Transitions between presidential administrations, whether within party or across parties, bring significant disruption to the Federal government, but can also create opportunities. New administrations bring changing policies, priorities, and leadership, and it is critical for government organizations to develop transition stories that fit within the new paradigm. When considering how the transition may influence the government innovation framework, it is helpful to research the published priorities of President-elect Trump. As a caveat, I was not involved in the creation of these policies. This analysis is not meant to imply an endorsement of any particular provisions but is instead designed to explore a few key opportunity areas where the policy priorities suggest an innovation mandate:
1. Critical infrastructure protection: President-elect Trump’s cybersecurity policy advocates for the creation of a Cyber Review Team to review cyber defenses and vulnerabilities and to make recommendations to better protect critical infrastructure. In a world where infrastructure across sectors is rapidly converging and cyber threats are difficult to de-couple from physical threats stemming from malicious actors or natural hazards, innovative, cross-disciplinary approaches will be required to protect critical infrastructure from rapidly evolving threats.
2. Cyber workforce training: The Cyber Review Team is also tasked with establishing detailed protocols and mandatory cyber awareness training for all government employees. This recommendation addresses the cyber security wetware vulnerabilitywherein people are exploited to extract valuable information (as opposed to software or hardware vulnerabilities). Effectively training the entire government workforce in cyber awareness to minimize wetware vulnerabilities will be challenging and will likely require approaches such as agile learning to properly tailor rapidly evolving content demands and learning objectives to a diverse audience.
3. Infrastructure resilience and adaptation: The America’s Infrastructure First policy advocates for spurring $1 trillion in infrastructure system investments over 10 years including transportation, telecommunications, water, and energy. In stressing the importance of cost effective and reliable infrastructure systems and leveraging private investments, the policy implicitly creates a mandate for a streamlined and repeatable analysis framework for assessing project risk from a wide range of potential physical and cyber threats and the cost-benefit trade-off of enhancing the resiliency and adaptability of these infrastructure systems prior to construction.
4. Transportation transformation: The America’s Infrastructure First policy also advocates for the incorporation of new technologies (e.g. next generation vehicles) into our transportation system. Achieving this goal requires not only continued technology innovation but also regulatory innovations around topics such as vehicle to infrastructure communication, driverless vehicle insurance, and operating standards.
5. Energy modernization: The call for making America energy independent while protecting clean air, clean water, and natural habitats will require the support, advancement, and incorporation of a wide array of energy sources and production methodologies. While the implementation of Clean Power Plan requirements is uncertain, clean energy technologies like solar and wind along with storage technologies to facilitate their grid integration are becoming increasingly cost competitive. As the performance and economics of a broad range of both power generation technologies and demand side resources evolve, the business strategies, infrastructure investments, and program operations required for utilities and other key industry organizations to operate efficiently will only become more complicated. Innovative energy advisory and program implementation services will be required to optimize value chains and effectively integrate diverse resources.
6. Regulatory analysis: The proposed regulations policy requires all department heads to submit a list of wasteful and unnecessary regulation that kills jobs and does not improve public safety. While the goal of removing unnecessary regulation to improve the operating environment of businesses is laudable, the analysis of the causal impacts of regulations on the economy at large, specific sectors, and state and local business operating environments is highly complex. To enable this type of broad-based regulatory review, streamlined analytical systems will need to be deployed to analyze impacts at multiple geographic aggregations and across a wide variety of connected sectors to compare the impacts of the regulations with expected conditions should the regulations be removed. Comprehensive and effective citizen engagement and comment response will also be required to support the execution of this goal.
7. Digital transformation: Across multiple policies, there is a push to reduce government waste and deliver citizen and business services more effectively without increasing the government workforce. Such a push fundamentally requires government organizations to undergo a digital transformation that leverages modern tools to improve citizen service delivery and provide opportunities to increase self-service capabilities that can reduce staff burdens. As legacy means of delivering resource intensive services become untenable, agencies will be forced to create a new digital and analytics driven future and plot a reasonable course forward that pursues that future without a significant disruption in the delivery of essential citizen services in the present.
The above areas are just a sampling of innovation mandates that will likely be required to address the priorities of the incoming administration. To begin to develop their innovation stories, government organizations can leverage a modified three-box innovation strategy exercise as outlined below:
Box 1 (Optimize the Present): Under the resource allocation scrutiny and pressure associated with the transition, what are your best opportunities to continually improve the delivery of citizen services to make them better, faster, or cheaper?
Box 2 (Selectively Forget the Past): Under the assumption that any transition will necessitate change, what are the roots of your organization that nourish the mission and cannot be cut without significant damage versus the artificial chains that have developed overtime that create inefficiencies and must be released to move forward?
Box 3 (Create the Future): Anticipating potential changes in mission priorities and resource allocations, how can the organization proactively build its future every day to be prepared for opportunities that require more substantial changes (i.e. bigger leaps) in processes or services?
In planning for the priorities and policies of the new administration in the transition period and beyond, the government organizations that best understand their opportunities to optimize the present, selectively forget the past, and create the future in the context of their missions will be best positioned to advance innovative initiatives that deliver maximum citizen value.
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Dr. Michael “Whit” Whitaker is Vice President of Emerging Solutions for ICF International. He is responsible for fostering a culture of innovation where creative thinking, experimentation, prototyping, rapid iteration, and deep understanding of markets, clients, and end-user needs are used to develop new solutions that drive growth and customer satisfaction in rapidly emerging markets. Follow Whit on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn