Thursday, June 09, 2005

National Security & Job Security

This section of the testimony before congress by a former commander of Coast Guard, Stephen E. Flynn & Jean Kirkpatrick was very interesting, the topic was prevention of WMD's being transported via containers. Not only would such an attack cost the lives of many civilians,
[b]ut such an attack also would almost certainly lead U.S. officials to close U.S. ports and borders to all inbound containers until they could assess the likelihood of follow-on attacks. If that closure extended to two or three weeks it would bring the global inter-modal transportation system to its knees. Since two-thirds of the total value of U.S. maritime overseas trade move in containers, American manufacturers that rely upon those shipments to keep their assembly plants operating and retailers who depend upon them to keep their shelves stocked would quickly become a part of the collateral damage. All together, the cascading costs of a weeks-long shutdown in the aftermath of a WMD attack would almost certainly be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Considering the enormous consequences, one would assume that we would be safe guarding our shores using the most advanced technology available. Unfortunately, no. Hong Kong has a great systemin which every container arriving in the two of the busiest marine terminals in the world are, at average speeds of 15 kph, passing through gamma ray machine, a radiation portal, and optical character recognition cameras which record the container number. These images and radiation profiles are then being stored in a database allowing the virtual inspection of any and all containers entering the terminal. The cost of deploying and maintaining this system throughout the entire port it estimated to be $6.50 per container.

So, what's preventing us from adopting this system & spreading it internationally? The main factor is the ambivalence many government agencies have about adopting new technologies. The other four they list are,
1.[reluctance] to acknowledge that many of their pre-9/11 risk management assumptions may not be well-suited for the low-probability but high consequence threat posed by the WMD in a container.
2. [reluctance] to "deputize" to the private sector functions historically performed by customs agents.
3.[ beyond] the requirement that ocean carriers provide them with cargo manifests, they have traditionally maintained nominal interactions with the transportation industry, focusing instead on importers and exporters and trade intermediaries.
4. [ they] are queasy about being given more data than they are in a position to examine and analyze. This creates a collateral bureaucratic risk of being held accountable should a post-mortem investigation reveal that they had data in their possession, but failed to look closely at it.

What it essentially boils down to is, bureaucratic turf wars & the public vs. privet sector feud, two things we can't afford to tolerate post 9/11. It's time to put aside the sandbox behavior, grow up & learn to play nice. But, I suspect that there is another reason behind this, namely, the fear of being made redundant by technology. It's a very Luddite, but understandable position. While I am not in favor of having the government be a jobs program, I recognize that people need to have a job & should not be treated as disposable cutlery.

The idea that new technology equals the elimination of jobs is a myth, they simply call for a different set of skills & a different set of job descriptions. What happens too often is, when a system gets implemented, the people who used the old one get laid off without a second thought. Therefore, with this specter lurking in the back of their mind, the new technology is promptly rejected with no efforts being made to exploit it's full potential.

One solution to this of course is to insist more strongly on retraining programs, to allow the existing employees to function in the new environment. But, what about those who prove unable, though not unwilling, to learn some of the new skills. These are often the oldest employees, those with only a few years from retirement & who would have a lot of difficulty finding a job elsewhere. Were we to end the balkanization of government agencies as well as this public, privet split & implement a system in which, employees made redundant in one place can easily be transferred to another position in which they are able to function, I believe people would be more enthusiastic about embracing new technologies. When feeling less threatened, even older employees are able to adapt, if not completely, to the new environment.

This type of a system would rankle a lot of federalists & libertarians. I understand & appreciate their very legitimate concerns, certainly, there should be checks & balances to power & the government should not get too cozy with privet enterprises. However, as the investigation of 9/11 showed, the lack of cooperation & communication between the CIA, FBI, INS & the airlines & airports, allowed for the deadliest attack on US soil. We need a system which should allow for job security, but not job guarantee, as university tenure does. Those who are lazy, incompetent or irresponsible, as well as professional protesters, should be summarily shown the door.

Another benefit of this type of system is that it would reduce the power of the unions. While I am not reflexively anti-union, I do believe that they have been abusive & harmful to our economy & country for too long. One of the most powerful recruitment tools they have is providing job security. Were there to be a system which already addressed this issue, it would force the unions to reform & hopefully become less abusive & act in a manner more beneficial to our economy & country. Implementing a system based on cooperation & balance would not only benefit our economy, but also national security.

Comments:
One must always remember that a bureaucracy eventually exists only to protect itself and that any positive gains from that bureaucracy are almost blind luck. I have to agree with the libertarian view that the government is the problem here. Its size makes it inherently unable to properly cope with this dilemna and others post 9/11.
 
Yes, I agree with you on the dangers of bureacracy & big government. I should have made that clear. I do not believe in increasing the size of the government, in fact I think that a more fluid system would reduce the size of government as it address the deadwood issue.

P.S. I can't seem to find the address of your blog, I got it earlier from La Shawn Barber. Could you please post it or email it to me so that I can link you. Thanks.
 
www.theconservativerant.blogspot.com

Thanks for linking up. I went ahead and took the liberty to link you on my page. :)
 
I didn't reason at all that you were advocating larger government. You can reference to Janice Rogers Brown for how I think we all feel about government failures.

I say this about the government while I myself and employed by a government entity (I'm a teacher). I'm open to any changes that reduce the waste.
 
Sorry I misunderstood your comments Chris. Glad to hear you're a teacher, kids today need to be taught the truth more than ever.
You've been linked :)
 
Best regards from NY! » »
 
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