Thursday, May 30, 2013

Our national preparedness -- why do we care?

Every year, the federal government produces a report on our country's level of preparedness through the lens of 31 pre-defined core capabilities.  Last year's report went back a full ten years to review improvements in our state of readiness since 9/11.  This year's report looks a 2012, a year filled with a range of natural disasters and cyber-threats, and makes new recommendations in two areas:  the overall resilience of our country's infrastructure, whether in the hands of the public or private sector; and the maturity level(s) of our public-private partnerships around critical infrastructure.

This report relies heavily upon the input of state, local and tribal authorities, so it may not be so surprising that some states and territories do not intend (translation:  have no funds) to improve their core capabilities, but will choose instead to rely upon the federal government.

There were three carry-forward items for improvement:  cyber-security, for which a national physical and virtual exercise took place in 2012, and which banks credit with making them more agile for subsequent events; core-focused recovery, especially in the areas of economic recovery, housing and natural and cultural resources after disasters take place; and  integration of the disabled into actuality rather than just plans, noting that disaster centers set up after Hurricane Sandy lacked the ability to handle the disabled until weeks or months after opening.

Two new areas of focus have been added in this year's report, and will be scrutinized for progress during 2013.  The first is enhancement of critical infrastructure, on both the public and private sector sides.  Areas getting special mention ranged from physical and cyber security to water, transportation, electricity, communications and fuel systems.  Most of these areas are seen as high priority by state, local and tribal entities but are among the five weakest capabilities.

The other area is a topic near and dear to my heart:  critical infrastructure public-private partnerships.  The  National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) sets out the partnership model between sectors and supply chains.  Two improvements last year were the implementation of a national business emergency operations  center in July of 2012; and the DHS National Infrastructure Coordinating Center, for information sharing between the public and private sectors.  And, to a certain extent, Hurricane Sandy showed improved capabilities on both sides, but government felt it to be a real stretch to maintain capabilities and unity of effort with state and local government over such a period of time.  On the government side, there will be an effort to move toward an integrated multi-agency approach" and to eliminate department-centric bureaucracy.

I'm chairing a session at the 2013 DHS-FEMA Public Private Partnerships conference in Washington DC in late July.  If you have specific recommendations you'd like to make about how the private sector can better align with the government on such preparedness efforts, please drop me a line.  One thing is clear about the report:  it is really a government report, drawing much of its data from the federal, state, local and tribal levels.  Not from the private sector.  My session, the last of the conference, will look at where we go from here, and will look carefully at the role of the private sector that, after all, owns 80-85% of this critical infrastructure that we have been discussing, especially give the challenges in both the cyber and the disaster recovery areas.

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