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Uncle Sam's Ally: Corporate America

In the aftermath of September 11, the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives, turned to AT&T CEO C. Michael Armstrong to chair a new security and economic-recovery task force. Armstrong's mission: To deal with the emerging security issues confronting Corporate America. This includes working with government officials to coordinate emergency planning and prevention measures between the private and public sectors. Armstrong spoke with BusinessWeek White House Correspondent Richard S. Dunham on May 29. Here are excerpts from their conversation:

Q: Why has the Business Roundtable set up a CEO communications system to link business executives and government officials in times of national emergency?

A: Most of the infrastructure of America is in the private sector. We needed to have a very close public sector/private sector relationship to communicate and collaborate.

Q: What are your priorities?

A: They are threefold: To anticipate, to defend, and to be as prepared as possible to respond [to future terrorism].

Q: What has AT&T done in particular to prepare for future crises?

A: We have 200 semi-trailers of back-up [communications] equipment [that AT&T] can dispatch -- [these are] resources to respond and recover.... The focus after 9/11 is business continuity.

Q: The Roundtable is working to compile "best practices" for risk management and crisis communications. With the private sector moving on its own, should the government set minimum security standards for business?

A: Standards often get caught up in bureaucracy and politics. The leadership of the business community is so in tune with doing the right thing for our country, our employees, and our shareholders. We hope these "best practices" will become de facto standards.

For more security coverage, see:

BW, 5/31/02, America's Biggest Job

BW Online, 5/31/02, Tom Ridge on Safety's Fearful Price

The Homeland Security & Defense special report

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