Resilience Is An Opportunity For Early Bipartisan Success

Curtis BartellIn the past year Mr. Chuck Chaitovitz, Vice President of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has written two very important and insightful articles advocating a national resiliency agenda. The first article, titled Resilience Is Good Public Policy, was published on June 8, 2020 in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog. The second article, titled Resilience Is an Opportunity for Early Bipartisan Success was published on January 28, 2021. I liked the title of the second article so much that I “borrowed it” as the title for this article.

I am adding an expanded perspective of resilience and perhaps drive a broader dialogue. I commend the Chamber for realizing the import of resilience in our economic and business considerations (e.g., general continuity, infrastructure, insurance). I have been advocating resilience for several decades and we need more discourse to move resilience from words to action.

Let's start with a definition: "Resilience (rəˈzilyəns) n. the predictable provision of essential infrastructure, capabilities, and services through a wide range of changing circumstances, anticipated and unanticipated.©" This definition was copyrighted by my good friend Mr. Jeff Gaynor, one of our nation's thought leaders in the resilience arena. His definition comprehends the comprehensive nature of resilience.

As noted in my December 2020 article Rock Around The Resilience Wheel - Continuity of Operations Through Disruptive Change, "there are popular, well-meaning ‘resilience’ initiatives out there." Mr. Chaitovitz is certainly scratching on one of them as relates to infrastructure and insurance/continuity risk. He also suggests climate change is one of the key elements in all resilience considerations. As we have said before and will say it again, "resilience must be blind to the catalyst."

As a society we cannot call ourselves resilient if we tackle climate change alone or hijack "resilience" to only be specifically applied to climate issues, infrastructure, or some sub-element such as energy, cyber, water or transportation. Further, we cannot claim resilience victory simply by folding it into a failed status quo of metric-less "feel-goodery." There is so much more (see above definition again…" infrastructures, capabilities, and services") needing to be done at the local level to further resilience. That said, I would urge the Chamber to pick up where they left off in 2016 as pertains to cyber resilience as continuity of effort is critical for success...but I digress.

Resilience Is An Opportunity For Early Bipartisan SuccessA few months ago, I noted that "If sound risk management methodologies were applied to achieve quantifiable priorities (and quantifiable benefits beyond an unachievable ideal), these sweeping initiatives would be more effectively applied where necessary and limited resources applied smartly; or, applied commensurate with the risk. Quantifiable priorities take all the emotion out of feel-good ideas and really allow the varying solutions to find common ground and focus on what is real, not what might be lurking under the bed."

Mr. Chaitovitz states, "…advancing resilience is a win-win for the environment and the economy, in particular to respond to climate risks to companies and communities." I could not agree more but how do we distinguish between feel-good bipartisan initiatives/cooperation and what is real as pertains to resilience?

It is all about sound, fact-based risk management. Risk management applies to just about anything in life…we calculate risk in our own finances, at an instant as to whether we change lanes or not on the highway, whether we should stand on the top rung of the ladder, cut the tag off "under penalty of law", run with scissors etc. So too should it be to level the partisan playing field --- bring to Congress locally driven, risk-based quantifiable benefits beyond an ideal. We feel safe in saying we are not in favor of Congress coming up with its own solutions…that is a non-partisan ideal we can all get behind. We already know the risk calculus on that and it's not pretty.

Chuck Chaitovitz. Credit - U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The goal with resilience is not simply a climate or infrastructure or mitigation construct. It is the overarching, holistic, continuous achievement of repeatable risk methodologies that are blind to the catalyst of disruptive change and therefore never restricted by one or two threats. Come one risk…come all, resilience has you beat, whether we see you or not.

Special thanks to Mr. Chaitovitz for his call for bipartisan initiatives. It is long overdue. We would strongly encourage however a broader, more inclusive dialogue not limiting resilience to only one or two or three broad issues driven from Washington, DC, nor limit the discussion to "disasters." We believe resilience is for everyday disruptions and all businesses, local governments, on up to the national level.

We dare to make the following challenge: absent a rational and complete look at the entire risk picture surrounding whatever we claim to be bringing resilience to (e.g., climate change, cyber, energy, water, and other infrastructures), individual components are in danger of becoming big, hazy ideals without the critical intent of keeping what is important to our well being operating as things change.

AUTHOR: Curtis Bartell is the President & CEO of Covenant Park Integrated Initiatives, Inc. and Managing Partner of Covenant Park Resilience, LLC. Both companies focus on bringing resilience solutions to federal and commercial clientele, respectively.