastructure protection policies. Nevertheless, the
Commission’s recommendations could speed up implementation in some areas,
given the attention and renewed urgency expressed by the Commission.
Two bills were introduced as legislative vehicles for enacting some or many of
the Commission recommendations (S. 2845 and H.R. 10). Like the Commission’s
recommendations, the language in these two bills, and the subsequent Intelligence
Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458), for the most part,
strengthen or reinforce existing policy and organization associated with critical
For a more detailed discussion of national policy regarding critical infrastructure
protection, including its evolution, implementation, and continuing issues, see CRS
Report RL30153, Critical Infrastructures: Background, Policy, and Implementation.
For a discussion on the use of risk management techniques in the context of critical
infrastructure protection, see CRS Report RL32561, Risk Management and Critical
Infrastructure Protection: Assessing, Integrating, and Managing Threats,
Vulnerabilities, and Consequences.
This report will be updated as appropriate.
In troduction ..................................................1
Recommendations Related to Critical Infrastructure Protection..........1
Potential Impact of Commission Recommendations on Critical
Infrastructure Protection Activities............................3
Critical Infrastructure Protections: The 9/11
Federal efforts to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure pre-date the
September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Since the
attacks, critical infrastructure protection has evolved to include countering that type
of an attack. Because the purpose of the Commission’s report was to answer, “How
did the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 happen?” and “How can such a tragedy
be avoided in the future?,” most, if not all, of the recommendations made in the 9/11
Commission’s report deal indirectly with critical infrastructure protection. However,
there are relatively few recommendations that specifically address critical
infrastructure protection. This report will identify those recommendations and briefly
discuss the possible impacts those recommendations and the subsequent
congressional response might have on the nation’s efforts to protect its critical
Recommendations Related to Critical Infrastructure
Much of what the Commission recommended for critical infrastructure
protection can be found in Chapter 12, Section 12.4 of the Commission’s report
(Protect Against and Prepare For Terrorist Attack, starting on page 383).
The majority of this section is devoted to the importance of disrupting terrorists’
ability to travel unchallenged around globe and into the United States. It discussed
the integration of travel intelligence gathering and analysis with border protection
and law enforcement operations. It discussed screening techniques and technologies
to be integrated at all points in the process, from visa application to walking through
detectors at entry points, to checking identification upon entrance to certain sensitive
facilities. This section also discussed at some length the need to incorporate
biometric screening technologies into the processes. These issues, however, are
beyond the scope of this report. For more discussion of these issues, see the
Homeland Security: Border and Transportation Security page on CRS’s1
Congressional Legislative Issues webpage.
Section 12.4 of the Commission’s report also focused on issues related to
securing the nation’s transportation sector from attack (see page 390 of the
Commission’s report, “Strategies for Aviation and Transportation Security”). In
1 See, [http://www.crs.gov/products/browse/is-homelandsecurity.shtml]
this section, the Commission mentioned the Aviation and Transportation Security
Act (P.L. 107-71) which established the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA, which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security). Among other
tasks, the act assigned the TSA the responsibility of developing strategic plans to
provide security for critical parts of the U.S. transportation system. The Commission
expressed concern that 90% of the annual federal investment made in transportation
security goes toward commercial aviation security without a systematic risk
assessment to determine if this is the most cost-effective allocation of resources. The
Commission noted that “major” vulnerabilities still exist in cargo and general
aviation, and that the security improvements in commercial air traffic may shift the
threat to ports, railroads, and mass transit systems. The Commission noted that the
TSA has yet to develop an integrated plan for the transportation sector, nor specific
plans for the various transportation modes.
The Commission reiterated the need for the federal government to:
!identify those transportation assets that need to be protected;
!set risk-based priorities for defending them;
!select the most practical and cost-effective ways to do so;
!develop a plan and a budget;
!and, then fund implementation.
