by Charles Brooks, Featured Contributor
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 the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.
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.
Editors Note: This Article originally appeared on the MIT Sloan Executive Blog