March 30, 2004
The Solution To 9-11
Large bureaucracies have three predictable responses to any calamity, serious threat, or problem: 1. Commission a study, 2. Throw money at it, or 3. Reorganize the enterprise. [Mixing and matching encouraged.] No one can deny that the events of 9-11 represent anything less than a serious threat to these United States. Let us see how our federal government went about the task of responding to this challenge by making US citizens much safer and more secure:
1. The Study: Round up the usual study participants to constitute a bipartisan, blue ribbon, ad hoc, independent, expert panel. Something went wrong. They are about to release a report with actual findings in it entitled "Report on Pre-9-11 Intelligence Failures" [REDACTED BY THE WHITE HOUSE] We have to take out the parts that make us look bad, and that might expose our continuing support for a foreign government that has funneled millions to the terrorists. I've got it; we can classify the part of it that is most damaging, and claim a National Security issue. But sir, the senior member of our party on the Commission says that those pages should be released, as does the Saudi Government. Never mind, we will tell the public that it would expose our sensitive intelligence methods and compromise our sources. They will believe that the terrorists might benefit from the knowledge of where their funding is coming from, won't they? Why they might use this knowledge to ask for more money, viz.:
Dear Mom & Pop Foreign Government,
Sorry I haven't written in a while, but my studies here at the Terrorist Training Camp Universal (TTCU) have kept me real busy. The Instructor in my WMD (Weapons that Mysteriously Disappear) Course has just assigned a new required text Making Nuclear Devices out of Aluminum Pipe for Fun and Profit. It is a really expensive book, and I already spent your last check on a new rocket propelled grenade launcher. Could you please wire me some more funds right away (US dollars, please).
2. Throw Money At It: When asked to explain how they had managed to turn an era of federal surplus into one of projected half a trillion dollar annual budget deficits in record time, the President and his staff modestly attributed their unprecedented success to four key factors:
a) The cost of invading two (so far) sovereign states with US forces and the costs of the continued killing and occupation of those countries.
b) The economy, stupid.
c) The tax cuts to reward the wealthy and possibly stimulate the economy, stupid.
d) The new spending on the Homeland Security Department.
3. Reorganize the Government: The Republican Party, which used to campaign on a platform of fiscal responsibility and a smaller, less intrusive federal government, has finally seen the error of its ways. Not content with achieving record federal deficits, the President (with the help of Congress) has also created an entire new bureaucracy called the Department of Homeland Security, with a new cabinet post as a bonus point. Remarkably, he did this while leaving intact all the individual intelligence fiefdoms whose inability to cooperate with each other was in large measure the cause of the 9-11 disaster. In all fairness, in exhibiting this penchant for finding inappropriate organizational solutions to operational problems via the device of reorganizing the government, the President is only following a proven and traditional practice in our federal bureaucracy.
You see, the only reason that government agencies can accomplish anything at all is that the creative human beings caught up in them become frustrated and take matters into their own hands. After a while, an informal network of folk who are interested in some real progress forms. These individuals get to know one another and they share a common contempt for the stupid procedures and incomprehensible policies of the bureaucracy. When they spot an idea or an action that actually has merit, they spread the word to their counterparts throughout the various institutions and move the project around some decision-makers and through others until it is done. On occasion they can actually make progress, albeit at a glacial pace. The true bureaucrats hate them for this.
The way the bureaucratic purists get even with these do-gooders is by using the reorganization device that is their ultimate weapon against progress in any form. Reorganization, and the creation of an entire new department or a new layer, (its thermonuclear cousins), allows the senior executives to take credit for positive appearing steps to confront a problem. It creates the illusion of forceful and decisive action while at the same time achieving its real purpose, which is to uproot vast numbers of mid-level and shop floor workers, and scatter them about like a pile of dry Autumn leaves before a tempest, thus effectively destroying the informal networks that have been painstakingly built up by the bothersome do-gooders. It always works. A seasoned bureaucrat can keep his or her piece of the government churning in a constant state of reorganization and turmoil, thus thwarting any real progress for an indefinite period. Welcome to the Department of Homeland Security.
There now, don't you feel safer from all those nasty terrorists.
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