The Commission went on to recommend that Congress set a specific date for the
completion of the plan and hold the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security
accountable for achieving it.2
In regard to aviation security, the Commission recommended the timely
implementation of improved “no-fly” and “automatic selectee” lists (including the
recommendation that air carriers be required to supply information to help develop
these lists) and that a greater priority be given to detecting explosives on passengers
and on studying human factors affecting the effectiveness of screeners’ performances.
Also in Section 12.4, the Commission again discussed the need for a systematic
assessment of risks, vulnerabilities, threat, and need when allocating federal
resources to help states and localities protect against and respond to terrorist attacks
(see page 395 of the Commission’s report, “Setting Priorities for National
Preparedness”). The Commission suggested that these federal funds should act as
a supplement to state and local funding in those instances where additional protection
is merited based on the systematic assessment, and not as part of a general revenue
sharing mechanism. The Commission suggested that these assessments should
consider such factors as population, population density, vulnerability, and the
presence of critical infrastructure within each state.
Furthermore, the Commission recommended that a panel of experts be convened
to develop a set of benchmarks by which to evaluate a community’s needs and by
which to distribute federal funds through the state to those localities.
2 The Commission continues to make this point in subsequent Congressional hearings. See,
“Deadlines Urged for Terror Fixes”, Washington Post, August 17, 2004, p A13.
Finally, the Commission made a recommendation at the end of Chapter 13,
Section 13.4 (see page 428 in the Commission’s report), which specifically addressed
all critical infrastructure. The Commission, in discussing the different roles assumed
by the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security in
homeland security, noted that DHS is responsible for identifying, within the sectors
that possess critical infrastructure, those elements (or assets) that need to be
protected. The Commission recommended that DHS, and its oversight committees,
should regularly assess the types of threats the country faces to determine a) the
adequacy and status of the government’s plans to protect critical infrastructure and
b) the readiness of the government to respond to those threats.
Potential Impact of Commission Recommendations on
Critical Infrastructure Protection Activities
The Commission recommendations specifically directed at critical infrastructure
protection, while lending the weight of the Commission to certain elements of
existing federal policy, do not advocate any change in the direction of, or the
organizational structures that have evolved to implement, that policy. The
recommendations, however, could speed up implementation is some areas, given the
attention and renewed urgency expressed by the Commission.
Federal policy on critical infrastructure protection is laid out in law, presidential
directives, and national strategies.3 As noted by the Commission, the Homeland
Security Act of 2001 (P.L.107-296, enacted in November 25, 2002) assigned to the
Department of Homeland Security the task of coordinating the national effort in
critical infrastructure protection. Specifically, it gave DHS the responsibility to:
!“... identify and assess the nature and scope of terrorist threats to the
!“... understand such threats in light of actual and potential
vulnerabilities of the homeland;”
!“... carry out comprehensive assessments of the vulnerabilities of the
key resource and critical infrastructure of the United States,
including the performance of risk assessments to determine the risk
posed by particular types of terrorist attacks within the United States
!“... integrate relevant information, analyses, and vulnerability
assessments...in order to identify priorities for protective and support
!“... develop a comprehensive national plan for securing the key
resources and critical infrastructure of the United States ....”
!“... recommend measures necessary to protect the key resources and
critical infrastructure of the United States ....”
3 For a more thorough review of national policy and its evolution and implementation, see
CRS Report RL30153, Critical Infrastructures: Background, Policy, and Implementation.
