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High Speed Technology Vs. Slow Wheels Of Government

By James Donahue

A recent report in Newsweek Magazine that U.S. intelligence agencies are lagging behind in updated electronics used in potential terrorist communications should not come as a surprise.

After years of working as a county and city government reporter this writer understands how slow the wheels of decision-making turn within a democratic system. Every request for purchasing new equipment with tax dollars goes through various committees for recommendations before a final decision is made by the full governing board. Sometimes the process can take weeks, sometimes months.

We once watched a county board of commissioners spend months deciding on fixing a serious leak in a roof of an office housing the office of a health services director. Before that leak was repaired the director was forced to move out of the office and the cost of the work was elevated to hundreds of thousands of dollars because of water damage to walls, ceiling, floor, carpet, fixtures and even books. All that was originally needed was a simple dabbing of patching tar on the roof until the decision was made to have the roof replaced.

City councils and township boards tend to move somewhat faster when it comes to getting things done, but not much.

There is a general rule of thumb that the larger the number of people elected or appointed to chairs on a decision-making body, the slower the process for getting things accomplished becomes.

I have noticed that road commissions in my state, which generally are limited to no more than three members, have a tendency to respond quickly to emergency situations. When roads and bridges get washed out in storms, repairs are begun almost overnight.

County boards can be from five to 20 members, and when they break down into committees and sub-committees to study problems and make recommendations, that makes the process sluggish at best.

Multiply that image to include all of the elected representatives and senators sent to state and federal offices to run state and federal government agencies, and you get some idea as to just how bogged down the process can become.

This is why the concept of your federal government protecting us from terrorism is somewhat ludicrous. While efforts have been made to break departments down into well-oiled systems, the Bush Administration decision to combine the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, The U. S. Coast Guard, the Federal Office of Emergency Management (FEMA), the Customs and Border patrol, transportation and nuclear security and a long list of other agencies most of us have never heard of into one agency now called the Office of Homeland Security, presents a pretty scary scenario when it comes to really protecting the homeland.

We have already seen strong evidence as to just how inadequate this giant bureaucracy has become from the way it responded to the hurricane Katrina disaster. What makes anyone think it will do any better when the next national emergency occurs, be it a natural disaster or another terrorist attack?

Indeed, Mr. Bush and other intelligence people have boasted about stopping potential terrorist attacks in the making within the home turf. Yet in every case the would-be plotters did something pretty stupid to give themselves away. These were home-grown fools trying to make a name for themselves and not connected to the real extremist Islamic groups that would plot to see our country brought to its knees.

When Newsweek says intelligence officials are complaining about a "major gap" in their ability to keep up with the fast changing world of electronic communication systems and staying one step ahead of potential terrorist plots, the matter should be taken seriously.

Since the Christian-oriented Bush Administration rejects all offers by the nation's best psychics to help in these matters, saying such things are "of the devil," the least we can do is give our intelligence people the very best and latest equipment available, and on demand. Making them wait for months for committee and budget approvals is comparable to closing the barn door after the horse escapes.

To date, the only thing holding the terrorists back has been the terrorists themselves. We believe they can and will strike us when they damned-well choose, and there is little anybody in the United States government is capable of doing about it.