01 January 2010

Too big to succeed

From DHS Organizational Chart homepage, Org Chart Page 1:


Organizational Charts are how a bureaucracy tries to define itself by naming components, their connectivity and otherwise delineating the overall structure of an organization. Now notice the number of Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries in the top two rows?  Within those boxes are the bureaucracy necessary to make the large entity called Department of Homeland Security run as a large scale organization.  Now I will call out the Under Secretary for Management, which is the Office that manages this creation, Org Chart Page 9:

DHS Under Secretary Management PG 09

Why did I call that one out, in particular?  It is relatively small, compared to a number of other boxes in the top two rows.  Just a few boxes for various Officers.  These are the folks who are supposed to help ensure that DHS actually has the people and internal necessities to manage itself.  The following is from the Budget and Finance Documents page, FY 2010 Budget-in-Brief Page 25 of pdf file:

DHS Budgetary Authority PG 19

As Congress hasn't gotten around to enacting a real budget as of yet, just a bunch of Omnibus Spending bills to keep funding the government on its FY 2009 basis, the projected Obama Administration FY 2010 budget is a 'placeholder' waiting for a real budgetary figure to show up.  Notice that this Departmental Operations group is getting a 40% increase, the second largest 'plus up' right after the National Protections and Programs Directorate.  Thus these two offices must have especial need of internal help and be far too small.  As I've said before, the Departmental Operations is the high level box for managing the internal components of DHS at the highest level.

Now the US faces the possibility of Iran getting nuclear devices or otherwise having the ability to produce radiological devices within the next year and may already have the ability for the latter devices as those only require somewhat refined ore or otherwise have radioactive chemicals that are not useful in weapons production.  Together with Syria, these two Nations that are Allies have the ability to produce a minimum of 6 AQ Khan based design bombs per year... just on Syrian ore production alone.  Refining is the sticking point, but getting to a radiological bomb is a much simpler, dirtier and easier thing to do.  Knowing this, what is the status of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office?

It is getting pared back, losing nearly 30% of its budget under the proposed Obama FY 2010 budget.

Remember: staff is getting a 'plus up' and actual detection of domestic nuclear materials is getting cut.  Not just zeroing growth, year over year, but actually getting cut year over year.

More for staff.  Less for real work.

Even though it is a small office and has counterparts in other organizations, one would think that actually detecting incoming nuclear material or material already delivered to the US under other cover would be a bit of a priority, what with Iran being hostile to us and seeking refined nuclear material and all.

What else is getting cut?

The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which you would think would be critical to having federal Law Enforcement personnel inter-operate with DHS smoothly.  You know, the 'sharing information on the ground so we don't get in each other's way' sort of thing?  Basic training?  That is scheduled for a budget cut.

Office of Health Affairs gets cut, so I guess there are no worries about the staff of DHS being targeted for anything or even worrying about the bureaucratic overhead that Congress has put in for caring about the health of the staff.  It is a bureaucratic organization, to be admitted, and it must be good knowing that the health of the staff is no longer a critical item as it can now be cut down a bit.

FEMA Grant Programs get cut.  Well they haven't yielded much in the way of better Emergency Management so I can see why they would be cut.  Grants, just so you know, have minimal oversight on expenditures and are not contracts.  Generally you show you did what the grant was for and that is that.  FEMA, itself, gets a 'plus up' because they obviously understand their jobs so well after all the good work they haven't done in NOLA and Hurricane relief in FL and other such things, including their woefully inadequate 'oversight' in trying to figure out what to do with a New Madrid Fault Zone series of earthquakes.  Yes, FEMA expects just one quake, not thousands of them as happened in our recorded history with the Mississippi changing course and direction a few times, swamping the town of New Madrid, lakes disappearing and appearing... all before we had roads, bridges, rail lines, natural gas pipelines, oil pipelines, telecomm lines crossing that great river in the Memphis to St. Louis region.  No dams back in the early 19th century before the territories were fully explored, either.  Mostly just a few trade towns, farmers and not much else.  Be nice if FEMA actually planned for a disaster for once, wouldn't it?

