National Call to Action: The Resilient Infrastructure Initiative

Posted: December 2, 2015 at 3:42 pm

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Megan Clifford, Risk and Infrastructure Science Center
Global Security Sciences Division, Argonne National Laboratory


A community’s ability to withstand all hazards depends on the security and resilience of the Nation’s physical and cyber infrastructure, which is increasingly challenged by:

  • Population growth, which is predicted to increase by nearly 40 percent by 2050;[1]
  • Aging and deterioration, most succinctly described by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) when it assigned U.S. infrastructure an overall grade of D+ in 2013;[2] and
  • Natural and manmade hazards, including severe weather, climate change, and deliberate attacks.

The case for strengthening U.S. infrastructure has been made in a variety of studies and plans, including Presidential Policy Directive 21,[3] The President’s Climate Action Plan,[4] the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review,[5] the Department of Defense 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,[6] and the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget.[7]

Overcoming the challenges listed above will require both strengthening of existing infrastructure and construction of new infrastructure using modern design, next-generation materials and technologies, and engineering methods that consider dependencies (and interdependencies) and respond to rapidly changing needs.

Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne) has developed a Resilient Infrastructure Initiative to promote strategies for reducing risk to U.S. critical infrastructure and minimizing detrimental consequences.

This paper presents Argonne’s vision and the primary goals for the Resilient Infrastructure Initiative. The paper also summarizes the initial research conducted under the Initiative, which focused on the creation of an integrated “Infrastructure Forecaster” for modeling and analyzing energy infrastructure dependencies and interdependencies.

Resilient Infrastructure Initiative

Argonne’s vision for the Resilient Infrastructure Initiative is to leverage basic and applied science and technology to develop (1) next-generation infrastructure forecast models and (2) a user facility where experts will design secure, resilient, and cost-effective infrastructure systems to protect life and property. This initiative will be achieved by:

  • Advancing the science and technology needed to enable the resilient design of future critical infrastructure systems; and
  • Undertaking an integrated, national effort to develop resilient infrastructure that is adaptable and robust to respond to future demands.

The “Resilient Infrastructure User Facility” that Argonne envisions will build on existing capabilities (e.g., models, simulations) and experimental systems unique to the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) national laboratory complex. The facility will integrate applied science and engineering to deliver infrastructure analysis to stakeholders in the infrastructure resilience community (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Community Resilience Stakeholders
Figure 1

Argonne has established three distinct strategic goals for the Resilient Infrastructure Initiative, as described below.

Goal 1: Build Innovative National Capabilities.

Major hazards, whether natural or man-made, directly impact infrastructure and impede their function. The impact on any single infrastructure can be exacerbated when that infrastructure is dependent on other damaged infrastructure to function. Argonne’s near-term goal is to develop next-generation infrastructure models that properly integrate the dependencies and interdependencies among lifeline infrastructure systems.

Goal 2: Create Resilient Infrastructure User Facility.

State, local, tribal, and territorial governments and the private sector (e.g., investor-owned, Federal, municipal, and cooperative utilities) could benefit from technical assistance from the national laboratories to advance infrastructure resilience initiatives. Building on DOE national laboratory capabilities in infrastructure resilience, the Resilient Infrastructure User Facility will apply science and engineering to deliver infrastructure analyses to government agencies, private sector partners, and non-governmental and research organizations.

Goal 3: Drive Development of New Materials and Technologies.

In addition to data and analyses, communities need the technological and physical engineering capabilities to design infrastructure capable of withstanding anticipated future hazards. The longer-term goal is to drive development of new materials and technologies through simulations and standards development so that when communities need to rebuild or retrofit, they build stronger and more resilient infrastructure.

These three goals will drive innovative research and development (R&D) that results in new science and technology capabilities to analyze, strengthen, and design for resilience by addressing the objectives listed in Table 1.

Table 1 – Resilience Initiative Strategic Outcome Objectives

Goal 1
Goal 2
Goal 3

Build Innovative National Capabilities

  • Apply science R&D to infrastructure modeling
  • Deliver next-generation modeling capabilities to understand infrastructure connections and manage the risk of cascading failures

Create Resilient Infrastructure User Facility

  • Integrate infrastructure research and analysis
  • Provide targeted, technical assistance to end-users

Drive Development of New Materials and Technologies

  • Inform new infrastructure standards and codes to design- and build-in resilience
  • Research novel materials and technologies to build resilient infrastructure systems

The first project of the Resilient Infrastructure Initiative was launched in April 2015 with immediate focus on infrastructure dependency and interdependency modeling to address the first goal.

