Student Research Helps Identify Potential Threats to Critical Infrastructure
By Faylin Mutch, alumna of American Military University
It is incredibly rewarding to be able to apply what is learned in the classroom directly to one’s career. I recently completed the course Threat Analysis (INTL634) with Dr. Joseph DiRenzo. One of our assignments was to write a research paper and I knew I wanted to write something that had real-life application.
As a senior administrator for county government in Ohio, I don’t work in public safety, but I do work in a public works department. My agency focuses on wastewater treatment infrastructure, which is considered to be critical infrastructure.
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Prior to Dr. DiRenzo’s course, I had not thought about whether or not our wastewater treatment plants had been subjected to a comprehensive threat analysis, so I started looking into it.
Our county has a population of more than half a million citizens, and our two main plants serve tens of thousands of people. I decided to base my research assignment on the threats faced by our two largest plants. My research helped me to identify the three main threat vectors our plants would potentially encounter and determined that a performance-based approach should be taken to conduct a vulnerability assessment of each plant in order to help safeguard the county’s critical infrastructure.
When the research was completed, I presented my findings related to the greatest threat vectors to the county director, deputy directors, and the director of emergency management. There was a consensus that a threat assessment would be a wise step in mitigating any future threats and that the physical threat vector was of most concern for us, specifically.
As a result of my research, the public works department decided we would undergo a thorough threat analysis on our two largest plants using a multi-organizational approach. Our county Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director suggested the creation of a team that included public works, EMA, public health, public safety, and other interested stakeholders.
Currently, I am working with agency directors to establish the goals and expectations for this team and the overall assessment. The next step will be to form a multi-agency threat assessment team and create a plan for the implementation of our work. While this will be an ongoing and long-term process that requires input and cooperation from multiple agencies across the county, the effort to protect our county’s infrastructure is imperative. The hope is that once such a team and process has been established, it can be applied to other critical infrastructure throughout the county.
This project has the potential to strengthen partnerships among county organizations and agencies. Such planning and preparedness efforts require robust information-sharing channels and the championing of inter-departmental partnerships.
This project would not have come to be had it not been for what I learned in the classroom. It is wonderful to be part of an academic program that can be applied directly to one’s career. Undergoing such a project has not only enhanced my own personal skills, abilities, and achievements, it will also help protect my community’s critical infrastructure.
About the Author: Faylin Mutch is currently a senior administrator for an Ohio county Department of Environmental Services. Previously, she served in the county council office. She has a master’s certificate in Intelligence Analysis from American Military University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Akron.