Council (NRC). In 2007, the NRC appointed an ad hoc committee of experts (Appendix A provides biosketches of the committee members) to identify and frame fundamental challenges in moving toward critical infrastructure systems that are physically, socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.1

As its principal data-gathering activity, the committee conducted a workshop on May 7 and 8, 2008, in Washington, D.C., bringing together approximately 50 experts from government, academia, and the private sector (Appendix B presents the list of participants). The committee developed a draft set of critical infrastructure-related challenges to serve as the starting point for a series of breakout sessions during the workshop. The participants commented on and modified the draft challenges and identified potential lines of inquiry—policies, processes, financing mechanisms, technologies, materials, and research—that might be used to address the challenges (Appendix C contains the workshop agenda and a list of the draft challenges).

This report summarizes the committee’s findings based on the workshop outcomes (Appendix D provides a succinct presentation of the outcomes), published materials, and the expertise and experience of its members. It provides a new context for thinking about the purposes and value of critical infrastructure systems: It does so by focusing on the links between some of the imperatives of the 21st century (economic competitiveness, global climate change, reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil, disaster resiliency, and environmental sustainability) and the performance of critical infrastructure systems. The report focuses on broad concepts; others have written about these issues in much greater detail in various studies and articles. The report does not make specific recommendations, but instead it identifies a framework for developing a new paradigm for investing in and renewing critical infrastructure systems in ways that will also help meet other 21st century challenges.


The committee defined sustainable as meeting today’s economic, social, and environmental needs while enhancing the ability of future generations to meet their economic, social, and environmental needs.

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