Guidehouse & AFERM Release 2020 Federal Enterprise Risk Management Survey

Sixth annual survey discusses effect of COVID on Federal ERM

WASHINGTON, DC – October 6, 2020 – For the sixth consecutive year, Guidehouse and the Association for Federal Enterprise Risk Management (AFERM) have collaborated to survey Federal government leaders and staff for their insights into the current state of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) in their organizations. Results of the 2020 survey, released at AFERM’s 13th Annual ERM Summit, show the impact of COVID-19 on the Federal ERM community.

Fifty percent of respondents indicate that their ERM program has been “Extremely Engaged” or “Highly Engaged” in their organization’s response to the pandemic. Organizations with CRO-led ERM programs are almost twice as likely as others to be “Highly Engaged” or “Extremely Engaged” (65%) versus organizations with non-CRO-led programs (39%). Only 28% of organizations had a pandemic or similar health emergency on their risk profile prior to 2020, and nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents are anticipating implementing changes to their ERM program specifically in response to the pandemic.

“ERM continues to exhibit performance levels that are still reflective of an emerging capability in the Federal space, although incremental positive trends are evident across most of the areas measured in the survey,” said David Fisher, Partner and Risk Consulting Leader at Guidehouse. “With the uncharted territory faced during the pandemic in particular, there are challenges – as well as opportunities – for CROs and management to pursue actions that add value for their enterprises, both in the moment and for the long-term.”

According to the survey, “Cyber security/privacy” remains the top risk area receiving the greatest management attention. It is also #1 in terms of greatest perceived current risk and perceived future risk for Federal agencies. “Operational/programmatic risk” and “Human Capital risk” round out the top three in each of these categories.

Other key findings include:

  • Similar to last year, the top three barriers to establishing and maintaining an ERM program remain the same: “Bridging silos across the organization,” “Rigid culture resistance to change,” and “Executive level buy-in and support.”
  • Just under 83% of this year’s respondents indicate working in an agency that has a formal ERM program, up from 77% from a year ago and the highest level of ERM adoption in the history of the survey.

Those organizations that incorporate ERM requirements into the performance plans of their senior executives, and those that have been operating an ERM Program for more than three years, demonstrate the highest correlation with successful outcomes.

“We continue to see the positive change in the agencies that have invested in a chief risk officer to run their ERM program,” added Fisher. “CROs are uniquely suited for dealing with a crisis such as the current pandemic. To avoid another kind of crisis when resuming operations, someone should be analyzing these risk areas, anticipating likely scenarios, and developing risk responses that can be deployed in a proactive rather than reactive way. The organization’s CRO is perfectly suited for this responsibility.”

To access the 2020 Survey results and dashboard, including the self-service opportunity to apply filters for more targeted queries against the full data set, please visit:  


AFERM is the only professional association solely dedicated to the advancement of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) in the Federal government through thought leadership, education and collaboration. AFERM provides programs and education about benefits, tools and leading practices of Federal ERM and collaborates with other organizations and stakeholders to encourage the establishment of ERM in Federal departments and agencies. For more information about AFERM, please visit

About Guidehouse

Guidehouse is a leading global provider of consulting services to the public and commercial markets with broad capabilities in management, technology, and risk consulting. We help clients address their toughest challenges with a focus on markets and clients facing transformational change, technology-driven innovation, and significant regulatory pressure. Across a range of advisory, consulting, outsourcing, and technology/analytics services, we help clients create scalable, innovative solutions that prepare them for future growth and success. Headquartered in McLean, VA., the company has more than 8,000 professionals in more than 50 locations. Guidehouse is a Veritas Capital portfolio company, led by seasoned professionals with proven and diverse expertise in traditional and emerging technologies, markets, and agenda-setting issues driving national and global economies.

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