need for science and technology solutions. The latter was the particular challenge that we were confronted with at the National Academies in producing the report entitled Making the Nation Safer.50 What can and should be done incrementally as society becomes more and more complex, sophisticated, and interdependent? How do you establish layers of protection because of increased vulnerability?
This paper will look at vulnerabilities, cost-effective science and technology strategies to affect the threat of attack, the various steps we would encounter if an attack were carried out, and possible areas of collaboration between India and the United States. For simplicity, science and technology strategies will be defined in terms of three steps in the process: prevention, mitigation, and restoration of physical infrastructure.
First, we need to define what constitutes vulnerabilities: how should vulnerabilities be characterized and assessed? Similarly, how should the effectiveness of the terrorist’s weapons be characterized and assessed?
Scale plays an important part in this analysis. On a local level, for example, at the village level, vulnerability is tied to the local community and the people who live there. Terrorist threats are played out locally, and vulnerability is measured in those terms. Straightforward and basic means of attack, such as bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, and gunmen, are used. In a more urban environment, more complex and sophisticated methods of delivery must be examined. Obviously, these methods require ways of defending against them. Urban terrorist threats are larger and more catastrophic in potential, but strangely enough, less personal in nature.
In a rural village, for example, cyberattacks are not a threat, so vulnerability is very low or nonexistent. This would be true for a significant portion of India, but not for the entire country. In Bangalore, a cyberattack or even a physical attack on local computer server farms could have a significant impact on a significant portion of the work force’s ability to function, resulting in a significant impact on the local economy. Again, as a society begins to get more complex and builds up an ever more complex and interdependent infrastructure—whether information technology (IT) or communications or electric power or a combination of the three—more complex, but fragile, targets for attack increase vulnerability and risk.
The following examples illustrate the fact that the process of assessing vulnerabilities requires the exploration of a series of scenarios. Catastrophic vulnerability can be viewed in a variety of ways. Perhaps the most obvious areas of vulnerability are high-value, high-visibility, high-consequence targets. Governmental buildings, religious sites, banks, and other major facilities become symbolic targets. Just as the World Trade Center was symbolic for the United States, and perhaps internationally, in India the attacks on Parliament and on temples are also symbolic.
Vulnerability extends far beyond the lives lost and the immediate physical damage. The impact of the September 11, 2001, attacks demonstrates this. They were
National Research Council. 2002. Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism, National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. The report is available in PDF format at http://books.nap.edu/hml/stct/index.html.