Critical Infrastructure Protection Topics

Critical infrastructure cuts across many segments of daily life in the United States. This infrastructure supports components of our society ranging from our homes to the largest corporations, town governments to national government, and public and private institutions and facilities. The U. S. Department of Homeland Security defines “critical infrastructure” as systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.

DHS has provided a framework to integrate current and future protection efforts into a single national protection plan. This framework divides Critical Infrastructure/Key Resources into eighteen sectors:

Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources Sectors

stalk of wheat

Agriculture and Food

The Agriculture and Food Sector has the capacity to feed and clothe people well beyond the boundaries of the nation. The sector is almost entirely under private ownership and is composed of an estimated 2.1 million farms, approximately 880,500 firms and over one million facilities. This sector accounts for roughly one-fifth of the nation's economic activity and is overseen at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

gold coins

Banking and Finance

The Banking and Finance Sector, the backbone of the world economy, is a large and diverse sector primarily owned and operated by private entities. In 2007, the sector accounted for more than 8.0 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

This Sector consists of over 29,000 financial firms, including:

  • depository financial institutions
    • banks
    • thrifts
    • credit unions
  • insurers
  • securities brokers/dealers
  • investment companies
  • certain financial utilities

chemical vat


The Chemical Sector is an integral component of the U.S. economy, employing nearly 1 million people, and earning revenues of more than $637 billion per year. This sector can be divided into five main segments, based on the end product produced:

  1. basic chemicals,
  2. specialty chemicals,
  3. agricultural chemicals,
  4. pharmaceuticals, and
  5. consumer products.

commerical building

Commercial Facilities

Facilities associated with the Commercial Facilities Sector operate on the principle of open public access, meaning that the general public can move freely throughout these facilities without the deterrent of highly visible security barriers. The majority of the facilities in this sector are privately owned and operated, with minimal interaction with the federal government and other regulatory entities.

communication tower


The Communications Sector is an integral component of the U.S. economy as it underlies the operations of all businesses, public safety organizations, and government. Over 25 years, the sector has evolved from predominantly a provider of voice services into a diverse, competitive, and interconnected industry using terrestrial, satellite, and wireless transmission systems. The transmission of these services has become interconnected; satellite, wireless, and wireline providers depend on each other to carry and terminate their traffic and companies routinely share facilities and technology to ensure interoperability.

car assembly line

Critical Manufacturing

The Critical Manufacturing (CM) Sector is crucial to the economic prosperity and continuity of the United States.  U.S. manufacturers design, produce, and distribute products that provide more than one of every eight dollars of the U.S. gross domestic product and employ more than 10 percent of the nation's workforce.

A direct attack on or disruption of certain elements of the manufacturing industry could disrupt essential functions at the national level and across multiple other critical infrastructure and key resources sectors.

dam with water rushing


The Dams Sector comprises the assets, systems, networks, and functions related to dam projects, navigation locks, levees, hurricane barriers, mine tailings impoundments, or other similar water retention and/or control facilities. The Dams Sector is a vital and beneficial part of the nation’s infrastructure and continuously provides a wide range of economic, environmental, and social benefits, including hydroelectric power, river navigation, water supply, wildlife habitat, waste management, flood control, and recreation.

plane with pilot

Defense Industrial Base

The Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Sector includes Department of Defense (DoD), government, and the private sector worldwide industrial complex with the capabilities of performing research and development, design, production, delivery, and maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems, components, or parts to meet military requirements.

The DIB Sector includes tens of thousands of companies and their subcontractors who perform under contract to DoD, and companies providing incidental materials and services to DoD, as well as government-owned/contractor-operated and government-owned/government-operated facilities. DIB companies include domestic and foreign entities, with production assets located in many countries.


Emergency Services

The Emergency Services Sector (ESS) is a system of response and recovery elements that forms the nation's first line of defense and prevention and reduction of consequences from any terrorist attack. It is a sector of trained and tested personnel, plans, redundant systems, agreements, and pacts that provide life safety and security services across the nation via the First-Responder Community comprised of federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners.

The ESS is representative of the following first-responder disciplines: emergency management, emergency medical services, fire, hazardous material, law enforcement, bomb squads, tactical operations/special weapons assault teams, and search and rescue. All first-responders within the ESS are individuals possessing specialized training from one or more of these disciplines.

energy tower


The U.S. energy infrastructure fuels the economy of the 21st century. Without a stable energy supply, health and welfare is threatened and the U.S. economy cannot function. More than 80 percent of the country's energy infrastructure is owned by the private sector. The energy infrastructure is divided into three interrelated segments:

  • electricity,
  • petroleum, and
  • natural gas.

close up of government building

Government Facilities

The Government Facilities Sector includes a wide variety of buildings, owned or leased by federal, state, territorial, local or tribal governments, located domestically and overseas. Many government facilities are open to the public for business activities, commercial transactions, or recreational activities. Others not open to the public contain highly sensitive information, materials, processes, and equipment. This includes general-use office buildings and special-use military installations, embassies, courthouses, national laboratories, and structures that may house critical equipment and systems, networks, and functions.

close up of petri dish

Healthcare and Public Health

The Healthcare and Public Health Sector constitutes approximately 15 percent of the gross national product with roughly 85 percent of the sector’s assets privately owned and operated. Operating in all U.S. states, territories, and tribal areas, the Healthcare and Public Health Sector plays a significant role in response and recovery across all other sectors in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.