After that is US Customs and Immigration Enforcement getting a 3% cut... I guess the plan is Amnesty for All and don't worry one little bit about stopping terrorists who want to use our open borders to get at us.  And when terrorists get Amnesty, why it will all be smiles and roses, no?  You do know that FARC is still operational, right?  Operates out of Colombia and Venezuela, and has pushers and enforcers in the US.  Other organizations, such as Hezbollah and al Qaeda have both opened up resource flows to border criminal operations (gangs and cartels) and have means and methods to utilize our porous border enforcement to get individuals into the US.  When we find al Qaeda jackets with Egyptian insignia from their internal training organizations north of the southern border, that should indicate that there is more than passing interest there.  Plus how many Hezbollah operations in the US have been taken down the last 5 or 6 years?  There is the NC to Detroit cigarette tax evasion ring, the LA Basin gray market goods operations, and that Hezbollah operative driving with 3 tons of pseudoephedrine from Canada to Mexico nabbed in the US.  I'm probably missing a few, like the stolen car rings that have complete US vehicles show up in car bomb shops in Iraq, I don't think that one ever did get taken down so we don't know who runs it.

Remember, ICE doesn't need to cover these things and catching illegal aliens who violate our laws is not a priority, given the Obama FY 2010 budget.

And it doesn't need more help in finding radioactive material coming into the country, either, I guess, at least from the highest level of DHS.

What does get a 'plus up'?  The Office of Inspector General, which figures if you are going to have more high level employees running around trying to justify their place in the bureaucracy, you just might want to make sure they actually do have real jobs to do and are doing them properly.

The Transportation Security Administration gets a 'plus up' which, given their inability to connect ANY dots recently, does make you scratch your head.  Perhaps they need some more Federal Law Enforcement Training... oh... wait... that is getting cut back.  No need to connect dots with them!  All doing their job and not doing it well, and no need to change that, save to punish the everyday traveler with more overhead so that TSA can be just as lackadaisical  in enforcing the new regulations, to make us 'safer', as it did with the old regulations that 'made us safe' in the first place.  Mind you they can't do 'profiling' as that is un-PC and would require Federal Law Enforcement Training... hmmmm... I'm sensing a pattern here.

Just so you get an idea of TSA, here is the Org Chart on Page 2:

DHS TSA Org Chart PG 02

I am sure that all of that is doing its job in top-notch form, aren't you?

Still the biggest percentage 'plus up' is the National Protection and Programs Directorate!  Save for nuclear, border and travel protection... well here they are from the Org Chart on Page 11:

DHS National Protection Programs Directorate PG 11

Yes, another staff office!  You can never have too much high level staff at the DHS.  After all with having to cut ICE you need SOMEONE looking out for the country and they need to be in a cushy chair in DC, not out in the field actually working for a living.

The problem with the Department of Homeland Security is one that was pointed out by many when it was first proposed: it is too large to know what it is doing, has too many directives it has to oversee, has too many competing interests within it, and puts yet ANOTHER layer of staff between organizations given jobs to do and holding them accountable to doing them.  Putting a group of security related organizations together that should, in theory, work together, and then putting a large management system over them does not guarantee that they will work together any better than they did before they were agglomerated.  In fact by putting another layer of bureaucracy between the sanctioned components and the Administration and Congress you get LESS accountability even though 'oversight' has been increased.  That 'oversight' layer is yet another buffer to point fingers at by other components so as to distribute accountability and make the entire organization LESS accountable by adding to it that extra layer that is, itself, supposed to manage accountability.

This is not a new phenomena, indeed it is as old a 'blue ribbon panels' suggesting putting larger bureaucracies together in search of trying to make the component bureaucracies work better.  I've held that for the DNI position in the INTEL Community (previous posts here, here, tangentially here) as it adds a layer of 'oversight' while putting a layer of bureaucracy between the sub-components of the DNI's area thus allowing for finger pointing as has been seen at a high level between the CIA and DNI recently.  This is not a problem of any, single administration or Congress, but is a way of Congress to make administrative organizations that give a feeling of 'something being done' while, in fact, making the problem worse, not better, as added bureaucracy removes the direct accountability originally set up for the smaller components of any large bureaucracy.

As I've put forth elsewhere: any organization 'too big to fail' is a threat to liberty as it can hold the Nation hostage, so, too, are there organizations too big to succeed.

The Old IBM of the pre-1980's was just such an organization, with any meeting between it and other companies (or even internal components) having people come out a day or two ahead to ensure that there were proper tables and room available and then work out seating charts... all for a company meeting.  IBM the mainframe monolith was one of the first companies to help get the PC revolution moving, but only as a small data entry system to their mainframes, and they saw Apple II's and Commodore-64's as toys and wanted a real 'business' PC that could be cost-justified by companies and government.  It got something that broke its old business structure, completely and had to change its entire organization to adapt to the new world of computing.  In failing it dropped out the components of the old that no longer worked, sheared off overhead, streamlined the company and started to fight tooth and nail for any part of the new market and finally wound up not in hardware or software but in SERVICES.