The National Strategy for Homeland Security,4 anticipating the establishment
of the Department of Homeland Security, stated:
!“... the Department would build and maintain a complete, current,
and accurate assessment of vulnerabilities and preparedness of
critical targets across critical infrastructure sectors .... [This
assessment will] guide the rational long-term investment of effort
!“... we must carefully weigh the benefit of each homeland security
endeavor and only allocate resources where the benefit of reducing
risk is worth the amount of additional cost.6”
The National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructure and
Key Assets 7 stated:
!“DHS, in collaboration with other key stakeholders, will develop a
uniform methodology for identifying facilities, systems, and function
with national-level criticality to help establish federal, state, and
local government, and the private-sector protection priorities. Using
this methodology, DHS will build a comprehensive database to
catalog these critical facility, systems, and functions.8”
Homeland SecurityPresidential Decision Directive Number 7 (HSPD-7,
released by the current Bush Administration in December 2003) reiterated these
tasks, including directing Sector Specific Agencies (i.e. those agencies acting as lead
agency liaison with certain critical infrastructure possessing sectors) to: “conduct or
facilitate vulnerability assessments”; and, “encourage risk management strategies to
protect against and mitigate the effects of attacks.” These responsibilities actually
pre-date the September 11 attack, as authorized by the Clinton Administration’s
Presidential Decision Directive Number 63 (released in May 1998). HSPD-7 also
reiterated that the Secretary of Homeland Security is to produce a comprehensive,
integrated National Plan for Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources Protection and
set a date of December 17, 2004 by which that report should be developed.
Implicit in these directives to integrate threat and vulnerabilities, and to use risk
assessment and risk management techniques to set priorities and allocate resources
is the need to do so on a continuous basis as new information becomes available.
Also, the Administration has budgeted for activities aimed at validating protection
plans and to anticipate new potential threats by using “red teams” and other
4 Office of Homeland Security, National Strategy for Homeland Security. July 2002.
5 Ibid. p.33.
6 Ibid. p. 64.
7 Office of Homeland Security, The National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical
Infrastructures and Key Assets. February 2003.
8 Ibid. p 23.
For more discussion of what is happening in specific infrastructures, see both
the Homeland Security: Critical Infrastructures Protection page and the Homeland
Security: Border and Transportation Security page of CRS’s Congressional
Legislative Issues webpage.9
In regard to the allocation of funds to state and localities, DHS administers a
number of infrastructure-related security grants. One of these grants, the State
Homeland Security Grant Program, established soon after the September 11 attacks
by the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56, enacted on October 26, 2001), and
primarily aimed at first-responders, is the general revenue sharing grant alluded to
in the Commission’s report. Every state, the District of Columbia, the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories, receive a minimum fixed
percentage of the program’s appropriated resources.
In addition to the State Homeland Security Grant Program are the Urban Areas
Security Initiative Grant Program, to which have been added Port Security Grants,
and Transit System Security Grants.10 According to these grants’ application
guidelines, the Urban Areas, Ports, and Transit System security grants are allocated
to selected cities and port areas based on a formula developed by DHS which
considers current threat estimates, critical assets within the urban area, and
population density. One reason for consolidating these grants was to allow states and
localities more flexibility to direct grant resources to those critical assets that warrant
additional protection, as determined by a risk assessment.
According to grant application guidelines, grantees must provide a risk
assessment for review. The risk assessment must include threat and vulnerability
assessments. For each potential target, the vulnerability assessment is to consider
factors such as target visibility, its criticality to the jurisdiction, its impact outside the
jurisdiction, the potential access of a threat element to the target, the target’s
population capacity, and the potential for mass casualties. In turn, the risk assessment
is supposed to inform a capabilities and a needs assessment to justify expenditures.
10 The Urban Area Security Initiative Grant Program was first established in the
Consolidated Appropriations Resolution, 2003 (P.L. 108-7), in part to address the issue
raised by the Commission. Port Security grants were first established in the U.S.A.
PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56), and continued in the Maritime Transportation Security Act
(P.L. 107-295). The Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2003 (P.L.
108-76), allowed the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide funding for the protection
of critical infrastructure. Under that authority the Secretary provided funds to 14 ports and
25 transit authorities. The Port Security Grants, initially started by the USA PATRIOT Act
have been transferred to the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and
Preparedness and administered as part of the Urban Areas grant program. The transit grants
have continued as Transit System Security Grants, also administered as part of the Urban
Areas grant program. These grant programs have been combined to promote comprehensive
regional planning and coordination. However, Congress continues to specify appropriations
to both transit system grants and port security grants, and other areas like security for
intercity bus systems.
