With the full range of stakeholders who depend on public warning, the need to cultivate public-private partnerships seems obvious. Because the success of public warning is contingent on information sharing between federal, state, local and corporate entities, complex obstacles stand in the way. Corporations are concerned about preserving the confidentiality of certain types of information that allows them to remain competitive. They are also concerned about the potential cost of homeland security measures and the forecasted gains or losses that would result from their integration into a national warning system. The Partnership for Public Warning makes an effective argument for how best to integrate the corporate sector into a public warning system by advocating “market-based solutions:”
Industry needs a clear statement of government intent and clearly articulated standards that specify required interoperability for a national warning capability. Industry will be naturally motivated to augment basic interoperability with competitive capabilities and refinements. Industry also needs an official stream of all-hazard warnings that industry can deliver without liability for the content.
Information that is critical to public warning should be freed of liability issues, whether publicly or privately generated. Indemnifying corporations against liability when they contribute information to government authorities that is useful in enhancing vulnerability analyses, and in assisting with counter-terror investigations requires legislative, executive and organizational solutions if corporate intelligence is to be integrated into public warning. Maintaining trade secrets is vital to that effort. When the government requests that corporate information be shared—whether it relates to databases, sales trends or telephone records—an immediate area of concern that emerges within the mind of a CEO is how proprietary information can be safeguarded.
Special care, however, must be taken to ensure that when a corporation releases information that it is not doing so to evade or gain immunity from federal oversight, penalty or prosecution. Checks and balances are therefore critical to the long-term success of the system, as well as to its credibility. The potential for leaks in such a framework, while very real, can nonetheless be mitigated by keeping the congressional oversight audience limited to a core group of congressmen and senators—and by aggressively investigating the unauthorized release of sensitive information when it occurs.
Profits and losses will also remain a prevailing core concern for any corporate involvement in public warning and information sharing. Tom Ridge states: “The corporate focus will always be ROI [Return on Investment]. Many things can be done to make public warning attractive to corporations but it requires creative, innovative solutions.” Andrew Lundquist, former Director of the National Energy Policy Development Group agrees:
Private and public companies don’t want to increase their costs. If you can prove long term cost savings, possibly through lower liability and insurance protection premiums, corporate leaders are more likely to quickly fall in line. If you can find a way to spread out liability, that may be a way to drive it. Another concern of corporate leadership are government ratings regarding compliance—tailoring public warning and homeland security programs so that they evaluate compliance to government programs is also an effective approach to consider.
Business advisory councils are a method DHS has taken in finding these solutions.
Collateral benefits to business advisory councils are the habitual relationships that are formed as corporate and governmental officials assemble and search for mutually beneficial solutions.