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Cover Story
About Todd Keil and the
Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP)
By Ed Peaco

Because the private sector owns and operates the vast majority of the nation's critical infrastructure, partnerships among government agencies and the private sector are essential at IP. In the following interview, Todd Keil, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, elaborates on this crucial aspect of his office. He describes the formation of partnerships and explains his work to create an environment of two-way information sharing with the partners.

The mission of this office, conveyed in its name, is one of the key missions for the Department of Homeland Security as defined when the agency was established in 2002. DHS defines critical infrastructure as the assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, that are so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, public health or safety, or any combination thereof.

IP's mission is based on what these private sector stakeholders need to know:

  • Risks to their industries
  • How to coordinate with others and share vital information
  • How to prepare, protect, and respond

IP addresses these needs through the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP), along with programs and activities to support critical infrastructure partners in the field. The NIPP establishes a framework for confronting terrorist attacks and natural, man-made, or technological hazards—including a program for deterring threats, mitigating vulnerabilities, and minimizing consequences. Under Keil's direction, IP is working closely with partners to strengthen regional and local resilience and provide better information sharing and the support, tools, and training that critical infrastructure owners and operators need. To learn more about IP programs, visit www.dhs.gov/criticalinfrastructure.

Information Sharing Pays Off at the Local Level and in Fusion Centers

"...it's a good example that there's a new level of situational awareness out there, a new level of information sharing, a new level of ground truth that's happening in our communities across the country, based on our programs and our efforts."

—Todd Keil, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection

DHS divides critical infrastructure into 18 sectors:

  • 1. Agriculture and food
  • 2. Banking and finance
  • 3. Chemical
  • 4. Commercial facilities
  • 5. Communications
  • 6. Critical manufacturing
  • 7. Dams
  • 8. Defense industrial base
  • 9. Emergency services
  • 10. Energy
  • 11. Government facilities
  • 12. Health care and public health
  • 13. Information technology
  • 14. National monuments and icons
  • 15. Nuclear reactors, materials and waste
  • 16. Postal and shipping
  • 17. Transportation systems
  • 18. Water

IHS: I'd like to know more about your personal stake in your position and in the agency. Please tell us a story about one of your accomplishments at DHS that made the nation safer. The mission accomplished, your baby, something that worked, which you don't mind talking about in some detail. What kind of decisions you had to make, who you worked with, what the outcome was.

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Actually, this is one of the topics I enjoy talking about. If I start to talk too long you can wave at me and stop me. I think specifically, to answer the question, when you look at something that I've done in infrastructure protection to keep the country safer, I would have to look at the overarching changes we've made in information sharing. With our private sector partners, the critical infrastructure owners and operators, even our state and local partners, law enforcement, first responder agencies, homeland security advisors—it's just a very broad effort at information sharing. I think, when you talk about successes, they're very numerous, and they're all intertwined, though, in the information-sharing world.

One of the things that we focused on exclusively and very extensively—and we're continuing to do it, continuing to build on this program—is our private sector clearance program where we sponsor security clearances for members of the private sector. Typically, it is a chief security officer at a critical infrastructure company, but it can be a chief operating officer; there are different variations out there. The private sector security clearance program has been very crucial and very successful for us because we deal every day with just a tremendous volume of classified intelligence and threat information. I try to give a lot of credit to our intelligence analysts and those folks who have to sift through that volume of information. It's such an enormous, enormous job. But when we do get those pieces of information that we think are critically important, and we sit down and look at them, one of the things I recognized early is, as we talked about some critical pieces of intelligence and threat information, we didn't have everybody around the table who we needed. We had folks from our office, other folks from DHS entities, folks from other government agencies there, but we didn't have the private sector represented well at those discussions. So we're expanding the private sector security clearance program so we can include those folks at the beginning. That's why we're sponsoring clearances right now.

I think DHS, or IP-sponsored, security clearances for the private sector are right now about 1,400. … It's need-to-know; we just don't give clearances to anybody who raises their hand. We have a vetting process that we look at in order to ensure that the people we sponsor clearances for, that they have a need for the clearance. But then when we have those discussions and we look at information, typically it will be information regarding a specific sector. Now we invite those folks with those clearances to the meetings. And we share information with them, typically at the secret level. We have the opportunity then to discuss the information, and not just among government partners, but also including our private sector stakeholders. They're the subject matter experts on their sectors. They know what impact this intelligence information may have. They know the impact that implementing protective measures may have. We need that at the table. We need the discussion at the front end.

