Saturday, May 4, 2013

Blowing up the Alphabet

One of the realizations to come out of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack is that more than ten years after 9/11 the multitude of federal agencies still do not always communicate effectively with one another.  In this case it contributed to four deaths and hundreds of grievous injuries. "Stove piping" was a big issue after 9/11 and the alphabet of agencies pledged to play nice and share their information more readily.  While this improved, it will never be good enough simply because their are too many letters.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), although widely derided, was at least a first step toward consolidating the alphabet soup.  In 2002 numerous existing agencies were folded into this new entity including the, TSA, ATF, Immigration and Customs, Border Patrol, DEA, Coast Guard and Secret Service.  Unfortunately the FBI was allowed to remain part of the Justice (DoJ) Department and the Central Intelligence Agency was allowed to remain in existence.  The Department of Defense (DoD) has a number of agencies for gathering intelligence including the National Security Agency, (NSA) Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the intelligence branches of the services.

The CIA has always been filled with patriotic and hard working people doing their best, but it has also always been too much of a political animal entrenched in the Washington bureaucracy.  Why should a civilian agency provide intelligence to the military?  It added a layer of bureaucracy that did not exist prior to the 1947 act that created the agency.  Instead of disbanding it however, a new layer was created in 2007 with a position called the Office of the Director of National Intelligence which theoretically supercedes the Director of the CIA.  If there is no CIA director then you certainly do not need a DNI who supercedes him.  When will government officials learn that added layers of bureaucracy and overlapping agencies do not enhance efficiency and effectiveness?  Why is more government the answer to lackluster government performance?

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