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Creating resilience with public/private partnerships -- and planning: MIT Sloan Executive Education

Chuck Brooks

By Chuck Brooks

Public/private partnerships are critical to the success of government operations that provide essential services and benefits. Such partnerships can help agencies reduce costs, simplify operations, and are easily scalable at times of increased and decreased need. Whether motivated by a natural disaster, terrorism, or an interruption caused by legislative shortfall, successful public/private partnerships can provide business continuity and resilience.

Given that most of the infrastructure in the U.S. is private, government has a need to coordinate with the private sector for maintaining critical transportation modes, IT, and communications support, allowing these agencies to keep preparedness at high levels. The private sector can also bolster humanitarian efforts with supplies of needed food, water, and provisions.

Contingency planning is key

Functional communications are the key element that enables government and its constituents to be resilient. Planning and protocols can be prepared in advance to ensure that systematic workflow and logistical operations that support vital programs are in place and tested. For example, recent weather-related emergencies have led to the adoption of a surge capacity in call centers that support federal pensions, social security, and disabilities during tornado and hurricane seasons. In addition, government continuity planning for processing of transactions and forms has also become more manageable because of public/private sector collaboration. These collaborations rely on best commercial practices and automation technologies to ensure that customer services function smoothly in a time of crisis. Private sector companies such as Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, and Xerox work closely with financial and security related agencies in the government, including DoD and DHS.

The federal government’s intelligence, defense, homeland security, and law enforcement communities must remain operational, especially during a natural disaster or terrorism event. Dealing with interoperable communications issues and logistics can be a difficult challenge. The Boston Marathon bombings from last year exemplified how important planning in logistics and communications are between federal, state, and local government as well as with law enforcement and the community. Because Boston officials had worked out protocols among local law enforcement and various agencies (both governmental and non-governmental), the pursuit of the Boston Marathon terrorists was organized and less disruptive.

Planning for the continuation of essential constituent needs and security functions is imperative to overcome hardships, inconveniences, and disasters. The tested model for enabling resiliency is private/public sector cooperation. It is a model that can and must be expanded for both emergency and non-emergency scenarios.

Charles Brooks serves as vice president/client executive for DHS at Xerox. Brooks previously served at DHS as the first director of legislative affairs for the science and technology directorate. He also spent six years on Capitol Hill as a senior advisor to the late Senator Arlen Specter, and was an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University where he taught about homeland security and Congress. Brooks has an MA in international relations from the University of Chicago and a BA in political science from DePauw University. He has written extensively about innovation, public/private partnerships, emerging technologies, and cybersecurity. He can be reached at: [email protected] and www.linkedin.com/in/chuckbrooks/. He recently spoke on cybersecurity at the Open Innovations Forum, the premier summit for technology, investment, and entrepreneurship in Russia. 


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