As we're determining what to do with this classified information, we fully understand from their perspective what they could do with it, if it's a value to them, and what protective measures might be put in place, and if it makes sense to put protective measures in place—in some cases it doesn't. So that has been one of the things that we focused on. We've been very, very successful with that program. We've had this group meet numerous times. It's information-dependent, so it could involve the banking and finance sector one time, it could involve the energy sector another time, or it could involve multiple sectors.

When we had the first meeting of the group, it was interesting. Information sharing is always something that folks come to me and talk about—you have to do better sharing information. And the first meeting of this group, where we brought some of the private sector representatives to it, we made it very clear to them that they're not representing their specific company; they're representing their sector when they come to this meeting. And we sat down, and we passed around the classified information, and everybody got a chance to read it, and we started to talk about it, and talk about what we would do with it. The reaction from the group, and especially from our private sector partners was: OK, we have the same access, or the access to the same information that our government partners … and then it came to, What do you think we should do about this? And I think then folks realized the enormity of the situation, and in this sense, because we are trying to come to a consensus on what we should do with this threat information, which is a significant decision point. It has a significant impact on our programs, and what we do is going to have an impact on the safety and security of the country. And I think the private sector folks at this first meeting realized at that moment the significance of them being at the table with us and trying to come to a consensus on what we are going to do with that information. So that was a real turning point, a real significant day in my career so far in this office. … The group looked at it and said, You know, at this point, we don't think we should take this information and act on it, because it just wasn't specific enough. And I always thought the group would come together, and they would say, just share everything you have, which obviously isn't practical. And we got our private sector partners in that first instance to agree as they looked at the information that this isn't something that needs to be shared at this point, unless there's more specific information that comes out.

So I think it was a good understanding from the government side, of some of the challenges that some of our private sector stakeholders face, and it was a good understanding from our private sector partners' side, understanding what we face on a daily basis as we look at this information. And clearly our goal is to get the right information to the right people at the right time. And working together now, we are more effectively able to reach that, and it's gratifying that the process is working. We don't want to break the system, so as information comes out, this group is called together. We don't do it weekly. It's situational-dependent, but we are doing it very slowly.

Dr. Robert O'Block: Is there a name for this group?

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: It hasn't matured to the point where we have come up with a name. Right now we just call it the engagement working group, but that's more of a working title for it. And it's not a set group of people. Even on the government side, it's not a set group of people. If it's involving banking and finance, the Department of Treasury is at the table. If it's involving the energy sector, the Department of Energy is at the table, along with the Department of Transportation. There are some key members who are usually at the meetings. Typically, the FBI is usually at the table. We also invite the Department of State. You are probably familiar with the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) at the Department of State, which is their interaction with the private sector.

O'Block: Could you just take a couple of minutes and talk about your background?

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Sure. I spent almost 23 years with the Department of State in the Diplomatic Security Service. I retired from the Department of State in 2007, and I then entered the private sector for a couple of years, so I think it gives me a little bit of the unique perspective of seeing things from inside the industry, in a sense. Then the president appointed me to this position in December 2009. So I have been in the position for about 16 or 18 months. But I think the part of my background at the Department of State helped, because through the Security Overseas Advisory Council, that's a partnership between the federal government and the private sector. And obviously it's focused on information sharing, and threats internationally, and on a global basis, but I brought that to this position. And we looked at the sharing of the classified information, a better way to do it. We're maturing it slowly, because we want to do it right. It's been very effective since we've instituted the program.

IHS: I was just curious; is the purpose of these meetings to essentially bring the members together of the private sector representatives with the federal representatives for these sectors to develop synergy?

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Right. Yes, exactly. Like I said, in some of the first meetings, it was all government folks sitting around the table. And we were talking about the impact the information might have: Is it actionable for our private sector stakeholders? And if it is actionable, how would we share it with them? And if we do share it with them, what would they do with it? And we would have these discussions, and we would go on and on, and I was like, why don't we have them at the table?