Infrastructure Dependencies and Interdependencies Modeling

This first R&D project under the Resilient Infrastructure Initiative focused on automating and integrating existing energy system modeling tools (i.e., EPfast[8] and NGfast[9]) to create an Infrastructure Forecaster. This tool will be used to anticipate cascading failures and support the analysis of infrastructure security and resilience. The conceptual assessment process is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 – Infrastructure Forecaster Assessment Process
Figure 2

The first step of the assessment consists of conducting a failure analysis to define how energy infrastructures would be impacted by a natural hazard or a human threat. This step combines three types of data:

  • Natural or human event characteristics (e.g., location, intensity, and category of a hurricane);
  • Location and type of energy infrastructures (e.g., electric power substation and natural gas processing plant); and
  • Fragility curves and building codes and standards that allow analysts to define how the infrastructures will be impacted by the event.

The failure analysis characterizes the initial conditions (i.e., state of energy infrastructures) that are used as inputs for the cascading failure analysis.

The second step, the cascading failure analysis, involves integration of EPfast and NGfast capabilities, which were used independently prior to this study. This step uses data-centric modeling/simulation to keep current models intact, with little to no code changes for the current model, while still allowing them to be connected to other models. This step also provides the opportunity to improve several aspects of the optimization components within EPfast and NGfast to address non-convergence issues and run time. With these updates in place, the initial conditions from the automated failure analysis are input into the updated and integrated versions of EPfast and NGfast. The two programs are run in an iterative process until the results converge. The iterative process was implemented because of the inherent interdependencies between the electric power and natural gas infrastructure: outages in electric power assets may result in outages in natural gas assets and vice versa.

The third and last step of the modeling project is the visualization of the interaction between electric power and natural gas infrastructure to identify the areas affected by the degradation of energy infrastructures and the cascading failures resulting from the initial event.

The general concept behind this first project under the Resilient Infrastructure Initiative was to test the possibility of integrating existing infrastructure modeling tools and to develop a flexible computation architecture that can integrate new modules. These new modules will reflect the evolution of technical capabilities and critical infrastructure protection and resilience policies. Ultimately, the concepts and computing framework developed in the first project will serve as the platform for integrating future infrastructure modeling tools into the Infrastructure Forecaster.


Argonne proposes a three-phase strategy for advancing the science and technology needed to enable the resilient design of critical infrastructure systems. Phase 1 includes building innovative national capabilities; Phase 2 includes creating a resilient infrastructure user facility; and Phase 3 drives development of new materials and technologies. The first R&D project is supporting the development of new assessment capabilities through the integration of existing energy infrastructure tools into an Infrastructure Forecaster; advances made through this initial project on critical infrastructure dependencies and interdependencies establish an important cornerstone in the Resilient Infrastructure Initiative.


The work presented in this paper was partially supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science under contract number DE-AC02-06CH11357. The submitted manuscript has been created by UChicago Argonne, LLC, Operator of Argonne. Argonne, a DOE Office of Science laboratory, is operated under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357. The U.S. Government retains for itself, and others acting on its behalf, a paid-up nonexclusive, irrevocable worldwide license in said article to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies to the public, and perform publicly and display publicly, by or on behalf of the Government. If you would like more information regarding the Resilient Infrastructure Initiative presented in this paper, please contact Megan Clifford at

[1]     U.S. Census Bureau, “U.S. Census Bureau Projections Show a Slower Growing, Older, More Diverse Nation a Half Century from Now,” Newsroom, Dec. 12, 2012,

[2]     2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2013, available at

[3]     The White House, “Presidential Policy Directive – Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience,” Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-21, Office of the Press Secretary, Feb. 12, 2013, available at

[4]     The White House, The President’s Climate Action Plan, (Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President, 2013), available at

[5]     The 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Homeland Security, 2014), available at

[6]     Department of Defense 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Defense, 2014), available at

[7]     The White House, “The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2016,” Office of Management and Budget, 2015,

[8]   E.C.Portante, B.A. Craig, L. Talaber Malone, J. Kavicky, and S.M. Folga, “EPfast: A Model for Simulating Uncontrolled Islanding in Large Power Systems,” Proceedings of the 2011 Winter Simulation Conference, S. Jain, R.R. Creasey, J. Himmelspach, K.P. White, and M. Fu, eds., IEEE (2011): 1758–1769, available at

[9]   E.C. Portante, B.A. Craig, and S.M. Folga, “NGfast: Rapid Assessment of Impacts of Natural Gas Pipeline Breaks at U.S. Borders and Import Points,” Proceedings of the 2007 Winter Simulation Conference, S.G. Henderson, B. Biller, M.-H. Hsieh, J. Shortle, J.D. Tew, and R.R. Barton, eds., Informs (2007), available at

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