Covenant Park is proud to have a 100% success rate in our contract performance and customer satisfaction – a validation of our solid and growing reputation. We have:
- successfully completed contracts in support of critical federal missions in all three branches of federal government;
- directly managed efforts at five federal departments and agencies with responsibility for our nation’s homeland security, national response, financial security, global financial transactions, and legislative and judicial branch physical operations;
- been selected as a teaming partner on over 22 winning proposal bids;
- successfully completed global commercial and large association contracts in the mining, rail transportation, port operations, financial, and veterans support groups; and,
- developed strategic teaming partnerships with key national security communications and multi-billion dollar corporations related to cutting edge physical security initiatives.
Over the past few months, we have witnessed the ”Pushmi-Pullyu” of Big Tech controls and their political influence/power of digital platforms, legislative hearings on their control, public outrage, alternative platforming, censorship, etc. etc. Some may recall that Hugh John Lofting freely wrote the fantastical stories of Dr. Doolittle for his children from the British trenches of WWI. While we are not living in a fantastical story the inherent conflict represented by opposing heads on the llama should make us all wonder how these forces eat at the same time…and, curiously, how do the forces purge afterwards? I should say now: this is not a political commentary. It is however a perspective of resilience as pertains to the risks of digital platform reliance.
It would seem easy to write about this right now after high profile platforms have made history-making decisions over the past few days. BUT the recognition of their broad authorities and critical capabilities has been a recognized risk for many years; this is not new.
Philosophically digital platform reliance is not unlike any other concentration of power. For example, John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, made the statement famous “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We have probably heard this a few times in our professional careers; and sadly, some of us have witnessed this firsthand. In the same letter to the Bishop Mandell Creighton, April 5, 1887, he noted that “great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority.” What does this have to do with resilience and digital platform risks? Glad you asked…
These statements do not mean those in a position to have great influence will always be bad. They do mean the probability is high enough that a society that does not have anything in place to protect itself is going to suffer negative consequences.
Noting the ACLU’s warnings of Big Tech’s ‘Unchecked Power,’ Jack Davis from the Western Journal states, “For months, President Trump has been using social media platforms to seed doubt about the results of the election and to undermine the will of voters. We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions – especially when political realities make those decisions easier.”
Moreover, Mr. Davis continues, “Gregory P. Magarian, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said he is uneasy with the ability of Twitter to send any voice into limbo. “I want a wide range of ideas, even those I loathe, to be heard, and I think Twitter, especially, holds a concerning degree of power over public discourse,” he said, according to The New York Times.”
Back to Mr. Dalberg-Acton, he said “history is the arbiter of controversy, the monarch of all she surveys.” I wonder how history will arbitrate the current digital platform circumstances.
Collectively…citizens, business leaders, employees/employers, industry, government officials, and yes, Big Tech, along with the rest of the world reliant on digital platforms, are all at risk. What if our ability to market, develop new products, share research, and proclaim new discoveries, announce new policies and laws, speak to the nation, lead a revolution, etc. are silenced? Imagine if Moses could not tell the people where they were going; Abraham Lincoln could not tell the world of the evils of slavery; King George VI could not give his country and the world hope while confronting one of history’s greatest evils; Martin Luther King could not affect one of the greatest revolutions in history…Washington, Gutenberg, Luther, Shakespeare, Gandhi, Plato, Jesus, religious leaders, and on and on and on. Imagine if they were silenced by unchecked power.
Imagine if your business lost its voice; so too would your resilience be lost. Having the ability to communicate with the market using the latest tools of digital marketing is critical to many enterprises. While difficult decisions to draw the line and de-platform a business clearly need to be made in extreme cases, what if a group of people small enough to take a cab ride together have the absolute power to de-platform millions of small businesses for any reason whatsoever, or even worse, arbitrarily to advance political power?
This would raise the risk premium on starting any business that substantially depends on the web and result in a de facto picking of winners and losers even at the investment stage. Unless your business and its leadership looked and thought exactly like that small number of people thought they should, even raising capital might become impossible. Even mature businesses would face the ever-present threat of immediate extinction, akin to the risk of arbitrary state action by a corrupt government we used to associate with “other” nations.
