AFERM Association of Federal Enterprise Risk Management

Guest blog from David Emanuel, Active Risk Account Director, US Government reviewing the key messages from the 2012 Federal ERM Summit.


The 2012 Federal Enterprise Risk Management (FERM) Summit was held on September 17-18 in Washington DC and it was a great success on all fronts. The forum brought together risk managers from across the federal government to actively discuss Enterprise Risk Management, its implementation and management.


This summit could not have come at a better time. With the federal government facing the so-called “Fiscal Cliff”, agencies are looking at increased budget constraints, agency realignments, more oversight, an election and an uneasy public. Despite this, agencies have to maintain service delivery, while improving the way they tackle risk, cost & value in challenging times. Managing change and enterprise-wide risks are more critical now than ever, and the FERM summit provided a platform to drive this discussion.


Over two days of great speakers, sessions and panels, a number of key ideas and themes emerged which can help improve the way the US federal government manages risk:

  • Doing more with less – The federal government must learn to deliver results with less funding, and effective risk management can help to make this happen.
  • ERM or GRC? GRC was deemed a software category, where ERM was acknowledged as helping improve agency health and increasing operational efficiency.
  • If you are going to get senior leadership involved in the risk management process, you have to clarify the message of risk and make it personal to them.
  • Risk management should become embedded as the natural way of working, not seen as just an office or department. Organizations need to live risk management and push it out of its silos, across the organization and into the employee base. This enables organizations to get closer to the risks so that something can be done them earlier.
  • Reward the folks that give you bad news early! They are trying to help.
  • Enterprise Risk Management is a journey that takes time and effort, but is worthwhile. You need to get started as soon as possible.


Keynote speakers at the FERM Summit highlighted the need to learn from the examples of improved risk management in the federal space:

  • Vice Admiral Brown of the US Coast Guard described the risk process the Coast Guard went through to get an oil tanker through 300 miles of frozen sea ice to the people of Nome Alaska. It turns out oil and the Alaskan wilderness don’t mix very well!
  • The Honorable Christopher Hart, Vice Chair, National Transportation Safety Board, discussed the process the FAA developed to involve members of the flying community including pilots, manufacturers, air traffic controllers and the regulators to engineer safety and understand risks form the onset.
  • Ret. Brig. Gen. USAF Jim Shamess discussed the need for organizational honesty and leadership from top management to ensure successful risk management.


There were many other great examples of people and agencies in the federal government that really understand ERM such as Michael Lopez at USAF, Debra Elkins at DHS and Vinny Capezutto at the FAA. Such individuals and their teams show what is possible. These ‘risk leaders’ show the way the government needs to move in order to manage risk more proactively, utilize limited resources more effectively and ensure continued delivery of the services, security and prosperity cherished by the American people.


How are you meeting your federal ERM challenges?


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