When bureaucracy kills

Democrats are jumping all over the current administration for failing to take action on evidence that foretold Sept. 11. But it's unlikely that blame will be so easily assigned, nor is it going to be so easy to solve. We joke about the bureaucratic nature of government, but in this case it was deadly. These terrorist attacks have revealed some fundamental fissures in our democratic organizational structures--(another reason it's too early to declare democracy the end point of civilization).
Seymour Hersh writes a solid account in this week's New Yorker of how the government had various pieces of information which, if raised at the right levels and combined with other pieces of information, might have formed a cohesive, shrill warning that fatal attacks were imminent. But turf battles, lack of inter-organizational communication, and complacency killed the story.
When I encounter bureaucracy in a corporate environment, the cost is projects not delivered on time, competitive strikes not countered, and ultimately lost profits. In the government, the stakes are so high it's frightening. Irving Janis introduced groupthink as a fundamental cause for poor decision-making in the Bay of Pigs, the tragic Challenger Shuttle launch in 1986, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Thirteen Days chronicled one of the most commonly hailed instances of a government avoiding groupthink to avert an international crisis: the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Some reporter will probably come out with a book which seeks to chronicle all the reasons why the government missed Sept. 11. Let's hope the government figures it out before the book is published.