Jan 03 2010
One of the major problems with a heavy government hand in key national activities is the tendency for the bureaucrats to take over and lose site of the primary mission. Surprisingly, you find the private sector folks (bias alert, that would be people like me) much more willing to take chances, push the career risk to try something and see if it works or fails, and to ignore building organizations (verses building solutions).
It is a classic problem in government, where the answer is to allow private sector folks to free-think, experiment and build/test solutions – which is what happened with Able Danger and its success in data mining prior to 9-11. Sadly, Able Danger also was a great example of how the bureaucratic antibodies oppose giving new ideas a shot at upending the current or outdated systems. Successful new ideas rock organizational charts which really bug bureaucrats and their empire-building plans.
I was reading up on the 2009 Intelligence Strategy document put out in August by the Director of National Intelligence (the organization created to connect the dots, which runs the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)) and it has some disturbing priorities. To provide some context I must note this document was being published just as young Abdulmutallab was entering Yemen for his training with al Qaeda and months before the Ft Hood massacre. So this document is a good sign of the Obama administration’s focus prior to these re-aligning events. A focus developed from the time they took office to August when the report was produced.
In general, the report reflects a good understanding and focus. The framework is there, clearly a result of the years prior working out the priorities of the DNI and NCTC. But some disturbing and distracting new items were clearly added by Team Obama. Additions that had barely anything at all to do with terrorist threats.
Another note on how these reports are generated. The top levels (Goals, Objectives and the priorities) are the product of the political appointees. When you reach the mission objectives you start to see the inputs of the career specialists. So keep in mind the transition of the document from a political focus to an organizational focus as you read through it.
The Strategic Environment: My first qualm with the ‘strategy’ is some of the liberal inanity included in the list of foes or threats faced by the organization. Recall, we are supposed to be monitoring threats and defending ourselves. There are the usual suspects such as Iran, North Korea and China. I was surprised to find Russia still on the list while Cuba, Venezuela, Somalia and others were off the list.
There is violent extremists (a.k.a terrorists), insurgents and transnational criminals – all good targets.
But then things get weird. We find challenges such as ‘global economic crisis‘, ‘failed states and ungoverned spaces‘, ‘climate change and energy competition‘, ‘rapid technology change’ and ‘Pandemic Disease (H1n1)‘. Â I highlighted the two areas which are clearly not where we find terrorists planning to destroy planes full of people or mow down people at a Army base. The climate change focus is a sad joke. A distraction – as is pandemic diseases. The Obama administration was changing the focus of DNI and NCTC from terrorists to CO2 cap and trade. A dumb and naive mistake.
This is the liberal indoctrination effort. Pretend your pet focus should be the focus of everyone all the time. If the neurosurgeon is not spending some time thinking about global warming you are not getting your message out. It is a sign of immaturity and zealotry.
We are hearing how hard it is to connect the gazillions of dots coming in daily, of how the computer systems are not yet integrated making dot connecting difficult (seriously, give me a shot at it and I will have the short term solution up and running in months, giving plenty of time for the long term solution to perfect itself). We will hear all these whiney excuses and we will find them incredible given the fact the DNI was supposed to take its resources and study global warming and the H1N1 (even though we have government organizations making a mess of those already).
Team Obama cannot claim it is doing its job when it added these boondoggle activities to the already challenging scope of NCTC. I shudder to think how many meetings were wasted discussing how to monitor CO2 emissions and potential struggles over carbon credits.
Goals and Objectives: No government program doesn’t have its goals and objectives written down and prioritized. While this section has not been polluted (yet) with liberal distractions, the priorities are telling. Here are the goals and objectives in order of appearance (which always hints to priority):
- Enable wise national security policies
- Support effective national security action
- Deliver balanced and improving capabilities
- Operate as a single integrated team
The priority is clearly bureaucratic focused, not solution focused (which would be in reverse order). The top goal and objective is policy:
… by continuously monitoring and assessing the international security environment to warn policymakers of threats and inform them of opportunities. We will provide policymakers with strategic intelligence that helps them understand countries, regions, issues, and the potential outcomes of their decisions. We will also provide feedback to policymakers on the impact of their decisions.
To summarize: brief the president and congress. The last two goals are the ones needed to refine the approach and integrate the system. This is classic bureaucratic atrophy setting in.
We see key threats targeted in the first two objectives (MO1 and MO2), and the need to integrate systems (MO4) coming in near the top of the list. The need to brief the policy folks has now rightfully dropped to number 3.
The Enterprise Objectives, which are cross cutting efforts supporting the mission objectives, are solid, common sense efforts. They focus on making the people side of the business work, keeping the skill base up, investigating new technologies and making the burdensome acquisition process work.
Nowhere do we see the need to track CO2 Emissions or monitor fights over cap and trade. Everything at this level is designed to get the work done!
The only qualm I have at this level is the focus is on ‘groups’ – not the individual recruit. This is one other reason Abdulmutallab may have snuck through. The process from recruit to bomber was on the order of a few months. The system is going to have to look beyond members of an organization and watch for the newbies – they will be the tip of the terrorists’ spear.
In conclusion: The Obama administration did become a distraction. When I see this kind of Enterprise Objective:
The Intelligence Community faces an explosive growth in type and volume of data, along with an exponential increase in the speed and power of processing capabilities. Threats to our networks and the integrity of our information have proliferated. Our partners and users increasingly expect us to discover, access, analyze, and disseminate intelligence information in compressed time frames. We have the responsibility to share information, while protecting sources and methods and respecting the privacy and rights of U.S. citizens.
Information policies, processes, and systems must cope with these circumstances, while providing a trusted and reliable environment to support operations, even when under attack. Initiatives and programs tied to information sharing and systems must accelerate and synchronize delivery of information enterprise capabilities. In addition, we must keep pace with changes in technology and mission needs.
I wonder why in the world did the scope of the DNI and NCTC have to include global warming (which was a myth in the end anyway). Team Obama will be rightfully called to the carpet for every minute wasted on global warming and H1N1 at DNI – since this report came out at the exact time al Qaeda was grooming the Christmas Day bombing of Flight 253 and the man behind the Ft Hood Massacre. This is what happens when the inexperienced and politically driven take over a serious job.
FYI – today we have another good round up of all those missed flashing dots. Let’s hope Team Obama gets themselves refocused on the real priorities.