Director's Orders

Jonathan F. Thompson, NSA Executive Director and CEO
Tools vs. Gadgets: Counting the Cost
In a previous life, I led the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), aka the “gad­get” show, in Las Vegas. It was an exciting experience to see the future of technology before anyone else.
However, the CES was overwhelming in every way. It was vast, crowded, complex, and challenging to grasp the breadth and depth of technologies one could try, buy, and then never fully understand.
Sheriffs’ budgets this year are constrained once again. Asset forfeitures will be down, thanks to Congress and the administration, and economic forecasts are projecting reduced tax reve­nues for many localities. This combination will place every agency in the unenviable position of having to make cost-based strategic decisions instead of strategy-based cost decisions.
Making cost-based decisions means measuring the return on investment and the effect of our proposed purchases or partnerships. If, for example, the feds come to you requesting manpower and resources for a new task force, you are likely to ask, “Why should we partici­pate? What’s in it for our community and our deputies? Will participating make us safer and more secure?”
However, I suggest those are just starting questions. Consider asking the following: “If we don’t participate, what will be the impact of that decision? If we do participate, can you guar­antee our community a positive return on its investment?”
In this March/April issue of Sheriff & Deputy, you will read about new communications technologies and solutions. Many, if not all, will resonate on some level. One may be the “life-altering” applica­tion that can improve your operational performance far beyond the boldest expectations.
Our vendors need us as much as we need them. If something works, tell them why. If something doesn’t meet expectations, tell them why and insist that they help you recover the costs and improve its performance.
So, start with the obvious questions: “Can you assure me it will cost no more than this much? Are there add-on costs we have to budget for? If you (the vendor) go over budget, will you pay?