Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 15, 2013

A Chief Resilience Officer for Every City?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on May 15, 2013

Here’s an interesting idea: “Does Every City Need a Chief Resilience Officer?” The Atlantic Cities staff writer Emily Badger explains the concept:

The Rockefeller Foundation, this year celebrating its 100th anniversary, is throwing its weight (and its money) behind this mandate. Today, it’s announcing a 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, a three-year, $100 million prize with one particularly interesting component: The foundation plans to put up the money to hire a Chief Resilience Officer position in 100 cities around the world. Ultimately, though, these cities will have to scrounge up their own funds to keep the job alive.

Had anyone heard of this initiative? I hadn’t, and I’m impressed that a foundation as prestigious as Rockefeller is embracing the resilience concept.  Until recently, in my view at least, “resilience” was an idea more or less regulated to homeland security, health, and other related fields.  It would emerge immediately following a large event, whether natural or man-made, but just as quickly disappear from the public eye.

Rockefeller Foundation money does not equal widespread acceptance nor understanding, but I would argue that it is a sign that the concept is firmly entrenched in the public discourse and will not quietly pass into that good night if the next federal administration/round  of homeland security “experts” decides to go in another direction.

It appears that this came about partly because of the threat of climate change:

Rockefeller is inviting cities to apply to be one of these 100 resilient cities – to be named in three rounds over the next three years – by arguing for how they’re working to become “resilient.” Rockefeller wants to then help them create a resilience plan, preemptively sketching out how they would address any number of catastrophes including but beyond climate change.

“We see it as broader than that,” Coleman says. “It’s really about how cities are able to deal with shocks and stresses. Those could be climate-related, or more general weather-related. But they could be other natural disasters like earthquakes. They could also be things like financial shocks and stresses – something we’ve seen a lot of over the last few years. Or health crises. Really anything that is going to test the city and its response.”

The foundation is thinking about the long term:

“We feel that having someone specifically tasked with thinking about and acting on and planning for resilience will mean that other people within the city government will need to pay – and will be required to pay – attention to the issue,” he says. “They won’t be able to ignore it. Or, what tends to happen more often is not that it’s ignored, but it’s put on the back burner because it’s not seen as a priority until something happens.”

Maybe this will be one of those jobs that becomes obsolete through its own success: When “resiliency” is baked into everything a city does, we won’t need resilience officers any more.

I have to admit, I’d love one of these positions.  I also have to admit, that the best individuals for the job would be both well versed in the concept of resilience while also being among the movers and shakers in their local governments.  This will not be an easy position — inherently tough choices will be faced, no matter the local conditions.  It will, or at least should, require some level of political acumen that can best provide an opportunity for resilience-related initiatives to blossom.

For now, Rockefeller is unaware of any city already hosting a job quite like this one, so it’s hard to say exactly how the role will work (or what a qualified candidate might look like). Perhaps some mix of urban/transportation planner and sustainability officer and emergency manager? All of those jobs already exist, so it will be interesting to see how the people who hold them view the arrival of this new official tasked with reporting directly to the mayor.

(h/t to Dawn Scarola for sharing this concept and article.)

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Pingback by A Chief Resilience Offer for Every City? | Recovery Diva

May 15, 2013 @ 5:38 am

[…] the posting on HomelandSecurityWatch blog on this topic.  Unlike the author, Arnold Bogis, I would not want the […]

Comment by Rubin, Claire

May 15, 2013 @ 5:39 am

I reposted this on RecoveryDiva.com.

But I would not want the job!

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2013 @ 6:35 am

Mayors will applaude and Governors will boo!

A great idea IMO and different than any other job now existing but not necessarily one that will dominate or choke off other efforts.

And of course knowledge of the energy, water, and other sectors mandatory. Perhaps the conversion of public utilities into private utilities throughout the 20th Century needs reversal. This is the type of question and issue and policy that certain non-profits often funded by the private sector don’t want studied or researched.

For a while the Ken Lay’s and Jeff Skillings owned sector of the US government and the questions are how and why?

No the tough research is almost never done anymore and even acadamia is owned.

Notice that you might think CP [critical infrastructure protection] was part of resilience but after mouthing the erroneous factoid that 85% of critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector CIP almost never tied to resilience.


Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2013 @ 7:31 am

Most corporations of any size have an Assistant VP for Risk Management. Usually in the past these were positions filled by those with knowledge of insurance and litigation risk issues. Perhaps private corporations need to look at establishment of a VP for Resilience?

Comment by JD

May 15, 2013 @ 8:35 am

A failure of the profession of emergency management to fulfill its leadership position in this arena?

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2013 @ 8:59 am

Good question JD but not IMO! Some person asked several weeks ago for FEMA’s earliest definition of EM! So far I have had no success but have sicked the Disaster Research Staff at the Univ. of Delaware on it. I have of course my own definition of EM which is posted on my website at http://www.vacationlanegrp.com !
And my definition is more of a Public Administration discipline one with major major assitance from other disciplines. And as always I focus on the word “Management” in “Emergency Management”! And I believe HS is in reality the total field of “civil security”! Again check my website.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2013 @ 9:12 am

JD perhaps also of related interest!

Deadly Indifference: The Perfect (Political) Storm: Hurricane Katrina, The Bush …

A Concept of Homeland Security Functions – Vacation Lane Group


William R. Cumming, J.D., Claire B. Rubin, M.A. & Irmak Renda-Tanali, D.Sc*. DEFINITIONS: Civil Security: …………………………..Protection of physical and cyber …

Comment by AJ Phelps

May 15, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

“That word you keep using… I do not think it means what you think it means.” ~ Inigo Montoya

“Resilience” and its derivatives is my least favorite in a long list of emergency management buzzwords. I hear it over and over again to capture wholly, or in part, the protection, prevention, mitigation, response and recovery mission areas and am afraid it has become an emergency management/response planning catch-all. Like “all-hazards”, I find it to be applied in our nomenclature perhaps a little too liberally.
Even the recent “Resilience Challenge” grant opportunity (http://www.resiliencechallenge.org/2012/index.html) awarded projects all over the board, often with the word “resilience” seemingly arbitrarily smushed into the title. Apparently converting a canteen truck into a communications vehicle is a model project of resiliency. Makes me wonder what is NOT a resiliency activity…
I also shudder at the thought of yet another plan. Do emergency managers not have mitigation plans (reducing or eliminating the impact of hazards in their communities) or recovery plans (that allow their community to quickly return to pre-disaster/emergency conditions and functions)? In my jurisdiction, we are incorporating the mitigation of the effects of climate change on our community into our all-hazards mitigation plan, but have been told FEMA won’t even look at that section of our plan (or our Space Weather mitigation section) because it is not part of their review matrix as a hazard to be mitigated (yet space weather and its impacts are included in FEMA’s daily situation briefs).
I see a lot of potential duplication of effort with a CRO position, as opposed to consolidation of effort. Concepts that I associate with resiliency (like recovery and mitigation) fit squarely on my plate as an emergency manager provided the focus is on the manager side of the title, are addressed through a collaborative planning process with SMEs, and should be included in existing planning programs. Unless the word “resilience” does not mean what I think it means. Inconceivable.

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Resilience: Stop the virus now?

May 23, 2013 @ 12:11 am

[…] Last week Arnold Bogis pointed us to the Rockefeller Foundation’s new multimillion dollar effo…. A thoughtful, clearly experienced, and apparently innovative emergency manager responded with at least some annoyance. […]

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Clinton Global Initiative Supports Resilience

September 25, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

[…] Yesterday, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) announced it’s support of the “100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge” first put forth by the Rockefeller Foundation.  As a reminder: […]

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