Continuity of Operations Planning and E-Government

Continuity of Operations Planning and E-Government

R. Eric Petersen (Congressional Research Service, USA) and Jeffrey W. Seifert (Congressional Research Service, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-947-2.ch037
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Abstract

Continuity of operations (COOP) planning, sometimes referred to as disaster recovery planning, business continuity planning, or business resumption planning, is a segment of contingency planning that refers to the internal effort of an organization, such as a branch of government, department, agency, or office, to assure that the capability exists to continue essential operations in response to a comprehensive array of potential operational interruptions. In government, COOP planning is critical because much of the response to an incident might include the maintenance of civil authority and infrastructure repair, among other potential recovery activities. All such efforts presume the existence of an ongoing, functional government to mobilize, fund, support, and oversee recovery efforts. In an emergency, government is likely to need to ensure the ability to communicate with internal and external constituencies. This function is becoming associated with electronic government. For example, many people in the United States and elsewhere, when searching for information and guidance following the September 11, 2001 attacks, turned to government agency Web sites. Beyond such extraordinary examples, the growing public expectations of e-government has put additional pressure on the need to reconstitute systems quickly after an interruption to minimize any disruptions and financial costs associated with a major infrastructure failure. Government COOP planning may be regarded as a “good business practice,” and part of the fundamental mission of agencies as responsible and reliable public institutions. Comprehensive contingency plans, perhaps once viewed, at the least, as optional and, at the most, as a prudent measure, are now seen as an integral part of developing and maintaining an agency’s capacity to carry out its essential functions. Continuity planning professionals assert that the perception of a changing threat environment and the potential for no-notice emergencies, including localized acts of nature, accidents, technological emergencies, and military or terrorist attack-related incidents, have increased the need for COOP capabilities and plans that enable agencies to continue their essential functions across a broad range of potential emergencies. COOP planning can be viewed as a continuation of basic emergency preparedness planning, including evacuation planning, and serves as a bridge between that planning and efforts to maintain continuity of government in the event of a significant disruption to government activity or institutions. In the aftermath of an incident, initial efforts typically focus on safeguarding personnel and securing the incident scene. Subsequently, attention focuses on reestablishing critical agency operations according to a COOP plan. Because the number and types of potential interruptions are essentially infinite, effective COOP planning must provide, in advance of an incident, a variety of means to assure contingent operations. In the context of e-government, the heavy reliance upon information technology to carry out mission critical tasks and provide other citizen services highlights the need to ensure these assets are robust, protected, backed up, and resilient to interruption. COOP is not a new idea. While contingency planning has gained considerable attention in recent years due to heightened security concerns and increased dependence on information technology, modern government continuity planning has been practiced, in one form or another, for several decades. What may now be emerging is a recognition that all organizational assets, in the case of government, this would include leaders, civil servants, and information infrastructures, must be incorporated into organization-wide contingency planning.

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