March 6th, 2009
06:21 PM ET

Debunking the failure myth in the stimulus

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Ken Robinson | BIO
Former Special Operations and Intelligence Officer

The new perceived “crisis” in the stimulus initiative is the claim that there is no way to prioritize projects to get the greatest value from taxpayer dollars.

It’s true that not every “shovel ready” project merits funding. When prioritizing stimulus resources, the hard part is explaining the value of projects beyond how many jobs they create for one or two years.

But this is a manufactured crisis. A unique category of business software already is proving it wrong. The overall category is called “Decision Support Software.” I was using this software ten years ago, for the Special Operations, and Intelligence community. This methodology has successfully allocated tens of billions dollars for DOD, and special programs. But, most important, it left an audit trail, on how the decisions were made, and where the money went. Allowing for a measure of its effectiveness, and insuring due diligence and accountability!

Today, this same decision support software is undergoing innovation for federal stimulus-related decision-making, in organizations ranging from the AMTRAK to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

The reason stimulus project prioritization is complicated is that each project has numerous stakeholders. Each stakeholder has his or her own opinion of why the project is important – how it serves the government, how it serves the taxpayers, and how it can help the company. Weighing these interests is like comparing apples and oranges.

This software smokes out all those agendas, and fixes responsibility, and allows users to see, simply and graphically, how an agency’s money should be spent to best meet those needs.

That same software gives agencies easy-to-understand reporting that they can use to justify their decisions that will pass muster with the stimulus oversight responsibilities that President Obama has given to his Vice President (as the Sheriff of the stimulus).

You’ll find that decision support software companies will not be shy in talking about why stimulus prioritization is a complicated but not unsolvable problem.

This is no longer an American issue, it’s a global economy issue, it requires a process that can defend against earmarks, and actually show the world what the government’s short term goals are (jobs, and economic stimulus), and where the long-term value will be derived.

But, most important, we all deserve to know “where our money is being spent!”

Editor’s note: Ken Robinson is now working as a writer and executive producer in Hollywood.

Filed under: Economy • Ken Robinson • Technology
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