Having been fortunate enough to work in both the private and public sectors, I have been honored to work in both environments with an appreciation of the necessary skills to navigate both worlds. The recent events this past week of a cyber-attack on a pipeline should not be a shock to anyone. In fact, I will say that if the private sector does not start taking heed to what the federal government has been trying to do with their former National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), which evolved into the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), I dare state that government will evoke (which it does not normally want to do) government regulation to force the private sector to protect itself.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is composed of many organizational elements with a single purpose: to enable, support and expedite the mission-critical objectives of DHS’ seven operating components and directorates to protect our most valuable asset – our citizens. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Secret Service (USSS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and CISA (formerly NPPD) are the major organizations chartered within the department to coordinate the transition of multiple agencies and programs into a single, integrated agency focused on protecting the American people and our homeland.
The operating components and directorates work closely with, support and are supported by a large network of first responders at the state, local, tribal and territorial levels, along with the critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) owners and operators. Are you aware that about 85 percent of CI/KR is owned by the private sector? These groups comprise DHS’ stakeholder community and play critical roles in planning, preparedness, response and recovery efforts of DHS. The DHS stakeholders rely on the support of its many organizational elements to ensure mission success and address challenges confronting these stakeholders. Among the challenges facing DHS when I was there was how to gather and refine the needs and requirements of its various stakeholders, who represent a wide variety of mission spaces and operating environments, in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
A few years back, I published an easy-to-read guide that is simple and straightforward to enable a reader (in either the private or public sectors) to effectively engage with the Department of Homeland Security in a simple and straightforward way. This resource facilitates methods to articulate detailed operational requirements and define mission problems effectively, specifically those of the CIKR community. Readers will be able to better understand stakeholder interaction channels through various organizational elements and learn how to improve the communication of their needs and requirements to others in DHS, other federal agencies, or the private sector.
Requirements form the cornerstone of understanding challenges faced in providing the capabilities necessary to complete critical objectives in both the public and private sector domains. Requirements further enhance one’s ability to communicate those challenges to those who can best begin to address them. We can improve this situation by implementing some fundamental practices in a disciplined manner so that requirements are both gathered and disseminated through the proper channels within a private sector organization, or with external audiences, when appropriate.
A well-written requirements document or articulation can be an effective tool to relay the needs of a given group in an easily understood format. Clear and consistent communications help to avoid the countless hours of time, money and other resources spent guessing about needs that are not clearly defined. Research conclusively shows that the foremost reason programs or projects do not succeed is due to a lack of detailed requirements at the initiation of a program or project. Delays in bringing needed capabilities to the hands of those who need them most are not acceptable for those whose missions are critical to the protection of the American people and the critical infrastructure and key resources that support our everyday lives. Efforts invested early to develop a clear understanding of requirements pay dividends in the positive outcome of programs – not to mention the savings in both time and money in corrective actions needed to get a program back on track (if it is even possible!).
To that end, this book is an introduction to working within a private-sector organization, as well as government entity like DHS and its organizational elements responsible for assisting CIKR owners and operators, with an easy-to-follow template that will enable the generation and articulation of detailed operational requirements. Included are several real-world examples of well-written operational requirements documents (ORDs) that show how complex challenges can be articulated. In the numerous appendices accompanying this book, one will find articles and briefings that provide additional context to the role that creating detailed operational requirements plays in effective product realization. The purpose of this resource was simply to open communication between DHS’ stakeholders and the department through positive interactions that lead to actions taken to address the needs and requirements of all stakeholders, whether they be direct DHS field agents, our nation’s first responders or critical infrastructure and key resources owners and operators.
To summarize, tools are available to assist the private sector reach out to governmental organizations like DHS. It is my fervent belief that it is better to be a “part of the solution” than have a solution provided by government – which will likely happen if the government and private sector do not start working together on the serious issues and vulnerabilities facing our CIKR that we witnessed this past week.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email [email protected]. Our editorial guidelines can be found here.