– Guest Post –
It won’t just be the flowers blooming in May. With House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) declaring May as “Resilience Month” in his committee, “resilience” has blossomed from the seed first planted by the likes of Steve Flynn at the Council on Foreign Relations and IBM’s work on Global Movement Management into an influential concept that has attracted the attention of leaders in the public and private sectors.
I will be one of the many corporate leaders and experts to testify as the House Homeland Committee and each of its subcommittees hold hearings in May centered on resilience. The newfound prominence of the issue on Capitol Hill comes as many firms have made great strides in improving their ability to continue operations in the face of a crisis. That is the essence of resilience – the ability to rapidly respond to and recover from a catastrophic event. As government authorities explore strategies for enhancing national resilience, they must look to the private sector for examples to follow and for opportunities for partnership.
I was honored to chair a national symposium, Building a Resilient Nation: Enhancing Security, Ensuring a Strong Economy, in New York City at the end of March of this year that brought together business leaders and industry experts to discuss the importance of resilience to our national and economic security. Listening to presentations from speakers representing major sectors of our economy – the supply chain, risk assessment and management, financial, energy and telecommunications – I was inspired by the pioneering efforts of many corporations and also anxious about the enormous work that remains. The Reform Institute will soon release a report with findings and recommendations for enhancing resilience based on the proceedings of the symposium.
Making resilience a national priority will bring the focus that has been lacking from the mission of DHS since its inception. Resilience can also tap into the energy, resolve and ingenuity of the American people, as opposed to current policy, which views citizens and private industry only as potential victims and targets. And, perhaps most importantly, a national focus on resilience can bring much-needed stability to an economy that has been overwhelmed by market failure, heightened uncertainty, and failing infrastructure.
A catastrophic event that severely disrupted economic activity could have a devastating effect on our economy. By hardening vulnerabilities such as our infrastructure and supply-chain and generally enhancing the ability of the U.S. to stay open for business during a crisis, we will bolster investor and consumer confidence in our economy. Moreover, every dollar spent on resilience can be a dollar invested in deterrence: targets that don’t fail or generate ripple effects when attacked are far less attractive to terrorists.
The attention towards resilience is a welcome sign. We must now ensure that resilience becomes a comprehensive plan of action, and not simply an empty slogan. This will require public-private collaboration to implement innovative new systems and programs already being initiated by the private sector, such as SAP’s supply chain management software and CSX’s Network Operations Workstation. It will also demand effective leadership to shepherd these changes through. That will be my message to Congress.
Robert W. Kelly is Senior Advisor to the Reform Institute’s Homeland and National Security Center. He is also a Founder and Managing Partner of CenTauri Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm that specializes in high-end consulting and technical services for the public and private sectors.