Some people hyperbolize if DHS is not funded by Friday, ISIS starts adding American cities to its Islamic State. Other people argue when the funds run out not much that’s different will happen. Most DHS employees will show up for work at airports, borders, and other venues, and they’ll do it without a guarantee they’ll be paid. Another group says there’s no way DHS won’t be funded. The funds will emerge from another one of those take the battery-out-of-the-clock legislative compromises.
I can see it happening either way: DHS will either be funded or not by Friday. The game finds ways to go on.
If this 2015 version of government shutdown theater follows previous scripts, there will be no resolution by Friday. Maybe a short term fix happens on Saturday or Sunday, followed by a slightly longer short term fix in the next weeks or months.
How will this situation be resolved enough to allow play to continue? Will someone in the legislative majority order followers to behave in a certain way? Will new coalitions emerge? Will men and women of principle exchange some of those principles for a few other ones?
I came across a footnote in Michael Glennon’s book, National Security and Double Government that offers an explanatory – maybe predictive – theory of how DHS eventually will be funded.
I wrote about Glennon’s argument a few weeks ago. The central argument is national security policy appears to be run by elected officials, but it’s actually shaped by a usual suspect flock: “the several hundred managers of the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement agencies who are responsible for protecting the nation and who have come to operate largely immune from constitutional and electoral restraints.” The president, congress and the courts play largely a symbolic role in national security policy, Glennon says.
Here’s the footnote that got my attention as a way to understand how movement from the current budget impasse will happen.
When all is said and done, perhaps the most lucid and succinct account of Trumanite [usual suspects] behavior lies not in socio-psychological theory but in ornithology—bird-watching. Craig Reynolds has theorized that birds adhere to three simple precepts: first, don’t crowd your neighbors (separation); second, steer toward the average heading of your neighbors (alignment); and third, steer toward the average position of your neighbors (cohesion). …. Members of the Trumanite network maintain separate though often only nominal allegiance to distinct organizations that respect each other’s autonomy while at the same time competing for authority (rather like states in the international realm). They align themselves in steering toward other organizations’ efforts to maintain the continuing direction of existing national security policy. And they cohere in the “average position” of their Trumanite neighbors in resisting Madisonian [elected officials] encroachments—while perpetuating the impression of Madisonian control.
Translated into homeland security budget impasse-eze, the theory implicit in the footnote suggests no one is very clear what will happen if Congress does not fund DHS. Officials have too much to do to become experts on the impact no DHS funding will have. They have their opinions, but they also rely on the usual suspects – experts and trusted allies from the left, right, center, up, and down – to figure out what their position should be on this budget issue. Elected officials will provide on-the-record sounds for the public conversation. But many, if not most, of the ideas come in private conversations.
Like a flock of birds, the people who will be at the core of resolving the DHS budget issue will move toward their goal by following a few simple rules:
1. Maintain enough separation from others to sustain their political independence and reputation for being their own man or woman on this issue. They will come out of this drama as thoughtful and reasonable people, regardless of where those thoughts come from.
2. Notwithstanding separation, they don’t want to get too far away from the people and interests that mean the most to them, so they’ll take a read on the general direction political neighbors are moving, and continuously align themselves with those positions. The DHS budget is not the only drama in town.
3. Since there are multiple people and interests, maintaining separation and alignment requires sustaining a general cohesion within the flock.
The double government theory argues that national security’s long game takes place in multiple dimensions. Distance here is a psychic space. The closer you are to the players and the arena, the more unpredictable the specific moves. The further back you stand, the more predictable and familiar the moves.