What Obama ought to do- In my opinion

It is 1615.  The president has not yet spoken.  The "undiebomber" phenomenon is being hyped to death by those whose interest is thus served.  TV News, the neocons, etc.

The essential problem in this matter was not one of collecting information or indeed of analysing it.  The problem was that the structure for applying that knowledge in a timely way so as to block an identified "probable" is badly defective.  This is an ARCHITECTURE problem.

The various agencies are autonomous bodies under the presidency.  CIA, FBI, DHS, NSA - are all essentially independent of each other.  They are headed not just by the politically appointed heads but also by several layers of career senior executives and flag officers.

These people have reached their present positions by being obsessively competitive.  They fight everyone and everything within and without their groups for scraps of "turf," budget, promotion and function.  They are not eager to make each other look good.  They will always act like that if they are subject to a master who will not punish them for doing so.

Solution:  Put Joe Biden in charge of all these groups with control over money, operations and personnel matters (hiring and firing).  pl

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15 Responses to What Obama ought to do- In my opinion

  1. Binh says:

    Joe Biden is already in charge of overseeing the stimulus, although as they empty the piggy bank I suppose this could be his new job.
    Cheney would make a great candidate if 1) he didn’t want to see the president fail and 2) cared about the law of the land or the Constitution. He’s incredibly determined and can fight a bureaucratic war to get his way like no one else, except maybe his mentor Don Rumsfeld.

  2. Bill Wade, NH says:

    And, let no company, corporation, or individual profit from terrorism. After all, aren’t we all in this together?

  3. The Public Administration types have many theories about bureacratic rivalries. What they don’t realize is that some of these bureacrats are willing to see others die just to make sure they are not the “Which” when the inevitable “Witch” hunt starts after failure. Punishment of those who collaborate or cooperate with other bureacrats in other organizations would do the Inquisitors of the Pope’s of the middle ages proud. This a delicate and refined art–punishment of those who don’t have bureacratic sense to see that such activity is destructive to the top bureacrats.

  4. @WRC – Punishment of those who collaborate or cooperate with other bureaucrats in other organizations would do the Inquisitors of the Pope’s of the middle ages proud.
    Yep. Sad isn’t it? Remember how this was supposed to change after the 9/11 Commission Report?
    It hasn’t.

  5. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Compartmentalization probably played a part. It’s tough to share info if it’s Super Top Secret Squirrel Hush-Hush No Foreign Eyes.
    Some of the “dots” may have been buried under SCI/ECI programs.

  6. Jose says:

    Why can’t we abolish all these “bureaucracies” and copy the British MI5/6?
    The current apparatus appears to be unmanageable, not very efficient, and dangerous.
    I agree with you, Biden would scare the crap out of the bureaucrats…lol

  7. Pan says:

    The IC bureaucrats will continue to stifle information sharing and true collaboration unless they are direct challenged by someone with the power to take away their mandate. The DNI doesn’t have the balls for that kind of confrontation with the various warlords in the bureaucracy. The grunts in the trenches do. It’s the middle and senior management that needs to have their jobs on the line. Somebody needs to be fired to be made an example of and that has to be done in a very public manner with threats of more if true changes are not enacted. I’m not holding my breath.

  8. frank durkee says:

    If cooperation or wha That is the key organizationaltever you want is rewarded up and down the line over time it will improve. When the rewards and punishments are organized otherwise , whatever that is will dominate. That is the key organizational change needed. That can alter the shape of the bureacacy mor effectively than almost anything else.

  9. ryanwc says:

    I don’t know. I seize on one detail, admittedly slender. But they’d have pulled the guy’s travel rights if someone in Lagos had spelled Abdulmutallab’s name right (or possibly a better way of putting this is if they’d checked various ways to spell the same arabic-based name.)
    There may be bureaucratic architecture issues. But it’s hard for me to overlook the basic data-architecture issue.

