CI Scoop: What are sectors and sub-sectors?

May 26, 2017

Originally, I was going to discuss the interaction between Sector Specific Agencies (SSAs) and sectors, but that’s one mammoth of a post. So, instead, this post focuses just on defining sectors and subsectors. My next post will focus on how SSAs and sectors interact. It’s worth spending two installments on critical infrastructure sectors as a concept because that’s “critical” to understanding how this designation may impact the election community. Let’s dig in.

What are sectors?

The Department of Homeland Security groups critical infrastructure into sectors to help focus the department’s efforts, better direct resources, and organize its efforts.  These critical infrastructure sectors are groupings of critical infrastructure based on commonality in function and form. So infrastructure entities that perform similar functions and are structured in similar manners are designated as part of the same sector. For example, museums are considered critical infrastructure, as are sports arenas. Since both of these venues perform a similar function, hosting large groups of people in public spaces, and are structured in a similar manner, using buildings as gathering places for the groups of people, they both fall into the same sector – commercial facilities.  

You can see how this helps DHS channel its efforts. Entities that perform similar functions and are structured in similar ways will probably have overlapping needs. These overlapping needs are not necessarily the same as those of entities that are not similar in form and function. Since DHS primarily provides information through the CI framework, sorting infrastructure into sectors helps DHS know which entities need which information. Sector designations allow the department to share that information with specific groupings rather than assessing each individual entity independently every time they want to distribute information. A list of all of the sectors and their SSAs is below.

What are subsectors?

In addition to sectors, DHS also can, and from time-to-time does, create subsectors. For example, the Government Facilities Sector has three subsectors. These include Elections, National Monuments and Icons, and Education Facilities.  Subsectors are not purely divisions of a sector. Instead, they are areas that vary from the rest of the sector substantially enough to justify creating a plan just for the subsector.  Also, it’s important to note that a sector’s subsectors do not, in aggregate, constitute the entirety of a sector. For example, as I identified, the Government Facilities Sector has three subsectors. Still, in addition to infrastructure that is in these subsectors, there is additional infrastructure within the Government Facilities Sector that is not designated as fitting within a subsector. The information sharing for this infrastructure is governed by the sector’s Sector Specific Plan (SSP) but not the subsectors’ SSPs. I’ll talk more about SSPs in a later post.   

What's the relationship between sectors and subsectors?

When a subsector has been established, it often has what is called a Co-Sector Specific Agency (Co-SSA). A Co-SSA shares the SSA responsibilities and helps the SSA, which is often DHS, understand the nuances of the subsector. (Stay tuned for a future CI Scoop blog that provides more information about the roles and responsibilities of SSAs and Co-SSAs.) For now, just know that the SSA structures the sector and its information sharing, and the Co-SSA shares in carrying out this responsibility. This collaboration can be crucial to the successful operation of a sector because, as I mention above, subsectors are groupings of infrastructure that vary substantially from the larger sector. Understanding the nuances of these unique groups is vital to successfully establishing the sector and that can only happen with a knowledgeable Co-SSA that is “in touch” with sector-specific needs. Currently, two of the three sub-sectors within Government Facilities – Education Facilities and National Monuments – have Co-SSAs. Currently, Elections is the only subsector that does not yet have a Co-SSA.

In my next post, I will discuss the specific roles and responsibilities of SSAs and Co-SSAs.  For now, I hope you better understand the some of the “critical” players in carrying the nation’s CI structure.

Critical Infrastructure Sector SSAs and Co-SSAs

Sector/Subsector SSA Co-SSA
Chemical Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  
Commercial Facilities Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  
Communications Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  
Critical Manufacturing Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  
Dams Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  
Defense Industrial Base Department of Defense (DOD)  
Emergency Services Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  
Energy Department of Energy (DOE)  
Financial Services Department of the Treasury  
Food and Agriculture Department of Agriculture (USDA) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Government Facilities Department of Homeland Security (DHS) General Services Administration (GSA)

Elections (subsector)

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  

Education Facilities (subsector)

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Department of Education

National Monuments (subsector)

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Department of the Interior (DOI)
Healthcare and Public Health Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)  
Information Technology Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  
Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  
Transportation Systems Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Department of Transportation (DOT)
Water and Wastewater Systems Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  
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Critical Infrastructure

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