National Continuity Implementation Plan: great idea but compromising timescales?

Get free weekly news by e-mailBy David Honour, editor, Continuity Central.

As previously reported by Continuity Central (read news story), on May 9 President Bush signed a National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive (the combined National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20) which set in motion measures to implement a National Continuity Policy and to develop a National Continuity Implementation Plan.

The Directive slipped out relatively unnoticed by the mainstream media, yet it has important and positive implications for the future resiliency of public sector operations in the United States. The concepts of a National Continuity Coordinator and a centrally directed National Continuity Implementation Plan are to be welcomed in principle and are something which other countries should look seriously at emulating.

Earlier in the year the World Economic Forum called for such a position to be set up in every government in its ‘Global Risks 2007’ report. This championed the appointment of ‘Country Risk Officers’ who would provide a focal point in government for mitigating global risks across departments, learning from private-sector approaches and escaping a ‘silo-based’ approach.

Two years ago, the Business Continuity Institute also called for the creation of such a position within the UK government. In a statement published in March 2005, the BCI said: “Encouraging good business continuity management is an area where government could contribute – not only giving direct leadership on the huge risks such as terrorism, but also helping to coordinate and communicate low-cost commonsense best practice. The Business Continuity Institute calls for the appointment of a government minister to promote the establishment of a business continuity management culture in the UK."

The United States has taken a lead and has set a precedent, one which other governments should be encouraged to follow.

Having welcomed the concept of the National Continuity Implementation Plan, I feel that concern must be expressed, however, about the timescales for its development. The Directive gives just 90 days for its initial drafting. In that time a consultation must be held with the heads of appropriate executive departments and agencies; goals and objectives must be prioritized; performance metrics by which to measure continuity readiness must be agreed on, as must procedures for continuity and incident management activities, direction for executive department and agency continuity coordinators and guidance to promote interoperability.

The timescales are just too tight and will generate high degrees of pressure; with the very real risk that important areas will be missed or side-lined simply due to lack of time.

While deadlines are important, to rush work of such critical importance is a recipe for a disaster in its own right.

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Date: 18th May 2007• Region: US/World •Type: Article •Topic: BC general
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