Thursday, December 8, 2011


Lessons from 1942 for ERM
Practitioners in 2012

  The following came to me as an email. I don't know the sender, but the information, if given some thought, can relate to what we see everyday. Aside from formatting the file it is "as received."

"Remember Pearl Harbor - Keep America Alert"

"Remember Pearl Harbor - Keep America Alert" is the is the motto of the Pearl Harbor Survivors, who sadly will disband this year.

As we reflect on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I'd like to share a piece of an old report with timeless lessons, the

25 Deficiencies from the 1942 Pearl Harbor Congressional Report.

Perhaps you'll find something here you can use in your role preparing Americans for the worst.

These brave men remind us, as George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

Below are those 25 deficiencies - how far have we come?

Thanks to all who demonstrate what it is to be a hero, and to you who pledge to live in honor of their bravery.


The Failures

  1. Organization
    Multiple parallel organizations with ambiguous authority

  2. Assumption
    Information-sharing convention is not known or understood, but appropriate sharing to avoid disaster is assumed

  3. Omission
    Information-sharing distribution is incomplete, people and entities excluded

  4. Verification
    Commands/information sent, no follow-up to ensure understanding and action, capabilities or actions are assumed and not verified

  5. Supervision
    No close supervision to verify understanding and predictable action - compliance assumed

  6. Alertness
    Heightened alert is undermined by repeated training and exercises

  7. Complacency
    Vigilance relaxes from the day-to-day lull of business as usual; a "what-could-happen ?" attitude

  8. Intelligence
    No centralized intelligence services with tailored dissemination of intelligence products; too many independent sources of collection and analysis

  9. Attitude
    Superiors do not engage in open dialogue with peers and subordinates; the superiors act superior (arrogance)

  10. Imagination
    "Worst-case" scenarios not included in preparedness and response planning

  11. Communications
    Information exchanged is ambiguous, convoluted, or contradictory - no use of common "plain" language

  12. Paraphrase
    Messages altered according to assumption and no verification

  13. Adaptability
    Alert and response thresholds are not matched to the known threat environment

  14. Disclosure
    Intelligence so protected that it is inaccessible to those who urgently need it, rather than converting products to actionable information while protecting "sources and methods"

  15. Insight
    Inadequate understanding of the threat and capabilities to address this threat lead to underestimated risk

  16. Dissemination
    Information is not provided to subordinates who need to know

  17. Inspection
    Leaders do not know or understand their personnel and critical systems

  18. Preparedness
    Prepare for consequences of what a threat might do, instead of what it can do

  19. Consistency
    Official direction is contradicted by unofficial speculation from authorities

  20. Protectiveness
    Individual or organizational one-upmanship for real or perceived self-benefit

  21. Relationships
    Personal friendships inhibit identification and resolution of deficiencies or gaps

  22. Priority
    Failure to prioritize critical needs over day-to-day activities

  23. Reporting
    Subordinates fail to report information up the command chain

  24. Improvement
    Failure to identify gaps, particularly in worst-case scenarios, and correct them

  25. Delegation
    Responsibility is delegated with inadequate authority to act

Hope you'll find this of use; you are of course welcome to share...

From: Interoperability in Critical IT and Communication Systems

Dr. Bob Desourdis cites in his book quotes from the Congressional After Action investigation & report of 1945/46 on the failures of Pearl Harbor. Sharing as food for thought.


Michael Walker

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