Saturday, May 07, 2005

9/11 Commission Report - Chapter 3

The third chapter is much tougher going than the first two. This chapter deals with what each relevant government department did and didn't do before September 11.

This chapter contains a lot of supporting evidence for anyone who thinks that government should be as small as possible. National security is, obviously, the domain of the government. It's what government should do.

Trouble is, big governments do best what they've always done. They don't change quickly. This chapter details how the government's defense and homeland security practices were essentially unchanged throughout the 90s up to September 11.

Little fiefdoms, familiar structures and redundant skills are part of any big organization. They are a bigger problem in governments than in businesses, which are forced to change or die in the competitive marketplace.

Transformations are shunned by governments who prefer currying favor with voters and not disrupting their permanent paid employees. During the 90s the federal government failed to transform its defense operations because the required changes were too painful. Established defense and security practices, highly skilled cold warriors & tacticians, and a bi-polar world-view were all redundant from the moment Boris Yeltsin took office. Yet, a decade after the collapse of the USSR the federal government was still operating essentially in a cold war mode.

This inability to change is the primary reason I don't believe in big government. The intentions might be right, but eventually the demands of those who work in the government (or state-owned companies) or the needs of a few key constituencies will take precedence over serving the needs of those who are ultimately the "customers".