ShortTakes Trends, Views and Analysis
Booz Allen Hamilton’s Jeff Roth on assisting companies on the ‘what if’ scenarios
Emergencies come in all forms, from
natural to man-made disasters, to
worst-case scenario business disasters,
which while not threatening in human life, can still have disastrous consequences. Consulting caught up with
Booz Allen Hamilton Senior Associate
Jeff Roth, who is no stranger to planning for disaster, with a background as
a chemical officer in the Army focused
on nuclear, biological, and chemical
threats. Now a consultant going on 20
years, Roth helps companies devise scenarios, exercises, and war games intended to help them plan for those “
what-ifs” and shore up their preparedness for
if—and when—disaster strikes.
Consulting: How did your background
lead you to this kind of consulting?
Roth: I studied chemical engineering at Notre
Dame and was slated to become an Army officer in 1996. That career path brought me into
the military as a chemical officer doing nuclear biological chemical training. The Army
was very big on training in realistic environments—they used to use something called a
rock drill, literally a sand table with rocks on
it that helped the commanders try to figure out
where they’d position their forces in the case
of an engagement to plan through courses of
action. As a chemical officer we were focused
on nuclear, biological, and chemical threats.
I was assigned to an artillery unit as sort of
their special expert on nuclear, biological, and
chemical warfare, so a lot of my background
in the military was in doing training and thinking through scenarios.
Consulting: Is this type of consulting on
the rise since you joined BAH in 2002?
Roth: The field of wargaming goes back
over 200 years to the Prussian navy. In the
1800s they didn’t have computer simulations to test equipment without moving
their ships around in real time, which was
cost prohibitive and not always possible.
So they’d use the wargame to test force-on-force naval battles. Over the years, that
evolved through the major world wars.
War gaming has always been a component
of how a military does its battle planning.
The crossover to the business side
started well over 50 years ago, maybe
not as a standard consulting practice
but certainly government agencies and
commercial entities used forms of war
gaming to test out their courses of action,
whether that be the rollout of a new
product or a competitor’s analysis, there
were forms of that war gaming built into
how business practices are run.
Over the last decade and a half, if I
could use Sept. 11 as sort of a catalyst, I
think the field became even more evolved
because you had local, state, and federal
agencies as well as private institutions
worried about different threats and risks.
They needed a mechanism to easily test
through their concepts without waiting for
the real event to happen. So over the last
15 years it’s become increasingly common
that institutions of all sizes have begun to
practice war games and exercises.
Consulting: What sort of business
emergencies is it best to have a
disaster plan for?