While healthcare tends to be delivered and managed locally, the public-health component of the sector, focused primarily on population health, is managed across all levels of government—local, tribal, territorial, state, regional, and national.

close up of server room

Information Technology

The IT Sector functions are operated by a combination of entities—often owners and operators and their respective associations—that maintain and reconstitute the network, including the Internet. The Internet encompasses the global infrastructure of packet-based networks and databases that use a common set of protocols to communicate. The networks are connected by various transports, and the availability of these networks and services is the collective responsibility of the IT and Communications Sectors. The Department of Homeland Security is the Sector-Specific Agency  for the IT Sector.

close up of the face of the Statue of Liberty

National Monuments and Icons

The National Monuments and Icons (NM&I) Sector encompasses a diverse array of assets located throughout the United States and its territories. While many of these assets are listed in either the National Register of Historic Places or the List of National Historic Landmarks, all share three common characteristics:

  1. they are a monument, physical structure, object, or geographic site;
  2. they are widely recognized to represent the nation's heritage, traditions, or values, or widely recognized to represent important national cultural, religious, historical, or political significance; and
  3. their primary purpose is to memorialize or represent some significant aspect of the nation's heritage, tradition, or values, and to serve as points of interest for visitors and educational activities.

nuclear tower

Nuclear Reactors, Materials and Waste

Nuclear power accounts for approximately 20 percent of the nation's electrical use, provided by 104 commercial nuclear reactors licensed to operate in the United States. The Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste (Nuclear) Sector includes: nuclear power plants; non-power nuclear reactors used for research, testing, and training; nuclear materials used in medical, industrial, and academic settings; nuclear fuel fabrication facilities; decommissioning reactors; and the transportation, storage, and disposal of nuclear material and waste.


postal worker moving package

Postal and Shipping

The Postal and Shipping Sector is an integral component of the U.S. economy, employing more than 1.8 million people and earning direct revenues of more than $213 billion per year. The Postal and Shipping Sector moves over 720 million messages, products, and financial transactions each day.

Postal and shipping activity is differentiated from general cargo operations by its focus on small- and medium-size packages and by service from millions of senders to nearly 150 million destinations. The sector is highly concentrated, with a handful of providers holding roughly 94 percent of the market share.

rows of cars in traffic

Transportation Systems

The nation's transportation system quickly, safely, and securely moves people and goods through the country and overseas. The Transportation Systems Sector consists of six key subsectors, or modes:

  1. Aviation includes aircraft, air traffic control systems, and approximately 450 commercial airports and 19,000 additional airfields. This mode includes civil and joint use military airports, heliports, short takeoff and landing ports, and seaplane bases.
  2. Highway encompasses more than 4 million miles of roadways and supporting infrastructure. Vehicles include automobiles, buses, motorcycles, and all types of trucks.
  3. Maritime Transportation System consists of about 95,000 miles of coastline, 361 ports, over 10,000 miles of navigable waterways, 3.4 million square miles of Exclusive Economic Zone to secure, and intermodal landside connections, which allow the various modes of transportation to move people and goods to, from, and on the water.
  4. Mass Transit includes multiple-occupancy vehicles, such as transit buses, trolleybuses, vanpools, ferryboats, monorails, heavy (subway) and light rail, automated guideway transit, inclined planes, and cable cars designed to transport customers on local and regional routes.
  5. Pipeline Systems include vast networks of pipeline that traverse hundreds of thousands of miles throughout the country, carrying nearly all of the Nation's natural gas and about 65 percent of hazardous liquids, as well as various chemicals.
  6. Rail consists of hundreds of railroads, more than 143,000 route-miles of track, more than 1.3 million freight cars, and roughly 20,000 locomotives.

drop of water


All activities are carried out in consultation with the Department and the EPA's Water Sector partners.

The Water Sector is vulnerable to a variety of attacks through contamination with deadly agents, physical attacks-such as the release of toxic gaseous chemicals-and cyber attacks. If these attacks were realized, the result could be large numbers of illnesses or casualties and/or a denial of service that would also impact public health and economic vitality.



The Challenge

The task of assuring the security of our homeland involves protecting the citizens of the United States, the nation's critical infrastructure and key assets. This is necessary to sustain the nation's vitality against terrorism and other threats. This protection must originate at the community level. It requires discovering, developing and deploying new technology that will support first responders and key decision makers in local communities.

The Mission

NIHS' mission is to discover, develop and deploy solutions that protect and preserve the critical infrastructure of the nation's communities.

The Institute

NIHS aligns projects and research objectives with the needs and requirements of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The strategy is to manage a distributed research enterprise that effectively transitions research and development into solutions. NIHS works with DHS to determine technology needs at the community level. Then, teams are quickly assembled from multiple universities to develop solutions to the needs.

The Strategy

Through management of the Kentucky Critical Infrastructure Protections Program (KCI), the National Institute for Hometown Security (NIHS) provides an ongoing, integrated program dedicated to developing new technologies and devices. NIHS works through qualified academic institutions to accomplish the technological objectives.