Nothing Happens

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

No matter how much money you give them, William S. Lind says, our State Department can’t produce:

Over the years, I have heard one ambassador after another say, “I had to turn to the military because they are the only people who can get anything done.” If you give the U.S. military an order, something usually happens. It may happen late, clumsily, and expensively, but still, something happens.

In contrast, with State and other agencies, most of the time nothing happens. That is true even when budgets are ample. Why? Because the internal culture of our civilian agencies is so rigid, bureaucratic, risk-averse and rule-bound that they cannot act.

Often, the people at the working level are quite talented. They want to do the assigned job. But the internal focus of their agency is so strong they cannot, at least without risking their careers. A single broken rule or bent regulation, undotted i or uncrossed t, and they quickly learn to follow the regs and forget about the product. So nothing happens.

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