For a more thorough discussion of the Commission’s recommendations
regarding the distribution of funds to states and localities, see CRS Report RL3247,
First Responder Grant Formulas: The 9/11 Commission Recommendation and Other
Options for Congressional Action.
The four primary recommendations related to security of transportation
infrastructure — basing resource allocation on risk assessment across all
transportation modes, timely implementation of improved “no-fly” and “automatic
selectee” lists, use of biometric technology in travel documents and other forms of
identification, and giving priority to improving the ability to screen passengers (not
just baggage or cargo) for explosives — are all in various stages of implementation
According to hearing testimony by a TSA official11 at a hearing of the
Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security of the House Select Committee
on Homeland Security (May 12, 2004), TSA will develop over the next several
months a sector specific plan covering all transportation modes. This plan will
include prioritizing assets that need protection, assessing their vulnerabilities,
identifying protective measures, assessing the performance of those protective
measures, and prioritizing research and development. Models have been developed
for assessing the criticality of a particular transportation asset and for assessing its
vulnerability. According to the testimony, these assessment are in progress and, in
some cases, build upon earlier assessments performed shortly after September 11
(especially in the rail, transit, and ports sectors). Also mentioned in the testimony are
pilot efforts under way to test equipment used to detect trace amounts of explosives
on individual passengers. For more discussion of the issues related to transportation
security and the how the recommendations of the 911 Commission may impact those
issues, see CRS reports listed on the Homeland Security/Border and Transportation
Security page of CRS’s Congressional Legislative Issue website.12
In response to the 9/11 Commission’s report, Members introduced a number of
bills which addressed some or all of the Commission’s recommendations. Most of
these bills took on the issue of reorganizing and reforming the intelligence
community. A few addressed directly or indirectly those Commission
recommendations discussed above which relate to critical infrastructure protection.13
Two bills were chosen as the legislative vehicles: S. 2845 and H.R. 10. Some of the
provisions of the other bills found their way into these two bills as amendments.
11 Stephen McHale, Deputy Administrator, Transportation Security Administration,
Testimony before the Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security, House Select
Committee on Homeland Security, May 12, 2004. This “deadline” has been repeated by the
Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security, Asa Hutchinson. See, Washington
Post article cited above.
13 These include H.R. 5024 (Pelosi), H.R. 5040 (Shays), H.R. 5082 (Young), H.R. 5121
(Young), H.R. 5132 (Menendez), S. 2774 (McCain/Lieberman), and S. 2884 (Shelby).
S. 2845 passed the Senate October 6, 2004. As introduced the bill primarily
addressed intelligence reform. However, on the floor, amendments to bill expanded
coverage to many of the other recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The
provisions most relevant to this report include the requirement, as recommended by
the Commission, that the Secretary of Homeland Security develop, implement, and
revise as necessary a National Strategy for Transportation Security. The Strategy is
to identify transportation assets that, in the interest of national security, must be
protected. Those assets span the all transportation modes. The Strategy must also
develop risk-based priorities for addressing security needs, the assignment of roles
and missions across federal, state, local, and private entities, the prioritization of
security-related research and development, and budgets to meet the objectives of the
Strategy. Also, as recommended by the Commission, the bill sets a deadline for this
Strategy. The Secretary must provide the Strategy to Congress no later than April 1,
In addition, the bill reiterated the DHS’s responsibility under the Homeland
Security Act and HSDP-7 to develop a plan that identifies, prioritizes, and
coordinates the protection of all critical infrastructures. In slightly different language
than that used by the Commission,14 the bill required the Secretary of Homeland
Security to identify those elements of the nation’s critical infrastructure that need
protection, develop plans to protect them, and exercise mechanism to enhance
preparedness. The Secretary must report to Congress 180 days after enactment, and
annually thereafter, the progress being made in assessing the vulnerability and risk
associated with the nation’s critical infrastructures, the adequacy of the government’s
plans to protect them, and the readiness of the government to respond.
