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Homeland Security for Sale
December 5, 2007 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Heckuva Job DHS! 5 Years of Corporate Cronyism. CREW and Brave New Foundation have joined forces to create this video and a report, Homeland Security for Sale, documenting five years of waste, fraud and abuse at the Department of Homeland Security. [Via Think Progress.]
posted by homunculus (28 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
This FPP is getting our troops killed in Iraq.
posted by DU at 11:42 AM on December 5, 2007


And in spite of all that total waste in Homeland Security, we've had how many major acts of terrorism in the U.S.? None? It's so much fun to have nearly unlimited resources to counter a problem that basically doesn't exist.
posted by wendell at 11:45 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sounds like somebody wants to get extraordinarily rendited... er... renditioned... help me out here?
posted by tkchrist at 11:45 AM on December 5, 2007


Is it even worthwhile at this point to call out a specific agency? This sort of scathing criticism can be leveled at nearly every federal agency where Bush himself has hand-picked the director.
posted by Brak at 11:57 AM on December 5, 2007


Waste, fraud, and abuse are endemic to every government bureaucracy. Government agencies have no motive to be performant or even competant. What happens when a government agency (almost always by accident) succeeds, even partially, at a task? The spin is "Look at how much good we've done. We need more money and more power to further help America." But what happens when a government agency fails completely at a task? The spin is the same: "We were hamstrung by our budget and narrow charter. We need more money and more power to further help America."

It's a vicious cycle that is enabled by a disengaged populace and a tradition of deficit spending.

Solution: Less government bureaucracy. Wasn't there once a major political party that claimed "smaller government" as a tenet?
posted by oncogenesis at 12:10 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


And in spite of all that total waste in Homeland Security, we've had how many major acts of terrorism in the U.S.? None?

See? Their cunning plan is working!
posted by Floydd at 12:16 PM on December 5, 2007


To reflect on oncogenesis's comment, I should point out that I agree that government agency bureaucracy and incompetence is pretty much ubiquitous across the modern history of the US. I tend to feel that the level of incompetency has soared under this particular administration, however.
posted by Brak at 12:19 PM on December 5, 2007


What happens when a government agency (almost always by accident) succeeds, even partially, at a task?

Most often, it loses funding in favor of something else that "needs it more", thus providing a powerful disincentive for success.

I tend to feel that the level of incompetency has soared under this particular administration, however.

...which increases the demand for "less government". See? Their cunning plan is working!
posted by wendell at 12:29 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Bush administration's "malcompetence" is just the second half of O' Rourke's law, in policy form.

The truth is that government (like any other industry) is as good/bad efficient/inefficient as the elected officials and public servants who work in it.
posted by stenseng at 12:52 PM on December 5, 2007


oncogenesis Waste, fraud, and abuse are endemic to every government bureaucracy. Government agencies have no motive to be performant or even competant. What happens when a government agency (almost always by accident) succeeds, even partially, at a task?

Waste, fraud and abuse occur in government agencies that have their morale destroyed and their sense of purpose stripped away by two generations of idiotic management focussed only on costs, budgets, and money rather than mission, consequences, and service. What you call "waste", used to be called "redundancy", and that word used to mean something good: specifically, the capacity to meet higher demand for service or operate with reduced resources during periods of emergency.

Above all else the parlous state of the modern public service is the fault of this idiot, the Marx of capitalism, who came up with a theory that sounded all so wonderful but in practice has turned out to be destructive to the concept of human worth and dignity.

I don't wish to write a long essay on the topic right now, but the summary is this: governing a country with interest only in the economy is like living your life with interest only in your food. While it is necessary to the survival of the entity, it entirely misses the larger point.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:28 PM on December 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


Actually, a bad system can compound inefficiencies and impound efficiencies.

Personally, I think our American system for choosing leaders at some point got swapped with some sociopath breeding program gone awry. We're breeding for some pretty horrid traits.
posted by butterstick at 1:32 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Everyone is guilty of cronyism. Everyone hires their friends. But most of us don't put friends into jobs they can't do, and few of us have so many essentially incompetent friends.

The biggest problem with the Bush administration, I would say, is their bad taste in cronies.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:34 PM on December 5, 2007


Amen aeschenkarnos! I can tell you all from the inside that it is not graft bringing down the functionality of government, it's bureaucracy. DHS was created from nothing and funded to the bare bones by a Republican administration and Republican Congress that had to at least play lip service to the concepts of small government and privatization. The results? A contractor heavy, shoddily assembled mess that treats its own employees like the enemy and forces them into hours of paperwork as opposed to actually attempting to get work done that would improve security. But what do I know?

Which way to all this graft I hear they're handing out?
posted by Pollomacho at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2007


What happens when a government agency (almost always by accident) succeeds, even partially, at a task?