And the options for individual businesses to hedge this risk become the same. In the absence of a diversity of digital infrastructure options, making sure you do precisely what is demanded of you by the owners of those infrastructures becomes necessary to stay in business. Leaving aside the political issues, my concern is it will simply make our nation’s economy more brittle and vulnerable, one business at a time. I leave one parting Doolittle quote: “You should never believe anybody who goes around telling the truth. They’re not to be trusted.” (Mathew Mugg, Dr. Doolittle, 1967) END
Curtis Bartell is the President and CEO of Covenant Park Integrated Initiatives, Inc and Majority Partner of Covenant Park Preparedness Systems Integration, LLC.
 Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, April 5, 1887 Transcript of, published in Historical Essays and Studies, edited by J. N. Figgis and R. V. Laurence (London: Macmillan, 1907)
 ACLU Breaks with Liberal Establishment, Warns America of Big Tech’s ‘Unchecked Power’ After Ban of Trump and Conservatives, Jack Davis, Western Journal, Published January 10, 2021 at 10:41am
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
If this is the first time you are reading something from me, let me introduce you to a phrase I coined in the early 2000s: “resilience (and continuity) is blind to the catalyst.” My oft-repeated comment was to present an alternative to the emergency management foundations that were creeping into the continuity lexicon, whereby contingency planning is typically done with a “commensurate with the hazard” or “capabilities-based” approach. Resilience is and must be viewed with a much higher level of consideration…and NOT limited to specific hazards or capabilities. As I most certainly just ruffled feathers of some of my dearest and most deeply respected emergency management professionals, let me explain.
Resilience is not an element or subcomponent of emergency management. For that matter, neither is continuity, security, critical infrastructure, business operations, disaster recovery or a host of other contingency disciplines. In fact, each of them is best seen as a subcomponent of resilience – i.e., if all these elements were combined around a common risk framework, they would make up the entirety of an effective resilience program. (See the following previous article: Rock Around Resilience)
Why does this matter? Because, while each of these disciplines are designed to address certain types of risk, individually they cannot achieve the common sustainment of a company or organization. For example, if you sustain all the critical infrastructures (water, power, HVAC, systems, communications etc.) on which an organization depends but have no personnel available to conduct their functions, your organization is not resilient. You may proudly claim your toilets function, lights turn on, temperature is controlled, the computers and phones work…and maybe have a great emergency management program as well. Compliance nirvana…but you ain’t got bupkus without people. People first. (see Corporate Resilience During a Pandemic Corporate Resilience During a Pandemic)
Let us look rationally…a lot of well-intentioned, ill-informed decision makers do not even distinguish between the aforementioned disciplines, much less integrate them into a cohesive, risk-based program. Organizationally, how many times have we seen the security office charged with continuity and emergency management functions? We completed a market/organizational survey for a client to answer this question and found that the majority of organizations have some sort of combination of these programs under security. Why you ask? My best assessment is that this happens because security organizations have been around a lot longer and are established with a budget and requisite authorities. There are usually not any functional rationales…nor common risk framework. Here is something to muse: Do you want to have your security director running your organization during a continuity event? Or doing triage during an emergency with injuries? Not in my organization. I want my continuity manager to be as high up in an organization as possible to ensure leadership buy-in on what is really important to continue operations. I would not want a narrow-lensed, sub-tiered manager to be setting priorities that do not likely consider the good of the entire corporation/organization. Also, the continuity manager should be as high up in an organization to manage a program across the risk spectrum and necessarily graying the organizational risk solos…or as we say, to level the risk playing field. Surely there are managers that can consider the myriad contingency disciplines smartly and through an integrated risk framework…but those are few and far between. That is why I started my company: to fill that gap with experts across the contingency arena and develop resilient organizations through repeatable, successful methodologies.
We have stated previously if an organization does a quantifiable, repeatable, and qualifiable risk assessment we can almost guarantee it will make its way to the top of the budgetary food fight queue. Evidence that demands resources…evidence that without resources is an accountability paper trail no decision maker wants to ignore. Evidence that would make even the black cap judge remove their cover in trepidation.
This is all outlined to make the following point: there are many disciplines within an integrated resilience program, none of which are resilience. Each contingency discipline relies on the others to holistically succeed in my view. Therefore, resilience planning, preparedness, and program management should not be weighted down by specific catalysts as the cornerstone foundation. Instead, I am, and have been for decades, advocating for risk scoring so disruptive catalysts can be prioritized and considered against an “anticipated and unanticipated” management imperative. Therefore, resilience should be like blind justice: blind to the catalyst when considering the functional priorities…either they are a priority or not…whether the fire was started by an arsonist or an electrical failure. What difference does it make? Your priorities are your priorities regardless.
