The Other Homeland Security Threat: Bureaucratic Haggling; as Homeland Security and Intelligence Agencies Attempt Monumental Change, Can Management Theory Offer Any New Approaches? (Article)

By Mitchell, Kenneth D. | The Public Manager, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

The Other Homeland Security Threat: Bureaucratic Haggling; as Homeland Security and Intelligence Agencies Attempt Monumental Change, Can Management Theory Offer Any New Approaches? (Article)


Mitchell, Kenneth D., The Public Manager


Reading the policy proposals and reorganization plans for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quickly leads one to recognize that the scale of change is extensive. No organizational change of this magnitude has taken place in the federal government since the national security reorganization during the late 1940s under the Truman administration. Changes, though, are already abounding. What is clear is that information technology and information sharing will be influential drivers of those changes.

Considering the size and the number of agencies now mandated or involved in tackling the changes slated to achieve the mission for DHS, as well affecting the intelligence community, begs two questions. What approaches can help guide the change processes? What can public managers offer in terms of their leadership to aid the successful organizational, operational, and technology changes?

It seems that with this "go round" of change, the field of public management should offer some new approaches; ideas worth examining that are fresh and beyond the normal staples for the work of change. Innovation, networking, organizational identity change, information sharing, and collaboration are all research areas that have been popular in the management literature over the past years and are worth a look. First, however, let us mull through a few items about change.

Contemplating Change

From investigations following the aftermath of September 11, we are learning that there were in fact many disparate pieces of intelligence information that could have led to an earlier response by the federal government toward at least taking some action with several of the culprits involved. Mismanagement and lack of coordination are among the suggested reasons why the government failed. Cultural clashes among agencies and stovepipe operations within agencies also have been specified as problems. From amid the finger-pointing going on as to what government entity was really responsible for the inaction, the impetus for change has emerged. That change requires greater coordination of our intelligence capabilities with the many agencies concerned with homeland protection. If only we had a more viable system, one in which the government would be more proactive in integrating and synthesizing the disparate pieces of intelligence, and hence able to respond more rapidly--this is what we must now seek, according to policy analysts.

One of the first issues is integrating the intelligence gathered from foreign lands into repositories that then can move selected information from classified and secret to lower level classifications or open systems for use by homeland security and law enforcement entities. Intelligence information is normally gathered and stored into highly classified, compartmentalized, and highly restricted federal government systems. Moving that intelligence information from its gathering perspective to targeted pieces of data, which can be used by more law enforcement authorities, is a fair undertaking of declassifying and properly handling legal safeguards.

Overcoming Stovepipes

Once the process moves from the intelligence-gathering realm to protection of the homeland realm (here we are talking about a wide range of agencies, such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), US Customs Service, Bureau of Counselor Affairs, US Coast Guard, US Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and local law enforcement), there is the fundamental shift of operations away from just collecting to legal protections with regards to information and data analysis. Behind these systems are very compartmentalized methodologies for handling data. Hence, this is why the existence of the "stovepipes," we keep hearing about. Hence policymakers are devising processes and systems to arrange an operation so that classified information can be scrubbed and shared with appropriate levels

Meanwhile, the Bush administration and federal policymakers are wrestling to establish processes and structures to allow data sharing systems and maintain the balance of safeguards. …

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The Other Homeland Security Threat: Bureaucratic Haggling; as Homeland Security and Intelligence Agencies Attempt Monumental Change, Can Management Theory Offer Any New Approaches? (Article)
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