Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 11, 2013

Redundant from L. redundantem (nom. redundans), prp. of redundare “come back, contribute,” lit. “overflow,” from re- “again” + undare “rise in waves,” from unda “a wave”

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Technology for HLS — by Philip J. Palin on April 11, 2013

You may have seen the headlines:  Redundant Federal Programs Waste Billions (USA Today).

Or heard something similar:  Latest GAO report reveals 162 areas of redundancy across government (Federal News Radio).

Most of the broadcast news mentioned something about catfish inspectors and each military branch developing its own camouflage  uniform. Conservative or liberal — from inside or outside government — it is the kind of “news” that fails to create any new brain synapses and, probably, calcifies our current neural networks.

This lack of real thinking reflects the way information is headlined and how we typically receive the information, not what GAO is actually reporting.

The Government Accountability Office study released on Tuesday references several Department of Homeland Security practices.  In addition to a list from prior years, two more are highlighted in this most recent report:

Department of Homeland Security Research and Development: Better policies and guidance for defining, overseeing, and coordinating research and development investments and activities would help DHS address fragmentation, overlap, and potential unnecessary duplication.

Field-Based Information Sharing: To help reduce inefficiencies resulting from overlap in analytical and investigative support activities, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security and the Office of National Drug Control Policy could improve coordination among five types of field-based information sharing entities that may collect, process, analyze, or disseminate information in support of law enforcement and counterterrorism-related efforts—Joint Terrorism Task Forces, Field Intelligence Groups, Regional Information Sharing Systems centers, state and major urban area fusion centers, and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Investigative Support Centers.

I am sure any post-hoc study of  research-and-development or intelligence-gathering (even more-so intelligence creating) activities will always find a wide range of decisions and actions  hard to defend.   Any careful audit should find hundreds or thousands of hours obviously lost on following bad leads, interminable meetings, unnecessary travel, dysfunctional turf protection, and much, much more (or actually less and less).  A thorough analysis could authoritatively map how one failure led to another and another.

R&D and the intelligence process share a concern with anticipating, even creating the future.  Once we arrive at the future we can usually look back and bemoan (or self-justify) the dead-ends and circuitous paths chosen.   We may even be able to recognize how alternate — preferable? — futures were very close-at-hand, but have now receded in our wake.

Malcolm Gladwell argues that ten years and 10,000 hours are — along with other crucial inputs — prerequisites to “outlier” success.  What  would an audit at five years and 5000 hours find? What does a half-made success look like? Thomas Edison famously said, “I failed my way to success.”

In the commercial world “redundancy” is often called competition.  In biology redundancy is very closely related to diversity.  In engineering and other design applications redundancy is sometimes valued rather than maligned.

This is not to discourage DHS from looking hard at its research-and-development policies.  The improved coordination of field-based information-sharing sounds like a win-win.  But fragmentation, overlap, and duplication are not always net negatives.  Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues found that polycentric governance — featuring considerable fragmentation, overlap, and duplication — is often more effective at achieving policy goals than more centralized and “efficient” structures.

[Redundancy = Bad] is a dangerous heuristic.  Stop using it.

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5 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 11, 2013 @ 12:55 am

Careful analysis would often demonstrate that federal programs, functions, and activitiestrack back to the various Committees of the Congress and their structure and memberships. Often a MEMBER of Congress has specific interests that he or she carries to all the Committees they sit on as members.

Few changes in Congressional organization occur over say the 112th to the 113th Congress. And the demise of the Authorization Committees with the development of Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Acts and Continuing Resoluutions going back to the early 80′s is another factor.
In the HS arena a Permanent Joint Committee on HS along with another on federalism would help rationalize some of the problems.

Comment by HGRATTAN

April 11, 2013 @ 6:22 am

Phil,

A qualified quick response (time-management imperative).

Agreed,purposeful and error-laden wandering (sensemaking/reflection)makes for good policy formulation/strategy/tactics “sometimes.”

At the same time the accounting wonks help to keep our meandering to a minimium.

Sounds like and is a true (and democratic) dialectic.

Bill,

IMHO, the Nation would be well served with a refresher course in Federalism.

See White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/iga

and

Sam Clovis http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDsQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hsaj.org%2F%3Fdownload%26mode%3Ddl%26h%26w%26drm%3Dresources%252Fvolume2%252Fissue3%252Fpdfs%252F%26f%3D2.3.4.pdf%26altf%3D2.3.4.pdf&ei=fJxmUZzTCNfK4APZnoCQDg&usg=AFQjCNESx0PKDgpm38wh8LRVA3j8l0y-bw&sig2=-IfQjKttrc3bVfJigIQApQ&bvm=bv.45107431,d.dmg

FYI, I am looking forward to our open mike tomorow

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 11, 2013 @ 6:34 am

I applaud the efforts of Sam Clovis on federalism and recommend him for all to study! retired USAF JAG I believe.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 11, 2013 @ 6:44 am

And HGRATTAN thanks for the links. Useful! Sam’s linked article discusses various theories of federalism but focuses on the Executive and Legislative Branches of the federal government. The Judicial Branch is also a player and its federalism decisions are all over the place even SCOTUS.

And there is even different agreement among scholars as to the key federalism provisions in the US Constitution. One key aspect for the federalism in the USA is the continued control of a largely corrupt voting process by the STATES even for federal elections and positions. Focusing on election corruption could provide a lifetime of work for revisionists in the areas of histgo

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 11, 2013 @ 6:55 am

CONTINUED:

a lifetime of work for revisionists in the areas of history, government, and political science and public administration.

Even today, focused not just in the 11 states of the Confederacy many beleive that the STATES formed the USA. In fact the derivation of power was from the people and the USA continues today to struggle to answer the question asked by Lincoln at Gettysburg whether “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth”!

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