Academic journal article Parameters

Battling the Bureaucracy

Academic journal article Parameters

Battling the Bureaucracy

Article excerpt

However necessary the process may be, is there a more enduring, frustrating feature of any human endeavor than dealing with the administrative accountability of it all? The following letter may be apocryphal or genuine, but in any case it will strike a chord with those in military or government service. It is attributed to the Duke of Wellington, allegedly written by him to the British War Office during the Peninsular War (1808-1814).

Gentlemen:

Whilst marching to Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your request which has been sent to H.M. ship from London to Lisbon and then by dispatch rider to our headquarters.

We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty's Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.

Unfortunately, the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion's petty cash, and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. …

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