June 06, 2013

Scenario Planning in the U.S. Government

A recent article in Government Executive called “Taking the Long View” surveys the state of strategic foresight in the federal government and recognizes the U.S. Coast Guard for its pioneering scenario-planning work in Project Evergreen.  FSG was delighted to read this, as we have been supporting the Coast Guard’s scenario planning work (starting with Project Long View, which became Evergreen) since 1998.  Over that time, hundreds of Coast Guard officers, enlisted personnel and civilians have participated in Evergreen scenario-planning workshops. Evergreen has directly influenced a range of strategic and operational decisions for the Coast Guard.  Last month, FSG facilitated a scenario-planning workshop focused on the Reserves segment of the Service.  Workshop participants explored the meaning and nature of “surge” and “augmentation” in alternative future operating environments (scenarios). 

FEMA is another advanced foresight practitioner mentioned in the article.  FSG and our partner Hassett Willis & Company have been supporting FEMA’s Strategic Foresight Initiative (SFI) since 2010.  SFI has evolved into an important and dynamic vehicle for communicating best planning practices for the emergency and disaster management communities. NASA and the U.S. Air Force are two other U.S. government entities cited in the article that FSG has supported in the areas of futures analysis and scenario-based strategic planning.

While long-term thinking and planning might seem like a luxury in these days of sequestration and extreme spending constraints, FSG takes the opposite view – that thinking rigorously about emerging national needs and requirements is especially important today, with such rapid change, deep uncertainty and complex challenges ahead.  For government planners charged with difficult resource decisions, thinking in a systematic way about what the nation and world might look like in 10 or 20 years should not be thought of as a luxury, but a requirement for prudent decision-making.  Fortunately, our best clients mentioned in the Government Executive article understand this completely.