effective communication in evoking understanding of and securing support for a proposal. In one instance, U.S. public-health officials were criticized for not producing sufficient H1N1 flu vaccine and for not insisting on its use (Klass, 2009). In two other instances, proposals to change mammography protocols were criticized (Goodman, 2009; Kolata, 2009), and a program to install smart electric meters in homes was found to upset many consumers (Wald, 2009). Those three examples were not strictly speaking communication failures. However, the failure to communicate clearly made complicated proposals difficult for the public to understand and consequently difficult for the public to accept and support.
In comparison, the maintenance and repair of federal facilities is a less visible issue, unless there is a system failure that leads to a death, serious injuries, substantial economic or property losses or public embarrassment. Nonetheless, effective communication is a necessary ingredient for making a compelling case for funding maintenance and repair activities.
The barriers to effective communication include “lack of a common terminology; lack of trust in the source of information; poor interpersonal relationships; differing individual and group values; and unexpressed assumptions” (NRC, 2004a, p. 63).
Lack of a common terminology can easily lead to miscommunication about the purposes and anticipated outcomes of investments in facilities maintenance and repair. In the federal government, there is a great deal of variance in the terminology related to maintenance and repair activities, in the measures used for outcomes, in the definitions applied, and in the thresholds used to determine what activities fall into a particular budget category. When agencies are communicating with congressional committees, with the Office of Management and Budget, with other oversight groups, and even among themselves, that variance results in inconsistent and conflicting messages, which cause confusion. Confusion, in turn, leads decision-makers to call to question the credibility of the messenger and the message.
Effectively communicating the links between outcomes of maintenance and repair investments and an organizational mission has also proven to be difficult. In part, that is due to the difficulty of predicting rates of failure of facilities systems or components, the difficulty of predicting remaining service life, variation in costs of maintenance and repair of specific systems and their components, and the difficulty of quantifying the adverse consequences of potential failures.
Typically, three predominant approaches are used by federal program managers to calculate required maintenance and repair funding: a percentage of the current replacement value of the entire facilities portfolio; a sustainment model such as that used by the Department of Defense; and the total cost of deferred maintenance and repair projects. Although industry experience and practice are sufficient to support the applicability of those approaches, senior decision-makers may not find them compelling.
For example, it is not intuitively obvious how a request for 2 to 4 percent of