Wednesday, February 25, 2009

S&T Communications Development

More about the DHS ‘table top’ exercise that is being “designed to facilitate and accelerate the delivery of critical infrastructure protection technologies”. In my earlier blog I finished with a discussion of how we used a what-if review to analyze the things that can go wrong with a new or revised chemical process. And I promised to explain how that ties into this DHS ‘table top’ exercise. Well, here goes, with a little side trip through the US Army Berlin in the ‘70s. War Story Back many years ago when I was a young sergeant in a mortar platoon we got a new company commander in our unit. Shortly after his arrival we had one of those periodic games that a peace-time Army likes to play, a load-out alert. It really was nothing more than an emergency response drill with weapons and camouflage. The call came in and we loaded up all of our combat equipment and parked the vehicles outside the gate, ready for inspection. The new commander did not like how well his new company performed on this alert. He thought we were confused, disorganized and above all, too slow. He was sure that ‘his’ company should be able to get the vehicles rolling out the gate in 30 minutes instead of the almost two-hours it actually took us. All it would take would be a little training. The first thing he did was hold a training session with the leaders of each platoon; the platoon leader, platoon sergeant and each squad leader. We went over in detail what needed to happen to get our platoon loaded out and in the assembly area. At each step along the way he would explain a requirement and we would work out how to make it happen in the most efficient way possible. For example, getting vehicles to the platoon bay to load them up. Assigned drivers need to pick up the vehicles from the motor pool. Oops, all of the assigned drivers lived off post and it would take them twenty minutes to get there. Okay, assign a person who lived in the barracks to get the vehicle. Oops, the vehicle keys were locked in the Platoon Sergeant’s desk and it took him 15 minutes to get there (he lived closer). Okay, give a key to the desk to one of the sergeants (me) who lived in the barracks; no better make that a copy to each of the sergeants who lived in the barracks. After doing that for each of the tasks involved in loading out the platoon, we did a walk through with whole platoon, explaining what each person was supposed to do along the way. After we went through it a couple of times and everyone understood we went back to the barracks and pretended it was early in the morning and did a slow run through. And then repeated that a couple more times. Two weeks later when they called the next load-out alert we made it out the gate in 20 minutes. Table Top Exercises So we have two completely different types of process development that used many of the same techniques. The most important was the sit down in a room and talk about the process in a step-by-step sequence. This allowed a variety of people who would look at the process from their separate perspectives to point out the things that would work and would not work. The input from these collective viewpoints would allow most of the real time problems to be avoided. This is the purpose of any table top exercise. It is used to familiarize personnel with the procedure and work out the kinks in the procedure in an atmosphere where there is no time pressure or safety considerations distracting people from finding an effective way to get things done. Science and Technology (S&T) Division The S&T Division of DHS has the responsibility for developing tools and techniques to protect the homeland. They are there to help solve the problems that crop up in trying to protect the critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) that have been identified as being important in maintaining the ‘American Way of Life’. They cannot, however, be everywhere and see everything needed to identify those problems. They must rely on a wide variety of stakeholder in the Federal, State and local governments and the private sector to identify those problems. Anyone that has ever done any serious problems solving knows that the hardest part is defining the problem. It gets even more complicated when someone else is defining the problem; communications issues cause additional complications. This is the primary challenge that S&T faces in developing procedures for taking problems from other agencies, levels of government and the private sector and converting those problems into innovative tools and techniques to solve those problems. This is the Game According to Leslie Sibick, Chief, Research and Development Project Office at the DHS Infrastructure Information Collection Division this is the process that the ‘table-top’ exercise is supposed to help develop. Their ‘little game’ will put potential consumers of S&T Division services around a table and provide them with a game ‘scenario’. They will then work through the situation, trying to identify problems where the S&T Division can provide assistance. Then they will work through the S&T procedures for submitting that problem. Both the Infrastructure Information Collection and the S&T Divisions hope that this will help their private sector customers understand the areas where the S&T Division can provide assistance and how to request that assistance. S&T should also get at least a couple of issues on which they can start to work. But, more importantly, it will allow S&T to refine their problem identification and information collection process. That is what this game is all about. Anyone in the Nuclear, Chemical, and Dams Sectors that may be interested in participating in this exercise should contact Amy Graydon at

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */