With the multitude of federal government agencies out there, the importance of physical security cannot be overemphasized. There are important federal agencies that conduct international intelligence operations, space command, missile defense, monetary policy, health standards, aviation protocols, and other important operations that affect American’s day to day lives. Often the one piece of physical security that is overlooked is the necessity of continuity of operations. Many of these federal agencies cannot simply “take a break” from work. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Federal Reserve, and many other federal agencies are crucial to our national security and economic wellbeing and must continue to run without any substantial breaks in service. Agencies like these need to run continuously in order to keep Americans confident and assured. Imagine if the Department of Energy were to shut down for months due to a cyber attack on its network infrastructure? The American people might panic because there would be no agency to safeguard the operations of nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is mainly regulated by the federal government so there would not be an appropriate state agency to step in quickly and serve as an alternative until the Department of Energy could get back up and running again.
There are many other examples. If the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were to have a large fire that destroyed all of its computer servers, then all of the data about existing pharmaceuticals under trial and information about food processing centers that may be tainted with salmonella or E. coli would be lost forever. If NASA’s communications systems were knocked out by lightning or an earthquake then we could lose our ability to communicate with our astronauts in orbit onboard the International Space Station (ISS). This could have a devastating effect on being able to bring them safely back to earth. After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, many investors around the world were worried that the firms that were destroyed had lost all of their investment information. Luckily many of these firms had backup computer servers in various locations around so that the data could be retrieved. If something similar happened to Wall Street or more specifically, the New York Stock Exchange, investors would hope that their information on investing was not lost forever.
Imagine the scenario of a truck bomber blowing up the headquarters of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, DC. Investors seem to hang on every word coming from the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. Imagine if the operations of this important institution suddenly came to a halt? What would the repercussions and ramifications possibly be? If a panic did ensue, could a breakdown in our currency valuation lead to chaos on the streets? Use this general scenario in answering the following questions when thinking about the need for continuity of operations.
1) Why would it be important for the Federal Reserve System to have a complex system to ensure continuity of operations? What would be some possible negative consequences if the Federal Reserve System had no backup plan in case of a total catastrophe at its headquarters location? Explain.
2) What are some possible scenarios that could completely shut down the Federal Reserves headquarters building located in Washington, DC? Explain.
(Note: You do not have to go overboard here; just list and describe at least 2 possible scenarios that could reasonably possibly occur. This is just an exercise in thinking about “what if” scenarios.)
3) How could the Federal Reserve System prepare itself for such a huge disaster(s) as you came up with in your scenario(s) from your response to Question #2? Should it act proactively to mitigate the hazard(s) even though it may have never happened, or there may be no intelligence indicating it might even happen in the near future? Explain.
4) What would a good plan of operation be if the Federal Reserve System headquarters was completely put out of commission? Where could all of the employees be relocated? What location could act as a temporary headquarters while the main building was repaired or replaced? Should parking accommodations already be planned for such a contingency? Should transportation be provided? Might there be a problem of overcrowding at the new location if it is much smaller than the existing headquarters? Could the employees simply be shifted to other Federal Reserve Bank locations? Explain.
5) Should the computer data stored at the Federal Reserve System headquarters be constantly backed up at an offsite location? How often should this information be backed up? Could this slow down business operations if all data had to be saved in multiple locations all the time? Why would it be important to have multiple safeguards and redundancies in regards to important computer data? Explain.
(Note: This is not meant to be a sophisticated IT/CS question; answer broadly with nothing technical, as this is not an IT/CS (Information Technology / Computer Science) course.)