Sunday, April 8, 2007

Mergers are Worthless, It’s Time to Spinoff National Security

It’s rampant, this conglomeration. Corporate buyouts and takeovers everywhere, an ever upward spiral of achievement, the sure-fire way to stock success, increasing the quarterly return and all in the name of what’s most American—the economy of size.


This could be yet another musing on what went wrong at AOL-Time Warner or Mercedes-Chrysler, but it’s not. It’s a critical look at why the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security prevent, rather than enable our common safety.


It’s rampant, this conglomeration. Corporate buyouts and takeovers everywhere, an ever upward spiral of achievement, the sure-fire way to stock success, increasing the quarterly return and all in the name of what’s most American—the economy of size.
Bushchertoff This could be yet another musing on what went wrong at AOL-Time Warner or Mercedes-Chrysler, but it’s not. It’s a critical look at why the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security prevent, rather than enable our common safety.
There are tomes, volumes, masses of archives—all of them setting forth reasons why this is true—all of them steeped in the intellect and intelligence of insiders, those who know the game.
This is not (and I am not) one of them. I am not privy to the game, nor am I likely to be, which sometimes comes off as a terrific advantage. Being privy to the game is what drove Chrysler to the auction block and access to information created the house of mirrors that encouraged the lies that finessed the Iraq war.
Common wisdom knew that continuing to build gas guzzlers while your competitors grew rich innovating finely built, hot-driving small cars, was a fatal wrong turn. The least warrior-like of men, consulting history, recognized that we faced a myriad of probable disasters with our plunge into Iraq.
So it is with our national security structure. There is no more applicable word for it than structure. It resembles a building far more than an organization; a maze of rooms within rooms, antechambers without doors, labyrinthine galleries leading to secret tunnels that open too deeply underwater for the human mind to survive. Nowhere is there a window looking outward, bathed in the daylight of the real world.
Attempt to perceive, try to get your mind around this latest mega-conglomerate--the Department of Homeland Security. With a payroll of 184,000 employees, DHS is the third largest cabinet department in the U.S. federal government after the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.
Chertoffpondering How well Defense and VA have lived up to expectation, foretells Michael Chertoff wandering corridors, wondering when and where (and why) his next meeting is scheduled. How a former appeals court judge with absolutely no organizational experience would be thought capable rather than risible for this job, we can only speculate. Maybe it was his enthusiastic advice, given freely to the CIA, on the outer limits of legality in coercive interrogation sessions.
Dhsfrancestownsend Adding to Chertoff’s sense of dislocation, DHS policy is coordinated at the White House by something called the the Homeland Security Council, with Frances Townsend as Homeland Security Advisor. Do I have this straight? Chertoff is a member of the Bush Cabinet and yet the White House has an advisor to . . . to . . . advise what . . . and whom?
Not to worry, Mike. Just try not to miss an appointment to brief the Council, advise Franny what to advise Karl (or the reverse), appear before the seventeen congressional committees who want face-time for the cameras, keep a grip on what the FBI, Justice Department (alarm bell), CIA, NSC and Defense Dept are up to and—this is important—stand ready to take the heat when something goes boom in the night.
Impossible job? You bet. But the fatal flaw is not so much that the job is impossible, it’s that we have been sold the bill of goods that
the mission of the Office will be to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks. The Office will coordinate the executive branch's efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the United States.
Bushapproval Got that? Comfortable words like develop, coordinate, comprehensive, strategy, secure, detect and prevent have been used in place of taking what we had, breaking it into smaller and more responsible units and giving those units the funding and access to make them effective. In place of that and solely because it sounded like progress and worked to concentrate his power, Bush created the DHS agency with the complicity of an ideologue Congress.
It was the largest government reorganization in 50 years, creating a conglomerate within which everyone is responsible and no one has authority. Something only conceivable in Harvard Business School. Even the name, Homeland Security sounds more like Russians making a stand at Stalingrad than it does Americans warding off another 9-11.
As an example of what gets dreamed-up under such circumstances,
as part of the reorganization within the department, on March 1, 2004 the National Incident Management System (NIMS) was created. The idea behind was to provide a consistent nationwide approach for Federal, State. local and tribal governments. Under Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-5 all Federal departments were required to adopt the NIMS and to use it in their individual domestic incident management and emergency prevention, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation program and activities. A few months later in December 2004 the National Response Plan (NRP) was created, in an attempt to align Federal coordination structures, capabilities, and resources into a unified, all-discipline, and all-hazards approach to domestic incident management. The NRP was built on the template of the NIMS.
Nrpflag NIMS-HSPD-NRP. Is anyone following this?
The idea, no doubt, was to build another layer of phone numbers that no one answers, but to sound reassuring to the public.
That worked pretty well in muddying up access, so well in fact that NRP followed, to align Federal coordination structures, capabilities, and resources into a unified, all-discipline, and all-hazards approach---that promptly failed—not during an attack, but in response to a slow-moving and well forecast hurricane.
We might have learned a lesson from the Iraq war that might and size and hugeness and power is not the antidote to terrorism. Small, accurately focused and well-directed agencies are as important to this fight as patrols are to ferreting out an illusive enemy.
DHS should be done away with, as should the un-American Patriot Act.
Downsized, with laser-focus and no middle staff to interfere, the FBI, CIA, Immigration Service, National Intelligence Agency, Port Authority, FEMA, TSA, Secret Service and Coast Guard could all get back to protecting America. They did it pretty well all through the fifty years of cold war.
President Bush, swinging furiously at phantom pitches and unwilling to change his lineup in the late innings, has destroyed America’s historic ability to fight wars and protect itself against attack.
Downsizing—part two of the MBA program he may have missed at Harvard, is inevitable, efficient and ultimately productive. You no longer have an ideologue congress in Washington, George, at least not espousing your ideology. As on Wall Street, you downsize willingly or the market does it for you.
And the market, like the electorate, is ruthless in its efficiency.
____________________________________________________________
Media comment;