IHS: So you were essentially bridging the disconnect between the two groups?

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: We were bridging the disconnect between the two groups. And like I said, it's not a set group. If we get a piece of threat information that involves telecommunications, we go to the IT and Com sector, and determine who has clearances, and invite them, several of those folks to a meeting. It is very —

IHS: It's situation specific —

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Yes, very situation specific; it's not a set group of people. And we meet—like I said, they have access—the information is passed out. Typically we have DHS intelligence and analysis there, and they give their briefing, and everybody has access to that same level of information. Then we discuss it and determine a course of action with that piece of information. In several cases we have taken some affirmative steps and gone out and completed further briefings, more broadly, because that was the consensus, and we thought that was the best approach. …

O'Block: Was there any landmark, that you know, that really got DHS and the government on the course that they're on now? I know on the criminal justice side, when Adam Walsh, the son of John Walsh, was kidnapped, at that time local police wouldn't put his picture out or release information. Well, maybe he's in a car somewhere and somebody will see him at a gas station. I think he actually got arrested for interfering with the investigation, and he had to go to Congress to get a law passed, and that really changed law enforcement, now you know they realize the benefit of information sharing, because it becomes a two-way street. It's almost overwhelming.

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Right, exactly.

O'Block: What you said, too, in the Association, this is what we do as well. We bring in people from different disciplines to come in from all different variety of folks who have different perspectives and different ways that they solve problems, and also network people together—Oh, I know somebody who can do that. I got a call from someone, do you know Ricky Goins? [DHS Protective Security Advisor, Missouri District]

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Yes.

O'Block: I was talking to him this morning about something, and he said did we know someone in southwest Missouri, and I gave him the name of one of our commissioners there. Harold [Bengsch] has actually been with the County Health Department for 30 years, so he knows everybody, and now he's a county commissioner. He's a really good, strong resource for Ricky in southwest Missouri.

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: I wouldn't say that there is a landmark, and also, a very important point is that it is a two-way street of information sharing. It's not just the government to the private sector. When the group meets, and even our interaction with the stakeholders on every level, it's a two-way street. Clearly, we need subject matter from our private sector partners, and they bring just an enormous amount of information to the table, as we do. And when we bring those two together, I think that's the most effective approach. But I don't think that there was sort of a landmark moment in that sense, other than the secretary is very, very supportive of information sharing. As the secretary has said many times, we can't do it alone. The federal government can't do it alone. The state, local, territorial, and tribal folks can't do it alone. The private sector can't do it alone. We're facing a very dynamic threat environment, and the only way we can face the challenge is this collaborative partnership. And that's been the secretary's approach since she's taken office. And we are acting on that, and bringing those folks all together, and we are using our collective expertise. It's actually the best way to face this very challenging and dynamic threat environment. It's part and parcel to the secretary's approach that homeland security begins with hometown security. So it's something where we have to reach out to the communities across the country, to the critical infrastructure owners and operators across the country, our state and local partners across the country. We have to understand their issues, their concerns, bring our tools and capabilities and expertise to bear, and again bring those things together in the middle. And we come out of that much, much better and much, much stronger, than we would if we tried to face these issues alone. Facing a very challenging and dynamic environment, that's what we have to do. It just makes sense.

O'Block: In the SAR program for suspicious activity reporting, they found that 80% of the information that prevented terrorist acts was because of reporting the local level. They had a guy with a video camera on this bridge and a backpack and it was called in by people on the street.

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: And that's part of, I'm sure you've heard, about the secretary's campaign. If you see something, say something. And that too, is just about community awareness and public responsibility. We don't want to panic people; people don't have to be panicked. But it's just that level of awareness to know that if you do see something, say something about it. To be honest, the say something is the harder challenge. I think most people, they recognize, they'll see something, it's kind of like that gut feeling you get, that you know something that's not right. But for most people, to actually tell somebody about it is the challenge. So the secretary's campaign is very effective—if you see something, say something. And we've partnered with various sports leagues and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, and the retail groups, on the see something campaign. It's extremely effective, and it just raises that level of awareness in our communities that we need. And reporting for suspicious activity through the NSI program is actually very simple. It's very effective. The cost essentially is minimal. And it works very, very well. So I think it's all these, our information sharing, and if you see something, say something campaign, and community awareness, and homeland security begins with hometown security. We are bringing all these pieces together and leveraging those synergies, and you can see the tremendous benefit.