Curtis Bartell is the President and CEO of Covenant Park Integrated Initiatives, Inc and Majority Partner of Covenant Park Preparedness Systems Integration, LLC.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Climate change has been in our lexicon for a while now and anthropogenic carbon emissions one of the assigned suspects. More recently our national discourse has focused on varying economic solutions as pertains to climate issues. So, riddle me this: are the proposed solutions based on sound risk management methodologies?
This article is not intended as a turd grenade thrown towards any one solution…I’m simply wondering out loud if scientific and thought leaders crafting the varying solutions have done the hard work to clearly understand exactly what areas/activities on our planet really should be investing in mitigating actions. Here is just one example: there are 5,615 coal fueled power plants (existing or under construction) in the world and all of them are in only eight countries. Closer to home the U.S. has 15 of those and we are not building any more. So, the reader fully appreciates this, let me reiterate: I am not disparaging or any one solution. I am simply raising a concern that large, sweeping laws, concepts, initiatives, and ideas are likely to miss these types of distinctions.
Climate change is an inherently global problem and reducing carbon emissions is posited as an important part of the solution. Policies contained within a nation’s borders must take into consideration emissions outside of that border by those who will not be governed by those policies. Otherwise how can leaders accurately weigh the global benefit associated with the local costs of the proposed mitigation efforts? It is targeted risk mitigation from an exact amount of greenhouse gas emissions — no more and no less than needed. It has already been declared that carbon emissions have an incentivized, tradable value. If reduced carbon emissions are to be monetized, then who will be the beneficiary of that commodity? Pretty sure it will not be the consumers and those most vulnerable to climate risks.
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.
This article from McKinsey & Company is recommend reading and adds some important perspectives and data points to consider as pertains to my thoughts above.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
On 29 October 2020 Mr. William Stemper, Forbes Councils Member put forth a thought piece that goes a long ways towards solidifying why resilience has a more urgent place in our businesses. I commend the article to the readers of this post. While Mr. Stemper focuses primarily on technology at his job at Comcast, he tees up some further, more holistic insights.
The article notes the importance of business continuity strategies, but then points out existing strategies were largely not effective for a pandemic situation that “no one had a script or a formula for handling…” Unfortunately, for too long organizations have built business continuity plans/strategies because they had to or to prepare for next year’s mandated exercise or a looming audit. However, we have demonstrated over the past 20 years why such planning is great for day-to-day business to realize efficiency and become resilient.
I think we can all agree the pandemic has transformed business operations so much it will likely stick. While technology has allowed this transformation to occur with varying degrees of challenge or success, I believe there are ways organizations could better transform by answering the questions of “why” or “what” before technologies can be applied. Mr. Stemper notes “nearly one-third of companies (31%) would have never implemented the technologies they did if not for the pandemic, with 23% projecting it would have taken them one to three years to realize such changes otherwise.”
Why is that? I suggest that to date when the C-Suite sets budgets these sorts of investments often are ignored as prudent business operations decisions…until revenue ceases overnight. For too long resilience-related expenditures have been put in the “insurance policy” column or in the “get the business continuity/emergency planner to go back under a rock” column. Having been a planner in a past life and used the “insurance policy” analogy to my superiors, I am more sensitized now as a business owner. This is not an insurance policy but a survivalist policy…or an industry discriminator policy…or an outlast your competitor policy…or make sure the government survives in the face of any threat policy.
Stemper continues, “While some businesses have capitalized on this moment in time to invest in technologies as a way to survive and create future opportunities, others are still struggling to become resilient and rebound from the pandemic.” This is undoubtedly true…and comprehensive resilience is critical above and well beyond technology resilience. Are the technology investments based on essential functions? Are the investments reducing prioritized risks? If not, the investments are pure folly and lack a fundamental level of stewardship and governance vision.
Mr. Stemper posits three broad Building Blocks towards building resilience through technology:
- Invest in technologies that always get the job done. This paragraph is outstanding. I would simply add, in the context of putting people first, are employers investing in their employees’ home/remote technologies AND home/remote safety and preparedness? If not, putting people (and their immediate household) first in these times, while taking on unique requirements, is still the priority of employers.