  10. JTCornpone says:

    I agree that the nature of the intelligence bureaucracy is at the heart of the problem. I believe we should strive to fix this. However I don’t think it’s rooted in the nature of the intelligence beaurocracy specifically. I believe it’s in the interaction of bureaucratic management structures in general with the basic nature of the humans which occupy them.
    I have no personal experience with the military/intel establishment however I did put in 26 years with a large corporate research/development/manufacturing entity with a three letter name. What I’m reading here sounds eerily familiar. The behavioral incentives sound familiar and the results are analogous even though the goals of the organizations are quite different. I don’t think any reorganization will change things much until we create human beings with totally different natures and give them different incentives. It is a case of Pogo’s “We have met the enemy and he is us”. In industry as in politics and I presume in the intel services the people trying hardest to get promoted are not necessarily the best people for management. My company, in the tech side, promoted the best engineers to management. The correlation between technical skills and people management skills is weak at best. Further, there was a “type” who were basically campaigning for promotion from day one and this behavior was not necessarily conducive to technical creativity. In short, I don’t think things will ever get much better than they are right now unless we seriously change the incentives or human nature. It is hard for people in charge of a bureaucracy to change it fundamentally as they all are winners under the existing system.
    That said, our enemies suffer similar limitations due to their mindset and organization. Again, I’m no expert on Islam, Jihadis, or any of the countries involved. I just read this site daily and others like it (as well as others not like it at all). It seems to me that if Al-Qaida was just interested in bringing down airplanes this could be accomplished much more easily than by the recent attempts using bombs secreted in various articles of apparel. A Lockerbie type attack is easier to accomplish and easier to get away with (at least for a while) if past history is any guide. A timed or barometrically activated bomb in checked baggage is arguably easier to get aboard and if it’s found, just keep trying. Other attempts of this type are the first WTC bomb and the OK city federal building using parked vehicles. The unibomber was also in this class of attacker. These types of attacks have a history of being statistically more successful.
    The recent attacks by Jihadi sorts, however, involved getting on a plane with bombs or weapons on the person and getting martyred up close and personal. I am guessing that this attack signature is somehow associated with the Jihadi mindset either as a way to both strike and also recruit more Jihadis from an organizational point of view or also may be somehow closely associated with the martyrdom aspects of the attack as a personal motivation for the bomber.
    I have read on another site (http://rangeragainstwar.blogspot.com/2010/01/panties-in-wad.html) written by another retired special forces person that the explosive used in the Christmas attack is very powerful on a per ounce basis but very stable making it safer to handle in normal demolition or military use. Being stable, it’s not easy to detonate with a blasting cap being the usual method. This is primarily why the shoe bomber and the Christmas bomber were sucessful only in creating a fire rather than an explosion. Had they chosen to place the devices in checked baggage set off by a cap they would possibly have damaged the planes or brought them down. If the bomber wanted to get martyred at the same time they could have boarded the plane and set it off with a remote car key signal, cell phone, or somesuch. But this was apparently not how they wanted to do it. The fact that it would have been extremely difficult to smuggle the wherewithal to explode a blasting cap coupled with the need to have the bomb and all on the person limited the detonation options and saved two planes.
    Thus both we and our enemies are handicapped by some human aspects of our behaviors related to deeper aspects of our nature. I believe we have the overall edge so far because the recent failures to bring down planes were not simply good luck on our side but apparent self imposed limitations in operational rules on the other side interacting with our defenses. May our luck and technology continue to hold.

  11. Fred Strack says:

    There is always the potential that no actual explosion was desired. By getting caught we now have more turmoil from changed inspection standards, talk of potentially x-raying all passengers and even some members of Congress changing the standards of constitutional rights with in the US.
    These didn’t happen after the Air France flight 447 crashed in the mid-Atlantic? Why actually blow up a plane when more havoc is created by getting 1 agent caught?

  12. par4 says:

    I think we need somebody that’s not adverse to applying some pressure where needed. Uncle Joe Stalin comes to mind.

  13. curious says:

    maaaannnn ……
    This is like bringing a group of WWF wrestlers to a tango competition. A complete disaster. The other groups bounce around the floor like cat changing partners seemingly effortlessly while the wrestlers stomp around like godzilla barely holding on and knocking off everything. Not even having a good time.
    Maybe instead of beefing up institutions and policies that were created to win cold war or interstate crimes, it’s time to take al qaeda seriously and consider what it does best? Loose franchise of Islamist militant and terrorists groups? With main skill in practical understanding of geopolitical games at local level.
    Is it possible that decadal policy toward Israel, oil, cold war and neocon game are providing geopolitical space for al qaeda like organisations to operate?
    Yemen is classic example. Next would be Kenya, eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uzbek. (on top of Pakistan, spots in south east asia, and balkans) If Zimbabwe and Honduras are moslem countries, it would have blown dozens of stuff by now. All these are predictable and just plain dumb.
    Everybody knows the cold ware tune and dance accordingly. Al qaeda exploit this situation. (Is it any surprise every tin pot dictators are playing too big to fail, the enemy of your enemy is us, let’s make a deal, boogie man is going to getcha, make the yankees pay the bill, etc?)
    Al qaeda is not some mysterious phenomenon. The figures are known, their timing are cyclical, most are connected to old cold war players, general area where they operate are all known. They keep hitting same target over and over again. They dance to a tune. A competent local diplomatic team could point the general area and list of people that counter terrorism team can work on. Most government in the world know who the trouble makers are.
    So maybe instead of trying to create super organization, it’s time to pick the most competent al qaeda chaser, build precise map and database, let them manage while every other institutions should help that group by feeding information, providing manpower/skill and get outta the way. Keep the main group small and nimble, everybody else sits on the map and database. How many key al qaeda core players are there ? in the range of 5K or less maybe?
    It’s not a good idea turning everything into big afghan-like operation. After 8 years of operation still wondering why nothing works like planned.

  14. Robert Murray says:

    Col. Lang,
    I recall that you have experience in dealing with Mr. Biden. That’s good enough for me. I also took to heart what you said about Teddy Kennedy.
    Kind Regards,

  15. Charles I says:

    Fred Strack, where the hell is my tinfoil hat when I apparently really need it?:
    “Israeli firm blasted for letting would-be plane bomber slip through”

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