How to Build a Managed Network | Part 2

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March 20, 2017

This is the second of two pieces from G. Ed DeSeve’s on building a managed network. Check out his first piece, covering purpose, governance, and structure.


As noted above, the Recovery Implementation Office had no direct authority over the other participants. However, it did have access to the statutory authority of the Act and the authority inherent in the Executive Office of the President. This authority was used to promulgate regulations, broker disputes, and ensure timely cooperation from federal agencies. It was often enough to get agencies to perform by letting them know that “Sheriff Joe Biden” was paying close attention and the President was continually informed.

In the Year 2000 computer conversion effort, John Koskinen provided the essential leadership to a broad network that included both federal agencies and private industry groups. Koskinen established a set of industry-based councils coordinated by federal agencies and consisting of industry members, such the Department of Energy overseeing a council composed of related utilities industries. Koskinen made sure that the resources—including legislation as needed—were made available so that the network members could be sure that the conversion to the year 2000 would go smoothly. Koskinen was sufficiently confident that things would go well that he took a commercial aviation flight that took off before midnight on December 31, 1999 and landed after midnight 2000. While leadership is key, followership and accountability across the network is similarly important. Networks do not feature command and control. The purpose is the motivating factor and each participant must define their own role, lay out a plan, and monitor their own results. While central management monitors and reports the results, the responsibility for achieving them rests with the participant organizations.

Sharing Information and Resources

Information sharing within the network, with all relevant parties outside the network, and—where necessary—with the general public is absolutely essential to network operation. There is a need to go beyond basic transparency, and parties must be privy to each other’s progress, be willing to take responsibility where appropriate, and be eager to actively coordinate with those who need information in a timely manner.

This mentality on information sharing is analogous to that of the intelligence community, which switched from the long-held doctrine that information would be provided on a “need to know basis” to a new doctrine—established after 9/11—establishing a responsibility to provide. Members of the intelligence community are now required to determine who needs information and make sure that they get it on a timely basis.

In order to ensure public support, information needs to be transmitted to (and hopefully received) the general public in a systematic manner and on a timely basis. The failure of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to do this at all times led to persisting allegations that it was a failure, despite the verified impact it had on the economy and the extraordinarily low rate of waste, fraud, and abuse that was documented by overseers.

It is necessary to gather sufficient resources to enable the network to function. At her confirmation hearing, Madeline Albright famously stated that you could not run foreign policy, “on the cheap.” The same is true of managing networks. People, systems, and other resources are essential to successfully managing a network. In some cases, existing resources will be sufficient, while in other cases new resources will need to be made available. The argument for new resources can come from the very real assertion that the mission of the organization providing the resources could not be accomplish without the existence of the network. No single agency would have been able to end veterans’ homelessness. There was a need for central management and logistics to bring the three-party effort together. However, the results were very much worth the expenditure.


I hope that this “do-it-yourself” kit for building a managed network is useful to you. It is scalable up and down. Networks do not have to last forever. While there are a few artifacts still around from ARRA, the network has been terminated now that it is not needed. Some critics argue that many of the tools of the ARRA network—particularly its funds tracking tools—should not have been put in mothballs. While you can no longer go online to find out in which zip code ARRA funds were spent and how many jobs were created, the knowledge of how to stand up and operate the network as a whole has been well documented and has been replicated in other projects. 

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326

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