On March 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), issued Guidance on the essential critical infrastructure workforce needed to ensure national resilience during the COVID-19 response. CISA developed its initial list of critical infrastructure workers to help state and local officials determine which operations are essential to critical infrastructure as they attempt to balance public health with the need for continued operations in essential areas.

Along with more obvious critical infrastructure workers in sectors such as energy, transportation, public works, communications and healthcare, CISA’s advisory list expressly included blockchain workers involved in the agricultural and food distribution supply chain, namely: “Employees and firms supporting food, feed, and beverage distribution, including warehouse workers, vendor-managed inventory controllers and blockchain managers.”

As we noted in our Practice Note on Blockchain and Supply Chain Management, blockchain offers substantial benefits in the supply chain context. Several major blockchain-based supply chain implementations are currently in use across the country. These initiatives are designed to achieve higher levels of traceability and efficiency as compared to traditional supply chain processes and systems.

The inclusion of blockchain managers in CISA’s Guidance as critical infrastructure workers highlights blockchain’s already significant role in our supply chain ecosystem, and its importance in making this nation’s supply chains safer and more efficient.

We expect that the adoption of blockchain-based supply chain systems will increase dramatically, and that working through the current global health crisis will provide additional insight into how blockchain solutions can be used to mitigate the impact of unforeseen events. Blockchain technology is particularly useful, for example, in almost immediately identifying bottlenecks or supply chain participants that are impeded from performing their defined functions. Such a feature can significantly reduce delays and enable downstream consumers to identify alternative suppliers on a real-time basis to minimize disruption of their business. Clearly, the ability to respond in that way is extremely valuable, especially in times of global economic stress.