O'Block: Two of our staff went to the fusion center together in Trenton, New Jersey. And they rolled out the red carpet. How do fusion centers interface with what you are doing?

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Fusion centers are a crucial, crucial part of what we are trying to accomplish. It's the outreach to the communities. There's no way just sitting in Washington that we are going to know what's going on across the country. We need that outreach of communities. We actually need people on the ground in our states and in our local communities to understand the issues that are going on there. And that's where the partnerships really develop. Because we have folks in the communities who understand what's happening in those communities, the needs of our partners, and the need to communicate with each other. Our protective security advisors you were mentioning are going to be building another program where we have protective security advisors across the country. Their goal and role is to interact with our private sector stakeholders, and interact with state homeland security advisors and other state and local partners at the fusion-center level, so that we have that local community situational awareness. So we can adjust what we are doing and our programs and tools, based on the needs of our communities and based on the needs of our private sector and critical infrastructure stakeholders and partners. That collaborative partnership is the key to everything we do. The fusion centers are a crucial, crucial piece across the country of that interaction at a very local level. So we have that ground truth, and that understanding of what's going on, and the needs of those folks. I say often that we don't want to spend any money on a program that's not going to make a difference in keeping the country safe. In order to do that, we need to understand the needs and concerns of our communities and of our critical infrastructure partners across the country. The fusion centers, our protective security advisors out there, they are really the folks at the center of gathering that information and understanding what's going on in our communities and our needs—the real hub of the partnership.

IHS: So you are seeing tangible results from if you see something, say something.

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Yes. And it's raising the level of awareness across the country. And, like I said, we are partnering with sports leagues and major cities and communities across the country, hotel and lodging venues, retail locations, and airports, just so folks again get that level of awareness that when your gut tells you something's not right, you need to find somebody to tell about that so we can take some action on that. Major Tom Souchek, the commander of the fusion center there, among the many things he said, is that it used to be, before fusion centers and before this collaborative approach, somebody might see something suspicious and might tell a beat cop, and a beat cop would say thank you for that, and that stays with the local precinct or local PD. But now, with the fusion centers, he calls it "collect the dots, not just connect the dots, but collect the dots, and share the dots."

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Right.

IHS: So that, if something is happening in your town, what else is happening elsewhere?

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Exactly.

IHS: And that's the big strength of that kind of thing.

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: And he's right on with that, and that is the strength of it. It's not just collecting the dots, because if you just collect the dots, and don't share it, you're really not doing a lot of good. You really have to collect the dots and you have to then share that information. And we are doing it. One of our more successful programs is in our dams sector. They have a very, very robust information-sharing, suspicious-activity-reporting tool that they use. And again, the sector builds it. They own it. We don't own it; we help build it and help facilitate it, but we don't own it. We just provide the IT architecture and backbone for it to work, and we help them put it together in a very effective way, but it's their program. And that one has been extremely successful. They encounter suspicious activity—if a dam or water facility in Wyoming sees something suspicious, they enter it into the tool. Other owners and operators get to view those reports, because if they see something in Wyoming, you may also see something in Montana. And the fusion centers are involved because they look at the reporting and ensure the reporting is looked at and put into the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative system. And so everybody is collecting, in a sense, and the fusion center is at the hub of this information. The sharing part is the real crucial important part of that, because if bad folks are out there doing surveillance, they're probably not just looking at one place, they are looking at multiple places. What's going on in one state, folks in another state also need to be aware of. So again, those dots are all collected and looked at and connected if they need to be connected. … But it's a good example that there's a new level of situational awareness out there, a new level of information sharing, a new level of ground truth that's happening in our communities across the country, based on our programs and our efforts.

IHS: You talked about the ability of the private sector to come in and have a two-way information sharing process. Is there then a platform for state and local law enforcement agencies to interact with your agency here?

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Typically, that works best through the fusion centers. And that's actually where we want it focused. Because the fusion centers understand. The New Jersey fusion center knows what's going on in New Jersey better than anybody else. So if a New Jersey law enforcement agency has something they are concerned about, we want it to go to that fusion center. They will know potentially other things that are going on, and again they are collecting those dots. So we are really taking a very field focus from a regional perspective, but a very field focus, rather than a Washington-centric focus, and we recognize the importance of understanding what's going on in our communities and doing it at that level. It's just crucially important, if something is going on in Nevada, we want the Nevada fusion center to be at the hub of the concern. There are multiple agencies at the fusion center. We're at the fusion center; DHS intelligence and analysis has intelligence officers at the fusion center. That's where the hub of the activity needs to be. It doesn't need to be Washington. So for that, we don't want a call back here, in a sense. We want it to be at the fusion centers. They are also linked with the Joint Terrorism Task Force across the country, and you just see the synergy of the work that's going on across the country and our communities, and it's just gratifying.

IHS: I'd like to ask you about what seems to me a very complex portfolio for you. Critical infrastructure: There are 18 sectors, and when you look at it, it's basically everything, or almost everything. And if you think about the implications of these sectors, you pretty much get everything, and then you're managing all these numerous public and private partnerships. How do you deal with the massive aspect and the complex aspect of your job?

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: It comes down to a couple of things. Effective delegation is crucially important. When you look at it, we have divided the critical infrastructure in the country into 18 sectors. There are 18 sector coordinating councils, which are made up of private sector folks from that sector, and they essentially build their own council. We don't dictate who gets on the council; they do. They have ownership, and then each sector has a government-coordinating council, with government agencies that would be impacted by that sector. That council framework, which is established under the NIPP, the National Infrastructure Protection Plan—although the responsibility and the size of it is enormous—makes it very manageable from that perspective, because the councils on both sides, the private and public, work very closely together, and they are focused on that sector. And then we have a cross-sector council—many of our issues are across sectors; the issues don't just impact one sector. So the delegation, the partnership, the council framework under the National Infrastructure Protection Plan, and the partnership and the information sharing make it work very, very well. If we didn't have the level of partnership and information sharing and council structure like we do, it would just be unmanageable.

IHS: So these councils have a chance to maybe not look at classified information but look at prevention and guidelines for…

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: Right. They meet regularly, and we meet with them regularly. Typically when the councils meet, depending on the council and who's on the council, we give them classified briefings. An overview of what we see happening in the sector. We talk about what we are seeing from our perspective, and what their concerns are and what they're seeing, and about how we can bring our tools and capabilities and resources to bear.

O'Block: What would you like to add that we haven't discussed?

Assistant Secretary Todd Keil: One of the things that I would probably add, in summation, is just getting the message out that the secretary and DHS and our office value and understand the importance of the partnership, two-way information sharing, and understanding what's going on in our communities across the country. Like I said, it's a very dynamic threat environment, and we need everybody working together as much as possible to face those challenges. Getting that message out to folks is crucially important. It is something that I do frequently; that's one of the reasons you are here. And I talk about it in my speeches, to get that message out. We can't do it alone. Like I said, state and local folks, other federal agencies, can't do it alone. Other private sector folks can't do it alone. We have to work together in a very collaborative approach, as we take on some of these issues that we are facing. And it's extremely valuable. The value I see—as the partnerships are growing and the collaborative efforts are growing, and the interagency support and the interaction between the federal and the private sector and the councils—it's just gratifying seeing this as it builds and snowballs in a very positive way. We are doing a tremendous amount of good work, and when I say we, that is all of the folks I talked about: our private sector partners and stakeholders, our state and local, territorial, and tribal partners, and the different federal agencies. All of us together, we are doing an amazing job keeping the country safe.

O'Block: I agree.

Everyone: Yes and thank you.

Keil's bios on government Web sites include these details:

Appointed to current position in December 2009.

Joined private sector in 2007: Texas Instruments (global threat analysis); Welsh-Sullivan Group LLC, security firm specializing in aviation industry, where he was a senior consultant in risk mitigation, executive and facility security, and worldwide threat management.

Before 2007, held key positions at the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, including Regional Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Held Foreign Service positions in Indonesia, Ireland, and Austria.

From 1994 to 2000, held leadership position on protective detail for two Secretaries of State.

B.A. in Political Science and Criminal Justice from Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin. Studied at University of Bonn in Germany and American University in Washington, D.C. Native of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, where he attended Wayland Academy.

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