- Cultivate an applications-first mentality and then fine-tune technologies to business needs. This paragraph outlines the need to focus on what technologies matter the most in business but seems to be bound by a teleworking environment. Again, I suggest companies need to focus on the why and the what of an organization’s missions and functions to define what technologies matter the most. This seems like a no brainer, but it is this foundational development that is required to even think about solutions…i.e., you cannot buy technology solutions to a problem you do not know yet. I would not buy a baseball glove for a soccer match. Just saying.
- Be prepared for the unexpected.Resilience must transcend any disruption and be “blind to the catalyst” (yes, you may quote me) as I have noted publicly for over 20 years now. Barring an asteroid sending our planet spinning off someplace else in the Milky Way, organizations can and should prepare for the unexpected. But how?
Here is one example. Commercial and Governmental entities in the Puget Sound region know many of the “expected” things that could cause major disruptions: volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, mudslides to name a few. But all of these have one thing in common: they can all be assessed as to their threat, vulnerability, and impact with sound Business Process and Impact Analyses. How does this answer the mail for the “unexpected”? Once you fully understand all of your processes (why do it? who does it? where is it done? what systems or materials are required to do it? how is it done?) you can weigh the risks of each in light of both the unexpected and the things that are reasonable to be expected to determine prudent mitigation investments. Even a global pandemic has been discussed at such length since the SARS and Avian Flu near-misses that there is less excuse than some believe to have been caught flat footed by COVID-19.
Stemper says, “True resilience helps organizations not just bounce back, but bounce forward.” This is spot on. I submit we need to eliminate “new normal” from our lexicon and simply acknowledge that change happens, and we are here to organize it into something useful.
The article references a Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) statement that “…resilience is a key driver of value. Some companies outperform their peers during downturns, while many others lose ground or don’t survive.” BCG is only partly right. I would add, resilience done right is not just a key driver of value, but a discriminator in every industry, every day, in every way.
Thank you, Mr. Stemper, for this worthwhile article and for opening the dialogue to a broader perspective of resilience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Curtis Bartell is the President & CEO of Covenant Park Consulting (www.covenantpark.com), a resilience-specific consulting company in Fairfax, Virginia. Covenant Park capitalizes on extensive national, homeland, economic security contingency planning methodologies to solve complex problems in the real world.
On October 26, 2020 I posted an article on Election Resilience largely to tag onto the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s statement confirming election resilience as relates to foreign/domestic malevolent actors. But I also outlined “true” election resilience ideals and frameworks to counter any vulnerability, disruption, or even questions of integrity. 13 days after election day, lemme ask, were our election processes and systems resilient?
There are many varying perspectives on the voracity of the processes/systems, some of which remain contested and under review. Fortunately, history shows our system of elections accommodates processes to achieve transparency and verification/confirmation, even if it takes some time. Such accommodations are part of a resilient, free republic. As is so oft stated, elections have consequences — so do resilience-free elections.
Tracking recent election news one of the more alarming events was the acknowledgement by intelligence officials of Russian and Iranian meddling in the 2020 elections. While this announcement was probably no surprise to anyone, for me I was interested in Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s actual statement on October 21, 2020 (see link below). Mr. Ratcliffe noted several times that our election system and infrastructure is resilient. To be more exact, he used the word resilience once and resilient twice. Why does this matter? It matters greatly…so long as the word was used to signify the purest definitions of resilience: The predictable provision of essential infrastructure, capabilities, and services through a wide range of changing circumstances, anticipated and unanticipated.[i]
Accordingly, I am not in a place to question whether all 50 election systems/infrastructures are resilient. I’m not even in a place to question whether these threats were anticipated or unanticipated. I am however in a place to ask the questions to validate the resiliency of those systems/infrastructures. What are the threats to those systems/infrastructures? What are the known vulnerabilities to those systems/infrastructures? What are the consequences if those systems/infrastructures are disrupted? Obviously if you are following the bouncing ball I am asking risk-related questions. But there’s more…as a critical function of every state there must be a full accounting for every process involved in casting a vote; further, every process must be scored in accordance with its relative impact in order to prioritize limited resources to rectify. With my Political Science education, I wonder how any function in our electoral systems/infrastructure would not warrant full resource applications. I wonder how our republic could possibly withstand foreign meddling without the full attention of every state’s Attorney Generals/Secretary’s of State and others in securing the entirety of their respective election systems/infrastructures. The problem is complex, but it is most definitely NOT complicated.
