critical infrastructure is owned and managed by private entities.1 Protection can be achieved through collaboration among government and private entities. At the city and county levels, various public agencies—such as local emergency-management agencies and police, fire, and emergency medical services agencies—each have specific response-related roles, but they cannot meet their objectives alone. Reliance on broad participation by private entities—such as private hospitals, debris-removal contractors, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, other nonprofit entities that provide aid to disaster victims, and privately owned utilities—is essential.

Public policy scholars also note that collaborative approaches are invariably needed to address large, complex problems, particularly ones that can be categorized as “wicked problems” (e.g., Rittel and Webber, 1973; Rayner, 2006). Wicked problems have several characteristics: they are extremely complex, people who offer solutions often disagree, it is difficult to address different aspects of these types of problems incrementally because they are tightly interwoven, and they are never solved “once and for all.” Analysts note that wicked problems are often intractable because the parties that should provide solutions are often the ones that helped create the problems. The scale and complexity of wicked problems demand collaboration among agencies, organizations, sectors, jurisdictions, and disciplines and fields of expertise. Examples of wicked problems are those associated with climate change, homeland security, and disaster reduction.

Although organizations increasingly rely on collaboration to achieve their goals and tackle wicked problems, collaborators are still independent actors who generally cannot be compelled to work with one another. Instead, potential partners interact, learn about one another, and weigh the costs and benefits of affiliating with other parties before agreeing to work together. Appropriate forms of governance for their collaborative activities can then be developed.

Businesses and other private-sector organizations are the foundation of the U.S. economy. Critical infrastructure providers include those that provide lifeline services such as power, water, and natural gas, as well as those that provide banking and financial services, information technology and telecommunication services, transportation, food and agricultural services, and health care services. Communities in the United States could not function without those services. Success in providing those services—and the success of many private-sector organizations more generally—often depends on the efficiency of the logistics and supply chain management. Large and small businesses and organizations that represent business interests have therefore become critical elements in the community social fabric. Collaboration with nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and private voluntary and faith-based organizations enables government agencies to build capacity. All elements


It is estimated that about 80 percent of critical infrastructure in the United States is in private hands (DHS, 2009; TISP, 2006).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement