CIPP Director John McCarthy Interviewed in August ABA Journal

John A. McCarthy, Director and Principal Investigator of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Program was interviewed in the latest issue of the ABA Journal, a monthly magazine sent to all members of the American Bar Association. This article presents some of the major issues and concerns arising when the government and private sector try to coordinate efforts to respond to natural disasters.

Preparing for the Worst: Working Together Will Help Both Government and Private Companies to Weather Disasters. ABA Journal, By Siobhan Morrissey, August 2006, p. 52-58.

John A. McCarthy, another member of the ABA's Katrina task force subcommittee, agrees that some legislative retooling is probably in order, going all the way back to the Cold War disaster response laws.

"We need to rethink our basic authorities," says McCarthy, director of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Program at George Mason University School of Law in [Arlington, Va.] "It doesn't mean we necessarily have to rewrite them. But we have to update them in the context of newer and broader technologies."

Without stronger legal authority for including private companies in disaster response efforts, McCarthy says, cooperation can be tenuous, sometimes even relying on the strength of personal commitments.

"Think of the logistical capabilities of a company like FedEx," McCarthy says. "They rival the military. How do we work with an organization like that in a time of disaster" They are there and are willing to help. But a lot of it is ad hoc. We should move beyond the trusted individual, no matter who the CEO is. There has to be a good process in place for the CEO and the government to link up."

The reach of the Stafford Act also should be reconsidered, McCarthy says.

"The threats and scale and scope of disasters have changed, so we need to think who we need to include in that," he says. "Can you extend this to an Internet provider" We know we can buy water and mattresses. Can you buy Internet time" Who sets priorities on who gets fixed first? Who does that during a technological event?"