By Patricia Cogswell
Innovative. Transformational. Moonshot. Organizational transformation is about finding new and better ways to achieve your mission. Tackling and solving long standing problems. Engaging more successfully with customers and stakeholders to achieve common interests. Creating a culture that links the workforce to your mission, and where the creativity and contributions from your workforce are visible in your mission success.
Successful organizations are able to identify, deploy, and scale new technology, new approaches, or new methodologies to solve long standing needs or meet new direction. In other words, innovate.
Innovation can be a powerful catalyst in the transformation journey. To harness its potential, you must:
In the national and homeland security space, we often use an analytic framework to channel and prioritize our focus.
This analytic framework lets us prioritize which of the prevention efforts we chose to invest in; to counter the threats, vulnerabilities, and risks we face. It also enables us to explain why, in some cases, the right decision is to invest in our ability to respond, should the risk materialize, rather than trying to prevent it. Accurately assessing risks and determining whether to invest in solutions can be particularly challenging when you are attempting to evaluate them across multiple cooperating organizations, with differing decision-making cultures, access to information, risk appetites, and/or access to funds. Most importantly, it can help you identify where you need a game changer – a true innovation – to change the equation.
Public-private partnerships (P3) can be brought more intentionally to a wider variety of security investment needs. Traditionally, P3 constructs were prevalent across infrastructure projects, such as toll roads and bridges. They are now expanding globally, including space travel, healthcare, and community resilience. This is an area with a lot of opportunity.
It is important to note, however, that labeling something as a P3 doesn’t automatically make it work. Some (inside and outside of government) have seen “public-private” as just code for using private sector funding instead of an appropriation to fund agency investments. This view increases the closer the parties are to those areas where the Administration or Congress decided to “transition” activities over the last decade that had been paid for by agencies previously, by cutting agency budgets. In the most concerning instances from a security perspective, the private sector entities have chosen to hold off on investments with the aim of forcing Congress to restore funds. Lack of standards or direction from the Government can also be a hinderance, as private sector entities may be hesitant to invest until such time as the regulatory entity sets the minimum requirements.
Most often, there is a disconnect in one of the calculations listed above. For example, when we used to look to explain threats to critical infrastructure entities, whether new types of physical threats, like unmanned aerial systems, or cyber threats, we would often hear that the overall risk was low (e.g., state sponsored cyber actors would only take proportionate action), or that even if the event occurred (e.g., if a section of pipeline was blown up or an airport IT system was taken offline), there was such redundancy in the system, that it wasn’t worth spending the money to close the gap. These calculations can flip just as fast. However, after Gatwick airport and the airlines lost millions in revenue to an unmanned aerial system incident, airports worldwide have been looking at investments to protect against a similar incident. Similarly, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack has fundamentally shifted the understanding of the risk, and what level of investment is appropriate to insure against that risk. And, sometimes neither the federal government nor the non-federal entities involved have access to the needed funding, or legal framework, and don’t have the political clout needed to sway the entrenched interests.
That being said, there have also been some impressive accomplishments. What is it that makes engagements successful when others don’t?
As we consider what’s next, proactive investment to enable successful P3s – across a diverse set of use cases – would assist in making imagination persistent and sustainable.
Options could include:
Working through these options will better position us for the next 20 years of innovation and transformation, channeling the best of our imagination into action, and positioning us to meet the security and other needs that we will encounter.