Thursday, November 18, 2010

Instapundit reader on the TSA

Professor Reynolds shares an email from an anonymous reader re: the TSA scandal:
I am a professor of management at a large state university in the southwestern US. I have done this for 15 years subsequent to a career in a Fortune 500 company. I read your site daily and always find something that makes me smile. Thus, I offer a couple of observations regarding your recent threads on the TSA screening debacle. Anyone that studies organizations or has spent time in corporate or large-government environments, understands why the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security were bad ideas. The expressed goal was to integrate all of the diverse elements associated with public security into one entity and make them work seamlessly. The only way to do this, however, is through fairly rigid bureaucratic rules and strict policy guidelines. How would you control the behavior of screeners in diverse places such as Minot and NYC? You do it through strict policy and procedures. You simply cannot permit discretion on the part of individuals as this would jeopardize organizational control of these people. This is why TSA seems mindless… the thinking is being done elsewhere, at the time the procedure is written. This is also why large-scale technical solutions like backscatter machines are favored. These are the only ones compatible with the organizational structures of TSA. I would think that even within the leadership of TSA you would get an admission that an Israeli-style security scheme is far more effective. The problem is scalability – and the bureaucratic nature of large organizations. The Israeli model requires allowing discretion on the part of the screener, which would require hiring employees capable of thoughtfully exercising it (better hiring, training, pay, etc.) and far fewer rigid policies and procedures. One more note. The trend in organizations for several years now is toward decentralizing, flexibility, and mass customization (the achieving of large scale efficiencies on an almost individual level). This is why I favor going back to doing security locally. Think local Fire Marshall vs the OSHA inspector. Who is really getting the job done?
Yes, I called Homeland Security The Department of Bureaucratic Security back when it was established, and I think my predictions have been borne out. “It will be a lot of things, but what it doesn’t seem to be is much of a weapon against terrorism.”
I recall--although I can't produce cites at this late date--that President George "All His Fault" Bush didn't want to form a new agency specifically to take over airport security; he just wanted to change the government oversight. The Democrats in Congress made him do it. I agreed with "W", of course, that making government bigger was a Bad Thing. OTOH, here in Seattle, each concourse at SeaTac had it's own checkpoint, with a different bunch of rent-a-cops working there; apparently, the setup was, the airline with primary responsibility for the concourse hired it's own contractor.

That's not an argument against going back to local control of security, but, since it appears the "Screening Partnership" thing, or whatever it's called, in which the airport "ditches" the TSA and takes back responsibility for screening, has been there for years, I have to wonder what the catches are.


DirtCrashr said...

I read that too and thought it was the best so-far analysis of our current political predicament - the strangulation of bureaucracy and it's one-sized, rules-based inefficiency and inhumanity.

DirtCrashr said...

So in another thought; there's Regulatory Capture by which the parasitic bureaucrats cozy-up to suck the blood of the productive class, and this now exhibits a size-based structural Behavioral Capture, whereby the inductees to the Bureaucratic Class are morphed into duty-based submissives and made compliant with their station.