Most of the time, nobody notices. The FAA, the National Park Service, the FBI, the Coast Guard all do excellent work the vast majority of the time.

The biggest problem with the Bush administration, I would say, is their bad taste in cronies.

Hear, hear. Paging Ken Lay, Alberto Gonzales, Heckuvajob Brownie ... please pick up the white courtesy paycheck.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:02 PM on December 5, 2007


Good discussion here, but did anyone actually watch the video? I watched about half, and it was pretty poor, unfortunately. It could have been so much more effective.
posted by tippiedog at 3:03 PM on December 5, 2007


DHS is more interested in protecting the state from the plebs than protecting plebs from angry plebs.

Papers please, comrade!
posted by Sukiari at 3:15 PM on December 5, 2007


What happened to our cool/ sinister sounding acronyms for governmental organizations? FBI: stern. G-men who fight mobsters. OSS? sneaky, didn't want to mess with them, they tangled with Nazis and won. CIA: spooks. Almost the definition of bad-ass. Hell, even the No Such Agency gets a nod for appearing on our collective conscious radars by failing to be obvious about existing.

But the DHS? How the hell am I supposed to take that seriously? They share an acronym with Delta High School for fuck's sake.

Cronyism aside, we need to come up with a better name for the department that is going to make sure all our cops have SWAT gear, even if they don't have the training to use it.
posted by quin at 3:49 PM on December 5, 2007


Good discussion here, but did anyone actually watch the video? I watched about half, and it was pretty poor, unfortunately. It could have been so much more effective.

I think the video is basically a teaser for the report (PDF). That's where the real substance is.
posted by homunculus at 4:33 PM on December 5, 2007


(puts on cynic-pants)

I defy anyone in attendance to tell me they expected the creation of the DHS to be anything but a grand exercise in government waste and mis-management. Anyone?

*cries*
posted by Parannoyed at 6:00 PM on December 5, 2007


I’m shocked, shocked to find how apt the Capt. Renault quote from Casablanca is here.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:02 PM on December 5, 2007


Problem starts when the incompetent ignores he is incompetent and doesn't suffer serious consequences ; he isn't suffering damage he doesn't understand, he doesn't understand what damages he may suffer , nor as a grip or cares about the compounded effects : so he doesn't hire somebody to do his job.
posted by elpapacito at 6:29 PM on December 5, 2007


I defy anyone in attendance to tell me they expected the creation of the DHS to be anything but a grand exercise in government waste and mis-management. Anyone?

Not me. I knew it was doomed to be shit-for-all when I heard the name: Homeland security? What a childish, pseudo-Biblical, folksily-inappropriate term. Why is it not called the Dept. of Domestic Security, or the Dept. of National Security, or something that sounds like actual educated adults named it?

(I know, look at who created and named it, etc.)
posted by LooseFilter at 6:50 PM on December 5, 2007


Ever since the war on Terror started, I haven't been terrorized by ANY pink elephants. See! It's working!!
Now if they would just get rid of the fez wearing purple monkeys, I could sleep again.
posted by Balisong at 8:49 PM on December 5, 2007


Oncogensis wrote: Waste, fraud, and abuse are endemic to every government bureaucracy. Government agencies have no motive to be performant or even competant.

Basically everything you wrote is false.

Your first sentence can be proved false by finding a single government agency which is not infected with waste, fraud and abuse. Given the number of government agencies across the globe, this is simply a matter of looking.

So you re-write your statement to say "many" instead of "every" and now it's factually true. Unfortunately at that point it's no longer relevant because we'd have to discuss whether or not it's possible to find and fix the issues at a reasonable rate.

Your second sentence is, again, completely false. Some agencies have no motive to be performant [sic] or competant [sic]. But again, this can be solved by making sure that the agencies are structured in a way where there is motivation to achieve the desired goals, across the board. I'm guessing that any of the top 50 executives at GE would be capable of designing scalable solutions for these issues.

The sad thing is that a lot of people buy your nonsense hook line and sinker, and believe that if one government-provided system worked poorly that they all must. It's an obvious logical fallacy, and it's wholesale acceptance has far more to do with the actions of selfish elected individuals than it does with any rational discussion of governance.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 8:50 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's sad that this kind of thing is not even surprising news anymore.
posted by amyms at 9:49 PM on December 5, 2007


Have you ever worked in government?! The pay stinks, the policies and procedures are so arcane and restrictive that it's a wonder anything gets done. Your co-workers are incompetants and n'er-do-wells and the boredom is soul crushing.

Waste, fraud and abuse are among the few perquisites of the job!
posted by Standeck at 8:13 AM on December 6, 2007


In other news: $1 Billion In Military Equipment Missing In Iraq
posted by homunculus at 11:47 PM on December 6, 2007


The Year in Oversight
posted by homunculus at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2007


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