Government Duplicates When It's Stupid - and Doesn't When It's a National Security Imperative
Cronyism and National Security Red Alert
The late, inordinately great Ronald Reagan wisely noted:
“We could say the government spends like drunken sailors - but that would be unfair to drunken sailors. Because the sailors are spending their own money.”
The late, inordinately great Sir Ernest John Pickstone Benn wisely noted:
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.”
Mix up a massive $4-trillion-per-year federal government budget - and the massive politics involved in electing the people to spend it - and you see the harmonic-convergence-wisdom of these two gentlemen.
One really stupid way government spends our money - is on unnecessary and stupid duplication. And triplication. And quadruplication. And quin-tuplication. And sex-tuplication. And…:
“Since 2011, (The Government Accountability Office) GAO has issued annual reports on opportunities to reduce fragmentation, overlap, and duplication, as well as reduce costs and increase revenue, for the federal government.”
Get that? The GAO only started doing this…in 2011. Which means for the preceding two centuries, government “fragmentation, overlap, and duplication”…went nigh totally unanalyzed.
The GAO was formed in 1921. Which begs the question: What the heck was the office charged with government accountability doing for its first ninety years - if it wasn’t identifying “fragmentation, overlap, and duplication?”
And of course - just because the GAO is now, finally identifying it…doesn’t mean anyone is doing anything about it. This from 2014:
Government Often Has 10 Agencies Doing One Job: “It takes 10 different offices at the Department of Health and Human Services to run programs addressing AIDS in minority communities. Autism research is spread out over 11 different agencies. Eight agencies at the Defense Department are looking for prisoners of war and missing in action. And Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado has eight different satellite control centers to control 10 satellite programs.”
And this from 2016:
Report Says Federal Fragmentation, Overlap, Duplication Abound: “The Government Accountability Office keeps Uncle Sam’s to-do lists. One of the most anticipated by Congress is the annual list of fragmentation, duplication and overlap in government programs. It shows how Sam can step on his own toes, wasting resources in the process.”
I doubt Congress “anticipates” - so much as it dreads.
That’s a story on the fifth such GAO report. There shouldn’t have been a second. In fact - there shouldn’t have been a first.
Congress should, I don’t know, read their budgets before voting on them. Which would allow them to take note of all of this massive waste - and remove it prior to passage.
Certainly if you have a dedicated office handing you a list of all this massive waste - you’d be embarrassed you passed it in the first place…and make sure that office never again has anything to hand you.
But this is DC. Shame is an emotion…never, ever experienced here.
A feeling far too often felt in our nation’s capital - is the warmth found in the reciprocal embrace of cronies clutching cronies. And with the government spending a massive $4-trillion-per-year - and the massive politics involved in electing the people to spend it - there is lots and LOTS of crony hugging going on.
Which is a major reason why you so often have a dozen agencies doing things - when one will do. Because a dozen agencies doing it - means much more money for many more cronies.
But when one giant crony wants government’s monogamous exclusivity - they get it. Even when it results in policy even more awful than a dozen agencies doing the work of one.
It’s not just “rivals” who call it “a lock for Amazon.” Anyone who looks at the deal - and is intellectually honest - calls it a lock for Amazon. Because it’s a lock for Amazon:
“In a report demanded by Congress, the Defense Department defended its planned winner-take-all award for a cloud-computing contract….”
Of course the Defense Department defended its hiring Amazon and only Amazon. I would bet all the money in my pockets - against all the money in your pockets - that the bureaucrats who exclusively hired Amazon…are the ones who wrote the Defense Department’s defense of exclusively hiring Amazon.
And who exactly is that?
Cronyism: Having Your Ex-Employees Award Government Contracts…: “…makes it much more likely you’ll get government contracts.
“Behold the United States Digital Service (USDS). And the Defense Department’s portion thereof: The Defense Digital Service (DDS).
“The Trump Administration has left these government nooks and crannies nigh completely un-cleansed. So they remain entirely populated by Barack Obama Administration holdovers.
“And as we have seen time and time and time again - Obama holdovers make really bad, heinously crony policy….
“Meet Deap Ubhi….Ubhi is simultaneously working for the government - and his own private company. How very Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton of him….
“(W)e don’t know who Tablehero’s clients are. Could his private company be ‘hired’ - to affect his decision-making in his government gig?
“And it seems more than a little odd - and perhaps legally problematic??? – to simultaneously work for the public and private sectors.
“And get Ubhi’s USDS self-description: ‘Product & Technology Leader.’…Ubhi describes himself as USDS’ “Product Guy.”
“Sounds like procurement to me.
“Ubhi’s LinkedIn headline says he works for USDS – but his employment history says he works as “Product Director” for Defense’s DDS.
“Sounds like procurement to me.
“And where did Ubhi work immediately prior to government? Why look…uber-Big Tech company Amazon….
“And Ubhi didn’t just work for Amazon. He worked for Amazon Web Services (AWS) – Amazon’s cloud storage company.”
So the guy in charge of handing out contracts - at the Defense Department sub-agency in charge of handing out contracts - immediately before working for the government…worked for Amazon Web Services.
And that guy’s department hired - for a ten-year, $10 billion monopoly contract - Amazon Web Services.
What an amazing coincidence all of that is.
And this is one of those rare instances - where government not doing duplication…is a really terrible idea. For several reasons:
“One provider - is going to inherently become complacent. And slack off in attending to short-term needs - and innovating long-term betterments. One provider with a ten-year contract – is thus a REALLY bad idea.
“And any sort of ten-year contract in Tech - is egregiously awful. A decade in Tech - is an eon in evolutionary terms. If you’ve got inherent complacency - in the Tech world, for a decade - you end up with REALLY bad problems….
“You want a much shorter-term contract for any government service. For Tech - year-to-year is probably the best way to go.
“And you want multiple providers – each offering overlapping portions of the Defense Department’s very many needs. Again, for a variety of reasons.
“One reason: You have multiple providers constantly competing with each other – to constantly provide the best possible service. No complacency there.
“And then there are the national security implications.
“If you have but one provider - and it suffers a service interruption - the entire Defense Department suffers a service interruption.
“And for our military men and women serving in some really bad areas around the globe - service interruptions can and will be deadly.
“The Defense Department should build-in to their cloud computing what they build-in to just about everything else they do - multiple redundancies.
“Defense should have at least two providers providing each portion of the cloud service - so that if one crashes, you have at least one at-the-ready backup.
“So, say, at a bare minimum: Five providers - each providing 40% of the necessary services.
“For government school victims - that makes 200%. Which means two providers each are providing every part of the total cloud service.
“Backup. Fail-safe. Redundancy.
“Not one provider - all by its onesies, providing all of the service.”
So yet again:
Government is creating duplication - where none is needed.
And eliminating duplication - when it is of vital national security import.
And doing very much of all of it - for the crony-est of crony reasons.
We should prevent this - wherever and whenever we can.
We can do so here - with Amazon and the Defense Department.
We absolutely should.
This first appeared in Red State.