BENS members have used their business experience to find practical solutions to pressing national security challenges since our founding in 1982. Then, as now, there was a need for a nonpartisan business-minded organization that could cut through ideological debates on national security issues. BENS' results-oriented approach has produced a solid record of achievement. Selected achievements include:
Founded in 2009, and officially launched in March 2010, Warrior Gateway’s mission is to connect members of the military community with organizations and programs in their neighborhoods which provide education, employment, health and wellness services.
Warrior Gateway harnesses state-of-the-art technology and on-line collaboration to assist today’s veterans in making better decisions about what service providers they can go to for help, and creating a public forum to share their experiences about the quality and effectiveness of those services. This innovation was recognized with a Federal Computer Week Fed-100 award for significant contributions to the Federal IT community in 2011.
Thanks to generous financial and pro-bono support provided to the project by corporate, foundation and individual sponsors over the last two years, tens of thousands of service providers have been registered to date in the Warrior Gateway service provider directory.
A new initiative of Warrior Gateway, the G.I. Network, has been piloted over the last year with several non-profit and government partners with the goal of greatly expanding the number of web portals through which the service provider directory can be accessed. The G.I. Network connects over 220,000 support organizations and programs, and millions of veterans, under the largest free network available for today’s military community to find support. For more information, please visit their website: www.warriorgateway.org.
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Defense Acquisition Reform
BENS continues to pursue implementation of its2009 Task Force on Defense Acquisition Law & Oversight. Its purpose was to recommend to the Congress and U.S. Government steps to systematically reform the governance and oversight of the defense acquisition process. The Task Force Report, Getting to Best: Reforming the Defense Acquisition Enterprise, put the impetus for reform on Congress. Successful acquisition outcomes are a result of shared expectations and agreed-upon goals -- as enabled by appropriate laws. The Task Force concluded that the process, not the product for the warfighter, has become the principal focus of the acquisition system and that its shortcomings in the process that must be addressed. The report made 25 recommendations in three areas:
- Improving linkages between the requirements determination, budgeting and acquisition processes
- Removing constraints to defense acquisition workforce excellence
- Requiring adherence to program execution processes aimed at satisfying the needs of the warfighter
Congressional legislation, the “IMPROVE Acquisition Act,” part of the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, contained provisions that tie back directly to the BENS Task Force report.
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Public-Private Disaster Response Coordination
Well before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, or Hurricane Katrina in 2005, BENS conceptualized public-private partnerships as key structures that can strengthen a region’s capacity to prepare for and respond to catastrophic events. In early 2002, BENS began building and facilitating public-private partnerships in eight regions across the nation.
In June 2006, BENS formed a Task Force to recommend steps to systematically integrate the capabilities of the private sector into a comprehensive national disaster response mechanism. Their report, Getting Down to Business: An Action Plan for Public-Private Disaster Response Coordination was released in January 2007.
BENS reviewed the Task Force recommendations in 2011. The review concluded that in the intervening years since BENS’ first assessment, many earlier shortcomings have been or are now being addressed. However, further action is needed to achieve the goals of the original report. BENS discussed its findings, and further recommendations, with U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials.
BENS Kansas City has been deeply involved with planning and exercising for disasters, linking federal, state and private sector resources and personnel. Just 48 hours after participating in a major multi-state exercise in May 2011, a devastating tornado hit Joplin, MO. BENS plans and operations were immediately put into action. According to a FEMA official, the coordination was “a model we want to duplicate.”
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Terrorist Finance Tracking
BENS brought together leaders from the financial community and the federal government to apply the latest techniques and technologies to U.S. efforts to track down and cut off suspicious financial activities that fund terrorism. BENS members have worked with numerous federal organizations, including the U.S. Treasury Department and U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), to improve tracking methods and increase understanding of how cutting edge technology can be exploited by terrorists. Significant BENS work on tackling terror financing includes:
- Improving the Suspicious Activity Report
- Advising USSOCOM and its government colleagues on emerging electronic threats in the financial sector that could be used to launder money or fund terrorist activities
- Participating in the Threat Finance Working Group at USSOCOM’s semi-annual Global Synchronization Conference to advise military and intelligence officials on current and potential threat-related aspects within the financial industry; members attended the conference from 2007-2009.
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BRAC and Base Reuse
BENS played a major role in developing the process for closing obsolete military bases, freeing up billions of dollars in savings and allowing local communities to put unneeded military facilities to more productive use.
The Base Closure and Realignment process (BRAC), based on a concept proposed by BENS member Bill Tremayne, was established in the late 1980s to take the politics out of closing bases. The BRAC Commission, acting on recommendations from the Secretary of Defense, prepares a list of proposed closures and realignments to be accepted or rejected in total by the President and Congress. Since inception, there have been 5 rounds of base closure. From 1988 to 2005, realignment or closure actions were approved at 451 locations.
