Infrastructure: The Hidden Component of Defense

There is a part of the Department of Defense (DoD) that we rarely think about but is a vital part of national security: infrastructure. It’s not glamorous, but without electric, water, wastewater, security and natural gas systems, the DoD would not have the structure necessary to fulfill its mission.

In a recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the number of disruptions to utilities that occurred over a six-year period resulted in a negative impact to taxpayers of $29 million.  Some incidents were due to design errors, uncontrollable weather issues and equipment begin poorly maintained or in use past its intended lifespan.

Disruptions will happen, but some are avoidable if the more vulnerable systems are addressed first and preemptive measures are in place. The systems in need of the most protection can be supported by back-up systems and generators. With backup systems in place, widespread outages can be avoided. And, with excellence in perimeter security to protect the facility, infrastructure can be better assured.

Strategic planning can also involve moving personnel to different bases in case of utility disruptions and including utility equipment updates and equipment plans, which can keep operations flowing. However, some military units are inconsistent in reporting utility disruptions. Without consistent data, it makes making informed decisions about vulnerabilities and funding difficult. The GAO study recommended that the Army, Air Force and Marines make the effort to collect consistent information regarding utility disruptions.

The DoD may also have the opportunity to work with private sector companies to improve and add infrastructure such as wind turbines, solar panels and security shacks. The flexibility and space that military bases occupy make it easy to facilitate these relationships. Another possibility is to have dual-purpose infrastructure; DoD could power the local area while also serving as a backup to the DoD facility.

Security doesn’t always mean guard houses and security shacks, but rather ensuring that military and defense services are supported by a healthy and strong infrastructure. By identifying weaknesses and anticipating disruptions, DoD support can become a more sustainable and durable.