Critical infrastructure, infrastructure whose disruption will put many lives at risk, suffers not only under the threat of direct interruption but also from disruption via the interruption of another element of the infrastructure on which it depends. The nation must be prepared for disruption to its critical infrastructure—and in order to do this, we must understand the interdependencies between the infrastructure’s disparate systems. We must understand if some systems are more at risk than others and why. We need to know if evolving interdependencies increase or change the risks to critical systems. Are the trends toward more vulnerable conditions/configurations? Or less? How will critical infrastructure disruptions impact national security?
Understanding the linked, interdependent nature of the nation’s critical infrastructure in order to enhance preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation is a hard problem—one that requires the capabilities of a national laboratory. It is through high-performance computer modeling and analysis that Sandia can quantify and qualify the interactions of political, health, social, economic, and technical systems. Simulation can couple the effects of socio-economic systems (power networks, distribution systems, transportation links) to physical systems (climate, weather, geology, geography) to understand large, complex data sets and capture nonlocal, non-intuitive interdependency effects at multiple simultaneous scales and resolutions. By studying these infrastructure systems and their effects on each other in simulation, we can advise policy makers and industry stakeholders on how to mitigate disruption effects and build resiliency into the national system.