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National Infrastructure and Security

Imagine another "perfect storm." What's a perfect storm? It's a coincidental confluence of events that when taken individually have one effect, and yet when occurring in combination, can create far greater havoc, death, destruction and economic impact.

Regrettably, the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis has been politicized. The reality, though, is that there is a connection between our Nation's infrastructure, its security and the safety of its citizens. So lets ignore the statistics of how many bridges and roadways are deficient, or how much it could cost to fix them, or even how to pay the multi-trillion dollar expense. Instead, lets look at the reality of the impact that physical structural issues could have on National security.

We all witnessed the mass exodus from the Gulf Coast during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, with miles of traffic backed up. The perfect storm occurs if the natural disaster of a hurricane causes a bridge or a roadway to collapse. That's not a pretty picture, and it is certainly not a circumstance that can be anticipated. Or should it be?

Another consideration should be what terrorists may learn from real life examples. Lyman Faris was arrested before he was able to implement his plan to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge in 2003. Given the recent publicity highlighting the deteriorated transportation infrastructure, it is not out of the question that would be terrorists would now focus on these targets, as already vulnerable. Even though NY State Thruway engineers say they are working on repairs, the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River in New York has significant deterioration to the concrete and the structural steel of the bridge.

The repair and continued maintenance of the Nation's roadways and bridges should not be a political football, nor is it any sort of an issue that only just came about. In August 2006, a few months before he left Homeland Security Watch to join the Democratic staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), Christian Beckner wrote that he had "become concerned that we've lost focus on the core operational functionality of the nation's infrastructure and are becoming a fragile nation, which is just as bad — if not worse — as being an insecure nation."

The image of thousands of people in cars attempting to evacuate an area effected by a natural disaster being exacerbated by a failure of the physical infrastructure is a picture none of us should want to see. What's worse could be the inability of rescue workers or disaster response crews to reach a site. The "perfect storm" of a terrorist attack coupled with an infrastructure issue is imponderable.