Despite BRAC’s success, the military still has more bases than it needs, causing a drain on money and resources. We assess that the most recent round of closures (2005) fell short of the goals established: the Defense Department estimates only a 5% reduction in infrastructure (as measured by Plant Replacement Value) out of the 20-25% identified excess. (See BENS Report here)
Realignments, rather than outright closure, have had the effect of creating pockets of underutilized resources on many bases. BENS’ focus turns now from the BRAC process itself to how to help DoD and communities “turn such excess into efficiency.” We continue to advocate pilot programs at specific locations to encourage base/community partnerships to revitalize infrastructure on open bases.
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CIA Compensation Reform
BENS helped the intelligence community harness the best practices of the private sector to recruit and train a high-quality workforce, strengthen analytic methods and deliver timely, accurate intelligence to troops in the field and decision-makers in Washington.
In late 2003, then-Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Executive Director A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, former chairman and CEO of Alex Brown, Inc., came to BENS seeking an independent assessment of a far-reaching compensation reform proposal that would, among other changes, replace grade levels with pay bands for salary determinations, establish “pay for performance” bonuses, and make managers at the intelligence agency more accountable for developing and rewarding their employees.
Performance-based compensation systems and the sorts of evaluation and mentoring programs that are part of their implementation are routine parts of successful businesses. BENS members have had extensive experience in their own companies with “best practice” private-sector pay systems, and many have had experience with the difficulties of implementing new compensation programs.
BENS assembled an assessment panel, headed by BENS member Paul Stern, then-Chairman of Claris Capital. The BENS panel interviewed numerous CIA employees at every level and many other experts, including Defense Department leaders who were implementing a similar reform effort in the Pentagon. The subsequent report provided an unvarnished critique of the CIA’s program. The Panel found it representative of the best of industry practices but also judged that it required significant additional training for managers and workers alike and would benefit from a delayed and carefully phased implementation. Their report, Pay for Performance at the CIA: Restoring Equity, Transparency and Accountability was the main topic of a briefing to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in March 2004.
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Facing the reality the private sector—not government—was pacing the information technology (IT) revolution, the CIA chartered a novel new entity, In-Q-Tel, as an external, non-profit enterprise that would be electronically connected to leading researchers throughout the country, speed insertion of mature technologies, support rapid development of mission critical applications, and enhance the CIA’s ability to attract skills and expertise vital to continued success. At its incorporation in 1999, Congress posed a number of questions regarding this new breed of non-government but government-sponsored activity.
Asked by Congress to lead an independent panel that assessed the CIA’s In-Q-Tel “venture,” BENS concluded that the In-Q-Tel model made good business sense and that their continued success might serve as a model for other government agencies exploring ways to make use of the private sector’s technology. As of 2011, In-Q-Tel had delivered hundreds of technology solutions to the CIA and the broader U.S. intelligence community.
The Report of the Independent Panel on the Central Intelligence Agency In-Q-Tel Venture, Accelerating the Acquisition and Implementation of New Technologies for Intelligence, continues to be the benchmark through which In-Q-Tel and other ventures of its nature throughout the government are evaluated.
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A decade ago (in 2001) BENS released the recommendations of its Tail-to-Tooth Commission comprising business executives, former government officials and retired military leaders to bring world-class business practices to the Department of Defense. The Commission focused on four areas where spending smarter could have a real impact on the Pentagon’s bottom line:
- Acquisition reform;
- Base realignment and closure (BRAC);
- Private-sector partnering;
- Planning, Programming and Budgeting System (PPBS) reform
The Tail-to-Tooth Call to Action contained eleven initiatives complete with roadmaps that described how to get each issue implemented. Tail-to-Tooth seeks efficiencies in the infrastructure and overhead in the Department (the "Tail"), and uses those freed-up resources to preclude severe reductions in operational capabilities (the "Tooth"). The approach is based on two simple but compelling ideas:
- the areas most in need of reform are amenable to best business practice solutions; and
- those business models that have served America’s world-class companies should be adopted by the Department of Defense–saving money that can be reinvested in modernization and other programs.
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At its founding, BENS championed the Cooperative Threat Reduction program that funded the disposal of Russian nuclear weapons. Since 1991, U.S. government programs have targeted the greatest potential source of weapons of mass destruction: the vast and largely unsecured stockpiles of the former Soviet Union. For less than a penny on the defense dollar, American programs secure and destroy those weapons, ensuring they can never fall into terrorist hands. But surprisingly, these cost-effective national security efforts struggle under bureaucratic restrictions and funding shortfalls that hold back their full potential. BENS has a long history of working tirelessly to both highlight the “business sense” such programs make and supporting business-style reforms that streamline and maximize their efforts.
BENS actively supports the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, one of America’s best front-line defenses against WMD terrorism. In addition to securing scores of weapons storage sites, CTR has deactivated or destroyed nearly 7000 nuclear warheads and hundreds of missiles, bombers, and submarines which once threatened the U.S.
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