The bill also provided for more specific protections aimed at aviation, including
expanded use of explosive detection, perimeter security, securing cockpits, and
reporting on the efforts to protect aircraft from man-portable air defense systems (i.e.
The bill also sought to streamline federal assistance to states and localities. It
established an Interagency Committee to coordinate and eliminate duplication in
grant programs. It also established a Homeland Security Information Clearinghouse
to interact with grant recipients. The bill language essentially put in statute the
guidance associated with the current grant program applications listed above. States
must submit homeland security plans that include strategies for mitigating the risks
associated with attacks on critical infrastructure and identify protective measures that
need to be taken by private owners of critical infrastructure. In addition, the
allocation of Urban Area Security Initiative Grant Program funds were to go to
localities with a high degree of threat, risk, and vulnerability to their critical
infrastructure. The Senate bill, however, did not eliminate the formulae based State
Homeland Security Grant Program, which the Commission implied should be done.
14 The Commission emphasized the need to reevaluate on a regular basis the terrorist threat
and then to assess the adequacy of government plans to protect against and respond to that
threat. The Senate language emphasized developing plans and reporting on progress.
H.R. 10 went beyond some of the recommendations made by the 9/11
Commission, while remaining silent on others. The bill as introduced included many
of the same specific aviation-related security measures as those added to S. 2845,
including expanded explosive detection, perimeter security, and a report on the
protecting aircraft from man-portable air defense systems. It did not include
provisions relating to the development of a National Strategy for Transportation
Security, nor the reiteration of the DHS’s responsibilities across all critical
infrastructures and associated reporting requirements. It did set a deadline of
December 31, 2004 for the National Maritime Transportation Security Plan and the
Facility and Vessel Assessments called for in the Maritime Transportation Security
Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-295).
In another critical infrastructure-related provision, H.R. 10 also included the
Emergency Securities Response Act of 2004 (Title V, Subtitle G, Chapter 2). This
provision would expand the authority of the Securities Exchange Commission and
the Secretary of the Treasury to intervene in security markets under their jurisdictions
to protect those markets in times of emergencies.
H.R. 10 included a provision that amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002
by elevating the Division Chief of the National Cybersecurity Division to a position
of Assistant Secretary under the Under-Secretary for Information Analysis and
Infrastructure Protection. This addresses somewhat the concern of some in the
cybersecurity community that the current position is too low in the bureaucracy given
their perception of the importance of cybersecurity to national security.
H.R. 10 also included a Title (Title XVIII, Funding for First Responders)
devoted to modifying the current federal assistance programs. The grants covered by
this title included the State Homeland Security Grants, the Urban Area Security
Initiative Grants, and the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Grants, and the
Citizens Corps Grants. This title required that the Secretary of Homeland Security
develop standard essential capabilities States and localities should have to be
adequately prepared for a terrorist attack. These capabilities were to be determined,
in part, based upon the most current risk assessment available for the Information
Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate, and the types of threat,
vulnerability, and consequences with respect to the nation’s population and critical
infrastructure. Grants were to be awarded to assist states and localities achieve the
essential capabilities for first responders.
As currently is the case, states would be required to submit a state homeland
security plan which included a priority list of what the state or locality needs to
achieve the essential capabilities noted above. These needs should be prioritized
based on threat, vulnerability, and consequences. The allocation of grants was to be
prioritized based upon the degree to which the funds would, by virtue of enhancing
or preserving essential capabilities, lessen the threat to, vulnerability of, and
consequences for persons and critical infrastructure. While the funds for these grants
would still focus on first responders, they still could be spent on protecting critical
infrastructure (including the addition of barriers, fences, and other devices). Also,
while the allocation of these grants were to be made primarily based on threat,
vulnerability, and consequences (i.e. risk), the bill still guaranteed states and other
qualifying entities a minimum level of funding. The title did eliminate the grant
formula developed by the USA PATRIOT Act. The House bill arguably went
further in basing the allocation of federal assistance grants on threat, vulnerability,
The House and Senate reconciled their bills and approved S. 2845 as amended
on December 7 and 8, 2004, respectively. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism
Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458) was signed December 17, 2004.