As the old adage goes, “elections have consequences.” I suggest a more contemporary adaptation to the adage that “non-resilient elections destroy republics.” If our republic cannot continue to lead the world with resiliency in our elections, who will?
[i] Copyright definition adapted by permission of Mr. Jeff Gaynor, the nation’s resilience policy and program thought leader and experienced resilience practitioner in both public and private entities worldwide.
This article first appeared on LinkedIn.
Take Care of Your People and Your People Will Take Care of Your Business
Dr. Jeremy Boccabello and Curtis Bartell — Covenant Park Consulting, Fairfax, Virginia
As humanity grapples with the spread of COVID-19 globally, the emotional response is to do something, anything, everything. But how do we take that energy and successfully adapt? Most prudent organizations have had on their radar more visible threats like hurricanes, earthquakes, power outages, terrorism, and war. The quiet pervasiveness of a pandemic seems to have caught us by surprise. But is adapting to a pandemic really that different?
The good news is that proven principles still apply. We have many of the right tools (e.g., corporate crisis management, business continuity, supply chain assurance, security, etc.). We still need to know how we plan to address risks and how we will set priorities. COVID-19 has brought to the fore one of the most important tools, which was already growing in importance: protecting the well-being of the people that keep our businesses going. In an economy driven by knowledge and specialized technical skills, our people are the repository of much of the value our customers pay for and essential to both the generation of revenue and the controlling of expenses. Companies are now realizing this once-neglected factor must be front and center in the management of enterprise risk.
Companies have leaned heavily on governments to take responsibility for the well-being of their employees when a disaster emerges. But now the deep relationship between the way a company operates, the well-being of its teams, and its ability to generate revenue is causing many to rethink the prudence of that (often blind) outsourcing of risk. Instead they are assuring the well-being of their teams a part of their operating model. The idea of “Take care of your people and your people will take care of your business” is being raised to a new level of awareness and seriousness.
Robust, risk-based, integrated disaster preparedness systems including a means to sustain personnel in disruptions will in turn sustain revenue drivers, keep customers, and provide a market discriminator.
The following fundamental principles of building resilience still apply as companies work towards operating in a world in which the age-old specter of widespread disease will always be a possibility:
- Know what drives your value and the specific roles your people play in that.
- Know what threatens them, how they are vulnerable, and what it would cost you if you lost them.
- Prioritize the risks to your people based on this understanding.
- Decide, looking together at this picture, on how to invest in ways to reduce that risk.
- Achieve your goal of continuing to drive value in an ever-changing environment.
A new paradigm is emerging in which both the public and private sectors are implementing measures to protect their workforce to keep doing what they do. Each sector faces different challenges depending on the environments to which their teams are exposed. But the path towards a more resilient world will be achieved by integrating a new level of sustaining our people into the way we do business.
Fairfax, Virginia. November 2019.
Covenant Park is pleased to announce an important next step in our growth by consolidating new equipment procurements through our GSA Professional Support Services contract. We will be posting catalog of electronic equipment and technologies specifically designed for security and information gathering/monitoring missions, disaster preparedness, and robust/secure communications. Please visit our PSS Contract GS-00F-430GA for more information and pricing. For more information please contact us.
Fairfax, Virginia. October 2019.
Covenant Park has been tapped to support the White House’s development of the Federal Mission Resilience Strategy (FMRS) development on behalf of the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration. We are proud of our DOE team for supporting this very important and watershed new direction in our nation’s resiliency. For more information please contact us at https://covenantpark.com/contact/.
Fairfax, Virginia. October 2019.
Covenant Park is excited to explore our new partnership with openhealthnews.com. Open Health has established this relationship to allow Covenant Park to lead global and commercial disaster preparedness systems integration and introduce our capabilities and experience to over 1 million readers. Covenant Park has been identified as a leader in the disaster preparedness planning community and bringing real solutions/capabilities/technologies to transition preparedness from reactive to cooperative assistance. Our partners providing water, medical, sanitation, shelter, food, communications, logistics, security, and related needs will help large organizations and communities to sustain lives, even in the most challenging of circumstances. For more information please contact us at https://covenantpark.com/contact/.