On September 11, 2001 the world changed. The US government realized they had all the pieces of the puzzle before the attack on America but did not see the whole picture: the warning sign of the terror to come.
President Bush tried to reform the federal bureaucracy dealing with the national security. Unfortunately instead of improving communications between the existing departments he created a new bureaucracy: the Department of National Security that was composed from agencies taken away from various departments.
The US spent over 7 billion dollars on accommodation of the new Department. Instead of spending those money on communication improvement the federal government wasted it on new office desks and draperies, drawing pictures for new department seal and medals and all kind of construction and design activities.
Was it worth it?
Let’s see how the DHS performed during the second attack on US soil since 9/11: the Christmas Day bomber. Abdul Mutallab’s father told the name of the terrorist to the US embassy in Nigeria almost a month before the attack. The embassy sent the name to the State Department. If Bush didn’t create the DHS, the State Department would have been responsible for revoking the terrorist’s US visa. However Bush added a new layer of bureaucracy and Hillary Clinton’s people sent the message to the Department of Homeland Security and there nobody acted on it. Somebody mumbled that Mutallab’s name was misspelled in the process. No kidding!
Even the kindergarteners know that the more people in the chain when you play ‘broken phone’ the funnier the message is at the end.
After Abdul Mutallab was mirandized in Detroit, four different chiefs of agencies responsible for the War on Terror sat in front of Congress (including Janet Napolitano the DHS boss)and confirmed that none of them was even consulted before the Attorney General Eric Holder took the decision the read the rights to Mutallab. Talk about communication problem! Or is it the issue of ‘too many’ chiefs?
The two biggest public relations disasters for the White House were Katrina (for Bush) and the BP oil spill (for Obama). Nobody ever examined the possibility that it has something to do with moving the Coast Guard and FEMA to the Department of Homeland Security.
Both with Katrina and with the Oil Spill the Coast Guard did their job wonderfully, but the public perception was that the government reaction was too slow. The communication was not there.
There were massive floods in the Mid-West and none of them turned into a PR Waterloo. Is it possible that it is because the National Guard is not a part of the DHS?
The first week after the BP oil spill we had to observe day after day DHS Janet Napolitano rolling eyes, EPA’s Lisa Jackson trying to be partisan and mean to big oil and a very smart lady from the Coast Guard whose name I forgot, but whose scarecrow haircut will live in the PR textbooks forever.
Later Admiral Thad Allen did put credibility to the government efforts but only after the public’s outcry and the Katrina’s ghost was already in the picture.
Hours after the Times Square bomber Faisal Shazad was identified by the FBI and put on the NoFly-list he was still able to board the international flight and authorities had to chase the plane on the tarmac. Is it possible that the miscommunication is because they moved the INS away from the Justice Department and into the Department of Homeland Security?
In the Dark Ages it was necessary to move people closer to each other to speed up communications. However in the twenty first century it really doesn’t matter if the bureaucrat’s desks are in the same building. Adding a new layer of bureaucracy will likely slow, not speed up communication. Especially if the old bureaucracies are as dysfunctional after creating a new one as they were before.
President Carter attempted a federal government reform. Because of him we have bureaucratic jewels like the Department of Energy that was supposed to lead us to energy independence. How’s that working for ya?
Department of Homeland Security may turn into the ‘Carter’ mistake for President Bush who created the dysfunctional monster in the turbulent times after 9/11. Unfortunately when federal bureaucrats panic their first reaction always is creating a new commission, new task-force, new bureau, new agency, new department or any other kind of new bureaucracy before fixing the old ones.