If there had been a 'blue ribbon panel' around, it would have recommended adding in an entire business unit of its PC arm to be just like its mainframe business, then trying to strong-arm the architecture to something proprietary to hold back the flood of open systems, and then try to get an Operating System that didn't interoperate well with everyone else's systems based on the open architecture that IBM put out.  Grow bigger, not better. 

It actually tried that, and failed in the mid-1980's to early 1990's.  Probably a 'blue ribbon panel' back there in the mists of IBM history suggesting that.

The company was NOT made better by trying to continue on in its old model, only bigger.

The US Government is not well served by a failing bureaucratic system made larger, either.  It gets such things as essential services being cut in favor of staff offices, not that we ever see THAT happening... right?

Oh, wait....

DHS and DNI are too big to succeed: they are overburdened with staff that tangle lines of accountability and afford little or no oversight and do not improve interoperability of incompatible components with competing directives.  The original sub-components as separate entities were not succeeding and putting the same type of bureaucracy over a number of failing bureaucracies does not magically make the entire thing work.  We can see the outcome with sub-components of each of the larger mother organizations, like TSA and FEMA or CIA, that the directives at different levels are interpreted differently based on operational needs.  The attempt to move to a higher staff, lower function set of offices then has fewer people doing actual work and more people doing 'oversight' and more fingers to be pointed between the layers of bureaucracy.  Thus requiring a much larger IG Office to try and figure out just who is supposed to be doing what in a hodge-podge organization that makes no sense at the higher level due to the competing directives at the lower levels.

With the OIG, itself, just being yet another layer of 'oversight', which doesn't fix the original problem of lack of inter-operation between the different sub-components, and requires a larger office to try and determine who, in that mess of boxes, is responsible for what and and what level.

This formula is invariant for bureaucracy:

  1. Larger bureaucracies need more staff.  When Congress adds things for a bureaucracy to do, it gets bigger.
  2. More directives requires more oversight.  Each Congressional directive requires 'oversight' and adding them together in a bigger organization then requires more 'oversight' for all the cumulative directives at the highest level along with the individual ones at the lower levels.
  3. More directives with larger staff which dilutes accountability.  As you add staff, directives and 'oversight' structures, the actual accountability gets diluted by the extra layers of bureaucracy, staff and 'oversight'.

Do notice that not one, single, 'blue ribbon panel' has ever come up with the idea of cutting organizations apart into smaller and more accountable components that each have direct oversight and no competing directives in them?

That would mean a smaller bureaucracy, fewer staff and higher numbers of people doing work per manager.

And less chance for political whining and complaining as you can directly point at an organization and its leading individuals who have failed in their jobs... which is what 'accountability' is supposed to be about, not more Congressional Hearings trying to figure out what it is, exactly, that Congress has asked these organizations to do and why aren't they doing them?

Now picture this for the Treasury Dept.

Health and Human Services.

National Academy of Science.

Department of the Interior.

I choose DHS and DNI because they are obvious failures.  There is more than enough failure to go around inside the Federal Government, but these deal with our security as a Nation and our ability to ensure that our enemies are thwarted when they go outside normal military lines to attack us militarily.  It isn't that the other parts of government are stunning successes: they aren't.

You just don't notice the failures as readily, until you see housing loans that Congress wanted pushed out the door to those unable to pay them start to default.  And then there is a lot of finger pointing inside the bureaucracy which is delightfully complex with great 'oversight' and no accountability, even if Congress was willing to maintain standard lending practices, which it wasn't and still isn't willing to do.  FHA, Freddie, Fannie and Ginnie, along with the underwriting of student loans has placed a heavy debt load on those unable to pay them, and Congress has been more than willing to allow these institutions pushing them to grow larger and less accountable year on year.  And as the economy is representative of the Nation, when Congress debases standard loan and accounting practices to get politically expedient loans to those who can't pay, we are all put in danger by that exact, same suite of considerations that brought us the failures of DHS and DNI.

Wanting a lean, directed and limited federal government is not about 'depriving people of services' or 'letting companies run wild' but about ensuring that anything Congress wants done has direct accountability for those activities and can be held accountable by the citizenry for its activities.  As a people we are not served by large government organizations with muddled directives, lots of 'oversight' and no accountability worth speaking of.  Yet that is exactly what we have.  For the individual to be secure in their positive liberties, the negative liberties of government must be well defined, well organized, delimited and held directly accountable without intervening layers of bureaucracy.  It was said that in the USSR they exchanged the Czar for the Commissar, the Aristocrat for the Autocrat.

We have done the exact, same thing and follow in the footsteps of the USSR.

Say, what did happen to that, anyway?

No comments: