Counterterrorism by bureaucracy

NBIS initially flourished under the leadership of the Science and Technology Directorate. … Due to its transfer to the former Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP) Directorate in January 2005, the NBIS program lost momentum generated during the Science and Technology design study phase. The program appointed a new program manager, a contractor to oversee NBIS development, but this official had minimal assistance. Because the program received limited office space, the program manager was hindered in efforts to bring on board additional staff or detailees to assist with activities such as stakeholder outreach, contract management, and information analysis.

What is shocking about the Inspector General report on DHS efforts to detect a biological attack is how ordinary it is in government. E.g., similar tangled webs of defeat have been woven by the FBI and the FAA — both having failed repeatedly to move very simple 1960’s systems into the modern world [yesterday’s definition]. Richard Fernandez, who knows whereof he speaks, surveys the DHS report, concluding as follows:

The Inspector General’s report provides a glimpse into how gigantic bureaucracies work. Those who wonder at how early warning of a biological attack on the nation can be left to such a constipated process should consider that many of the things our lives depend on — national security, diplomatic representation, law enforcement, etc — are provided in the same desultory fashion. Einstein once wrote that “the eternally incomprehensible about the world is its comprehensibility”; and perhaps the most miraculous thing about government is that it works at all. But like all miracles, it’s better not to expect them to happen too often.