The 3 Most Important Themes for Government in 2023
As the world continues to change, leaders should work together to build trust, resilience and security for the people they serve.
More than ever, leaders in government are called upon to confront formidable risks and challenges, many of which are seemingly unprecedented in pace, scope and complexity. Further, they overlap and interact in ways that are hard to predict. In his recent book, The Power of Crisis, author Ian Bremmer discusses the three “great risks” facing the world today: the next pandemic, the climate crisis, and technological disruption. The bedrock of how the U.S. government and its partners work to mitigate these risks—and others—should be premised upon three key areas of focus: trust, security, and resilience.
Last year, the Pew Research Center reported that only 20% of surveyed Americans trust their government all or most of the time. This low figure compares to a 1964 poll from the American National Election Studies that found 77% of Americans believed their government did the right thing all or most of the time.
Trust is critical to the effectiveness of government programs and missions, yet it’s brittle and hard to rebuild once it has been damaged.
Today’s leaders can adapt to this low-trust environment by taking steps to transform in ways that can help reverse the erosion of trust in government and institutions. For example, many states have made significant investments in curbing health-related misinformation by building networks of organizations to distribute scientifically validated health guidance to the populations that need it most. These nonpartisan activities help people access critical health information, contribute to improved public health, and can build trust between individuals and the government agencies that serve them.
For our leaders in government, the concept of resilience is about the ability to anticipate and respond to adversity while protecting the essential functions and missions of governmental institutions and by extension, our very way of life.
In 2021, the country suffered no fewer than twenty, $1 billion weather and climate disasters causing at least 688 deaths, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And don’t forget cyber incidents — fishing scams, denial-of-service attacks, ransomware, data spills — (pick your flavor) all are on the rise and each demands a level of resilience and coordination not dissimilar to those of the natural variety. Now, imagine they happen all at once, during a global pandemic.
Leading practices in resilience are now rooted in data and simulation to visualize the cascading consequences of overlapping events and call for the development of playbooks to prioritize risk and develop effective, long-term resilience plans.
For example, scientific climate change data can now be connected with other critical information so that government decisionmakers can better understand the impacts of changing climate conditions on people, assets, and communities.
FEMA’s Resilience Analysis and Planning Tool, for example, presents data from the National Risk Index and other sources to show communities across the country where they may be vulnerable. The Risk Index connects related data to show predicted losses from various natural disasters, social vulnerability and community resilience.
With resources such as these, leaders can do even more to strengthen security by protecting people, property and the environment from harm, misuse and abuse — whether physical or virtual.
The critical infrastructure on which we rely has become deeply interconnected through the use of shared communications, software, and hardware, making it susceptible to vulnerabilities on a global scale. To effectively defend against evolving cyber threats, plans should be implemented that foster public-private engagement, understand the incentives of cyber risk, prepare for emerging trends in technology, and leverage data-enabled enterprise risk management to monitor risk.
In November 2022, the White House issued a budget memo directing federal agencies to address the national security risks to America’s networks that will be exacerbated by quantum computers. And at the state level, at least half of the nation’s chief information security officers report having a dedicated budget line item for cybersecurity, according to a 2022 joint survey by Deloitte and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.
Efforts such as these should inspire hope because they demonstrate that important work has begun to prepare for security threats that have yet to be imagined. And, after years of geopolitical conflict, infectious diseases, environmental disasters and technological disruption, we can all imagine a lot more than we used to.
With the impending convergence of the “great risks” outlined by Bremmer, government leaders should keep trust, resilience and security at the forefront of their policy and decisionmaking. By transforming their approach to trust, building collaborative resilience, and planning for security on Day 0, they can navigate future crises and fully realize their organizations’ mission.
Matt Gentile is a principal with Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP and leads Risk & Financial Advisory for Deloitte’s Government & Public Services practice. He was an entrepreneur and former tech CEO in the analytics community and serves on the board of the Homeland Security and Defense Business Council.
Mike Beland is a managing director for Deloitte & Touche LLP and leads Deloitte’s White House team within the Government & Public Services practice. He was the senior counselor and chief of staff within the Office of Infrastructure Protection at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.