18 January 2009

Vigilance: Human Factors of Complacency...

Two days from now, Washington, DC will be in the midst of a historic Presidential Inauguration and President Obama will be moving into his new house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The day after, on January 21, 2009 our Operational Risk Managers from across the spectrum of government will be looking to set their respective agendas for the next four years. The outgoing administration is quickly getting their new offices set up with lobby shops and law firms to continue their power agendas. Some are headed to the private sector, to return to their roots in business.

Regardless of the complexity and the change factors associated with all of the political fan fare, there are still "Black Swan" risks to our economic and global vitality. These operational risks continue to interface with Homeland Security, the Department of Defense (DoD), Treasury, Justice, and the State Department priorities. It all exists with great anticipation.

The United States will continue it's quest to secure the homeland from foreign and domestic terrorism. She will defend our allies against the aggression by other rogue states or countries in political turmoil. She will work harder than ever before to help other nations rebuild or build the foundations for economic stability, democracy and the rule of law. So what has or will change in the next four years in the context of Operational Risk Management?

It's almost like the feeling when you lose a loved one, to some catastrophic event. Or hear the news from a co-worker that your boss is being indicted for some corporate financial malfeasance. There is a feeling of despair and uncertainty. The event and sudden impact brings on a form of decision paralysis. Everyone starts to question each other and there is a tremendous amount of finger pointing on what could have prevented or what caused the incident to occur.

What will change for Operational Risk and managing the current and yet to know "What If's" is that it can't be ignored any longer. In analyzing the 1-in-a-100-year event, people have to go far beyond the mathematical equations and start looking at human behavior. Operational Risk managers across our international governments and business will now realize that even the "Human Factors" in Operational Risk can't always be counted.

Writers Wilber and Smith from the Washington Post have this to say about a vital component of our continued national risk management vigilance:

"A special federal appeals court yesterday released a rare declassified opinion that backed the government's authority to intercept international phone conversations and e-mails from U.S. soil without a judicial warrant, even those involving Americans, if a significant purpose is to collect foreign intelligence.

The ruling, which was issued in August but not made public until now, responded to an unnamed telecommunications firm's complaint that the Bush administration in 2007 improperly demanded information on its clients, violating constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The company complied with the demand while the case was pending.

In its opinion, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review ruled that national security interests outweighed the privacy rights of those targeted, affirming what amounts to a constitutional exception for matters involving government interests "of the highest order of magnitude."

Our greatest threat to national security or business and global economic welfare may well come down to the ability to mitigate complacency and a lack of vigilance. A high degree of complacent people, working in an environment of non-vigilance, could set the stage for those human factors to play a major role in exploiting our vulnerabilities as a business and a nation.

The weight of protecting our nation from economic tidal waves and well trained non-state actors is a tremendous responsibility. Operational Risk Management will continue to be a vital aspect of all the existing and new decision makers over the next four years. Becoming ever vigilant and eliminating complacency will keep us from falling victim to the risk of "Human Factors". Gods speed to the 44th Presidency!

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