Michael Dunaway | Survival Guide: Perspectives from the field

Michael Dunaway, senior engineer, ITS Corp.

Michael Dunaway, senior engineer, ITS Corp.

Rick Steele

At first blush, Michael Dunaway's 27-year career in the Navy, nearly all of it as a shipboard officer, wouldn't seem to be preparation for community service work. Nor would his work as a senior engineer with ITS Corp.'s Noesis business unit.

Dunaway's day job is working on complex military problems, which has included helping the Navy replace the live firing range at Vieques, Puerto Rico, with a system that combines live firing with computer simulations.

But the value of teamwork that he learned in the military and the problem-solving skills he's honed as an engineer are powerful success factors in Dunaway's unpaid job. He is founding chairman of the Chesapeake Critical Incident Partnership in Anne Arundel County and Annapolis, Md. The group's mission is to foster the kind of public-private sector interaction at the local level that is commonplace at the federal level. Local communities are a critical but undeveloped aspect of homeland security, Dunaway said, and he's dedicated to doing something about it.

He spoke recently with Editor Nick Wakeman about community-based homeland security.

WT: Why is community involvement in homeland security important?

Dunaway: We are used to the idea that 80 percent of the critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector, but 80 percent of the talent is out there as well. It isn't at the federal level; it is in the private sector and in the communities. It's in cities and state and local government agencies. We are good at coordinating talent at the federal level, but we aren't as good at it at the local level. We didn't have to be until now.

WT: Why has that changed?

Dunaway: National security had been a commodity provided by the federal government. But it is no longer true that our national security is solely the responsibility of the federal government. Because of the terrorist threat and the general complexity of society, we have to recognize that communities are responsible for a piece of national security. That's the biggest fundamental change since Sept. 11. The paradigm has changed, but we haven't figured out how to solve it yet.

WT: What should be done at the community level?

Dunaway: We formed our group to bring the resources and talents in the private sector into some level of coordination with the emergency management agencies in Anne Arundel County [in Maryland] and the city of Annapolis. What we are trying to do is let the local community organizations tap into resources that are available in the private sector. We are focused on a Hurricane Katrina-type event, but not only how to handle the immediate disaster but also how to handle the economy in the long run.

WT: What should communities be doing?

Dunaway: It depends on the community, but the first thing is to understand what the community's resources are. We're working with the emergency management agencies to solicit input from the private sector on what their capabilities and resources are that could be made available in the event of a large-scale disaster. That could be a company saying, I will provide you with a fleet of six trucks and drivers for a week, or 48 hours of time from my best three IT specialists or 15 pallets of water. Everybody could provide something.

Getting information to small businesses also is important. For instance, we want people to know how to do backup systems for business and financial records. Large companies have that talent, but very few small businesses know how to do that. We want to get that knowledge down into the small businesses, and that makes the community as a whole stronger.

WT: How has your military experience helped you?

Dunaway: One thing about the military is that we do everything as teams. There are no individuals. The military also has gotten good over the last 20 years at working together. The Navy works with the Air Force. The Air Force supports the Army, and the Marines work alongside the Army.

We have broadened the scope of what it means to be a member of the armed forces. It is nothing like it was when I came into the service after I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1973. The military is really good at it now, but it took 20 years. It took a lot of training, a lot of time and a lot of effort. It'll take a generation of effort to get where we need to be at the community level.

WT: How does the employer benefit?

Dunaway: Providing time and talent is an investment by a company in its relationship with the community. But it also strengthens the company, because you are grooming and developing the ability of individuals within the company to think through problems and look at them at the community level.

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