{Saving Us From DC Ground Zero}

dc

One well-placed nuclear suitcase bomb or nuclear ballistic missile strike on DC and say goodbye to virtually the entire hub of the Federal government. 


As of 2014, there are over 4.2 million federal employees (2.7M in the civilian agencies and 1.5M in the military). 


Over 500K are located in the DC, MD, VA tristate area. 


But it’s not just the numbers, it’s that the headquarters of all the major government agencies are located here. 


While, of course, there are backup sites, and emergency doomsday sites like Mount Weather (48 miles from DC), there is no telling how much advance notice, if any we would have, and who would escape and survive a deadly blow to our capital region. 


And it could be a radiological, chemical, biological, or nuclear (RCBN) attack that does us in…whether from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or other diabolical enemy out there. 


The point is that by concentrating all our federal headquarters and senior leadership and key resources here we are in fact, giving the enemy an easy shot to decapitate the entire country?


While others (like Paul Kupiec in the WSJ) have questioned whether some of the federal agencies can be moved out to other needy cities and communities across the country for economic reasons (to bring jobs and investment) especially those agencies that are actively looking to build new HQS buildings already (e.g. FBI and Department of Labor), to me the far more potent question is one of national security. 


The main advantage of having the crux of the federal government in the DC area is surely one of coordination–the President wants his Cabinet near him and the Cabinet Secretaries want their senior staff near them, and so on and so on. 


So, you get this mass concentration of a who’s who of the federal government in and around Washington, DC. 


But what about the advances of technology? 


Surely, through networks and telecommunications and teleworking, we can support a geographically diverse workforce and do no significant harm to our operating as one.


We’re talking a very big cultural change here!


It’s one thing to have nuclear missiles roaming the seas on attack submarines waiting for orders from Washington, DC and it’s quite another to move the actual government intelligentsia and leadership out from the central hub. 


Let’s face it, in a real crisis situation, with the chaos and panic and transportation overflow and perhaps simultaneous cyberattacks, no one is really going to be going anywhere–especially in a surprise attack. 


If Pearl Harbor (of which we just celebrated the 75th anniversary) and 9/11 teach us anything is that when the sh*t hits the fan, it hits hard and sticks solid. 


Working in the Metro DC area, selfishly, I’d like to say keep the investment, jobs, and great opportunities here.


For the good of the nation and our survival against true existential threats, we’d be much smarter to spread the federal wealth as far and wide across this great nation that we can. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Rejuvenate Like A Starfish

Good video on centralization vs. decentralization.

A spider is the model of a centralized organism or organization–cut of the head and the thing is dead.

But a starfish is the epitome of one that is decentralized–if you cut off one of the arms (it doesn’t have a head) of a Blue Linckia starfish, it just grows another one. And if you cut off all five arms, it grows five new starfish.

So when it comes to organizations, do you want one like a spider, where all power, decision-making, and talent is concentrated at the top, and if you lose your senior executive(s), you’ve lost the innovation or operational effectiveness of the entire organization (think what happened when Apple lost Steve Jobs as an example)?

Or do you want to be an organization that is more decentralized (less hierarchical) like the Starfish–where talent is widely dispersed and work is delegated to the many within. Here the organization’s very survival is not threatened when something happens at the top or to somebody.

In most cases, there is no perfect spider or starfish organization, but more of a hybrid model, where some functions (like HR, finance, communications) are centralized and others are decentralized (based on specific business expertise).

To me the main point here is that an organization is made up of many individuals, and everyone in the organization is valuable; no one person can do everything and we should leverage each person according to their strengths and help them on their weaknesses. This gives each individual and the organization the best chance of rejuvenation and survival. 😉

>Decentralization, Technology, and Anti-Terror Planning

>Given that 9/11 represented an attack on geographically concentrated seats of U.S. financial and government power, is it a good enterprise architecture decision to centralize many or all government headquarters in one single geographic area?

Read about Decentralization, Technology, and Anti-Terror Planning in The Total CIO.

>Decentralization, Technology, and Anti-Terror Planning

>Even though there hasn’t been a successful terrorist attack against the United States since 9/11, we are all aware that terrorists continue to seek ways to harm us. Of course, we have assets deployed nationally as well as internationally to protect our interests. However, there is always more that can be done. And one thing that immediately comes to my mind is decentralization.

The concept of decentralization is very simple. Rather than concentrating all your vital assets in one place, you spread them out so that if one is destroyed, the others remain functional. The terrorists already do this by operating in dispersed “cells.” Not only that, but we know that very often one “cell” doesn’t know what the other one is doing or even who they are. All this to keep the core organization intact in case one part of it is compromised.

Both the public and private sectors understand this and often strategically decentralize and have backup and recovery plans. However, we still physically concentrate the seat of our federal government in a geographically close space. Given that 9/11 represented an attack on geographically concentrated seats of U.S. financial and government power, is it a good enterprise architecture decision to centralize many or all government headquarters in one single geographic area?

On the one hand the rationale for co-locating federal agencies is clear: The physical proximity promotes information-sharing, collaboration, productivity, a concentrated talent pool, and so on. Further, it is a signal to the world that we are a free and proud nation and will not cower before those who threaten us.

Yet on the other hand, technology has advanced to a point where physical proximity, while a nice-to-have, is no longer an imperative to efficient government. With modern telecommunications and the Internet, far more is possible today than ever before in this area. Furthermore, while we have field offices dispersed throughout the country, perhaps having some headquarters outside DC would bring us closer to the citizens we serve.

On balance, I believe that both centralization and decentralization have their merits, but that we need to more fully balance these. To do this, we should explore the potential of decentralization before automatically reverting to the former.

It seems to me that decentralization carries some urgency given the recent report “World At Risk,” by The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism—it states that “terrorists are determined to attack us again—with weapons of mass destruction if they can. Osama bin Laden has said that obtaining these weapons is a ‘religious duty’ and is reported to have sought to perpetuate another ‘Hiroshima.’

Moreover, the report goes on to state that the commission “believes that unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.”

Ominously the report states “we know the threat we face. We know our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing. And we know what we must do to counter the risk.”

Enterprise architecture teaches us to carefully vet and make sound investment decisions. Where should we be investing our federal assets—centrally or decentralized and how much in each category?

Obviously, changing the status quo is not cheap and would be especially difficult in the current global economic realty. But it is still something we should carefully consider.