The final bill included language (in Title IV) similar to the Senate’s language
on Transportation Security, requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security, with the
Secretary of Transportation, to develop, implement, and update a National Strategy
for Transportation Security across all modes and relevant assets. The Strategy is to
include an identification of assets that must be protected, risk-base priorities, and the
identification of practical cost-effective means for defending those assets. The
Strategy is due April 1, 2005 and progress reports due every two years after that.
Title IV of the final bill also included the series of specific aviation security
provisions found in both the House and Senate bills. This Title also included
compromise language on deadlines for various plans, strategies, and reports called
for in the Maritime Transportation Security Act.
Regarding the more generic provision on critical infrastructure protection
planning, the final version of the bill included much of the Senate bill’s language
(Sec. 7306). It requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to report to Congress on
the progress being made in completing vulnerability and risk assessments on critical
assets, the adequacy of plans to protect them, and the readiness of government to
respond. It does not include the Senate’s language specifically instructing the
Secretary to identify assets, and to develop protective and readiness plans.
The final bill did not adopt either the House or Senate modifications of the grant
programs. The final bill articulated a sense of the 108th Congress (Sec. 7401) that the
109th Congress “must” pass legislation in the first session to reform the system for
distributing grant funds.
The final bill did adopt House language, although slightly more restrictive,
regarding the Security Exchange Commission’s and the Secretary of Treasury’s
authority to intervene in financial markets during emergency situations (Sec. 7803
and 7803). The final bill also added language (Sec. 7802) requiring the Secretary of
Treasury to report on efforts to establish public-private partnerships to protect the
nation’s critical financial infrastructure. It also added language (Sec. 7804)
suggesting that insurance and credit-rating entities consider a company’s compliance
with private sector standards for disaster and emergency preparedness, when relevant.
The final bill did not include the House language elevating the Information
Assurance and Infrastructure Protection Directorate’s Chief of the Cybersecurity
Division to an Assistant Secretary position.
The above discussion indicates that, for some time, federal policy has called for
the integration of threat information with vulnerability assessments, and to use risk
assessment and risk management to inform the planning for and allocation of
resources to protect critical infrastructure. The DHS is supposed to use this approach
in coordinating the overall national effort. Sector Specific Agencies are supposed to
use it when working with their individual sectors. States and localities are supposed
to use it when applying for the Urban Areas, Ports, and Transit System security
grants. Also, TSA already has some efforts underway in those more specific areas
discussed in the Commission’s report regarding improved transportation security.
In this regard, the 9/11 Commission’s report less breaks new ground than points
attention to continuing shortcomings in efforts to follow through on prior policy
goals and objectives.
Similarly, the bills introduced in Congress to address some or all of the
Commission’s recommendations, and the final bill that passed and was signed into
law, primarily reinforce or strengthen current policies regarding critical infrastructure
protection and the need to prioritize the allocation of resources to protect critical
infrastructure based on risk.
Progress to date has been mixed depending on the sector and it is not clear how
coordinated this effort has been across sectors. Nor is the allocation of resources
transparent enough to know to what extent the allocations actually have been based
on risk assessments. Also, Congress continues to appropriate grant funds to specific
areas, not necessarily with the benefit of an overall risk mitigation strategy. By giving
attention to these issues, the Commission’s report and subsequent Congressional
debate may have provided some political momentum to speed up implementation in
some of these areas. However, with much of the attention focusing on the issues
related to reorganizing the intelligence community, the effect the Commission’s
report and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 will have
on critical infrastructure protection activities remains to be seen.