Friday, February 13, 2015

Shall We Place Overseas Buildings Operations Under a Security Boss?

I like the idea - don't get me wrong - but I wouldn't bet money on it being implemented. Like oil and water, OBO and DS don't mix.

Of course, there is always the chance that the next House Oversight Committee hearing on Design Excellence will blow up so badly that a hostile takeover of OBO starts to look good to the big players in that headquarters building across the river from Rosslyn. Be still, my beating heart!

Here's the unofficial restructuring proposal that has me all a-twitter.

Time for Change: Restructuring the State Department for the 21st Century:

WhirledView author Patricia Kushlis has written extensively on the corruption and incompetence that plague State's personnel system. She has also described in depth the longstanding absence of both internal and external oversight. However, there is another problem that must be addressed: the antiquated, bloated and irrational structure of management operations at State. In this article I map out a new management structure that would address these and other problems.

Because the M portfolio is too large and too diverse to be managed as one entity by one person, it should be broken up and reconfigured into more logical sub-elements. The existing Under Secretary for Management title and portfolio would be eliminated and four new Under Secretaries created – each overseeing a portfolio of related functions in which he/she would have expertise. These four Under Secretaries would report to the Deputy Secretary for Management.

--snip --

Create an Under Secretary for Security Affairs

This portfolio would group together Diplomatic Security, Information Resources Management and Overseas Buildings Operations.

In years gone by, the State Department's security concerns rested largely with threats to personnel and facilities overseas. However, in today's world, the globalization of terror and the growing ability of enemies of the United States to hack our most secure computers present new threats.

In the face of these broader challenges, it only makes sense to group together the safety of personnel and facilities, embassy construction (which is heavily dependent on security standards) and the protection of classified and unclassified information into one bureaucratic domain. The cross-cutting use of security procedures and standards, threat assessments and other intelligence for these three functions would bring greater effectiveness.

Of course the M portfolio is too large and diverse to be managed by one person. Nevertheless, it is, and it has been for a very long time. I wish the best of luck to anyone who tries to break Patrick Kennedy's iron rice bowl into four pieces. Bring Kryptonite.

Fun fact from the past: State Department information programs were placed under the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security in 1989, and the unhappy marriage lasted until 1992. So the idea of merging information programs with overseas buildings and security isn't altogether new and untried.

According to this publicly available source of information, Sheldon J. Krys, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security from 1989-1992, brought the Office of Information Management (IM) into his portfolio for all the right reasons. However, the merger did not last after his departure.

The Reagan White House also issued NSDD-211, which placed the Department of State in charge of the Diplomatic Telecommunications Service (DTS), which was largely managed by the Office of Communications but worked closely with DS to maintain its security.

Then, in 1989, in an effort to improve information security and better coordination of information, the Department, through the efforts of Assistant Secretary Krys, transferred IM to DS. The IM transfer incorporated OC’s Office of Security (OC/S) and all of OC’s electronic and technical countermeasures into DS. Also, OC’s Field Inspection Teams went to DS, as did the Shield Enclosure program for post communications centers.

The merger of IM and DS proved unpopular and difficult, and the rapid pace of innovation in computer technologies aggravated the situation. Several officials in OC and IM did not like the transfer. One OC/S veteran, Robert Surprise, who was studying at the National Defense University in 1990, devoted his research paper to a reassessment of IM’s transfer to DS. Surprise concluded that the merger did not achieve its intended goals, and that “user and IM communities have expressed dissatisfaction with the new structure” because it was “too bureaucratic, unresponsive, and a hindrance to progress.” The Office of the Inspector General used Surprise’s paper to argue that IM should be removed from DS and put back into the Bureau of Administration. Krys, who had favored the initial transfer, concluded after just two years, that IM should be its own bureau (at least theoretically). After three years, Department officials approved IM’s move back to the Bureau of Administration. While most information management and communications offices left, the security-oriented offices like Computer Security remained with DS.

Okay, so the merger of DS with the Geek Squad didn't work. Geeks with guns? But, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be tried again with DS and Overseas Buildings Operations. Please. Oh, please.


Anonymous said...

Good post TSB! It would be way to sensible except someone has decided we need to send the Army back to fight for Anbar Province again 11 years later. We need a special branch of the service for soldiers who want to defeat Saddam Housein and all his old Generals. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: PS: I notice my favorite billionaire, John Huntsman, is thinking of getting into the 2016 gaggle. Maybe he'll get the old band back together.

TSB said...

GWB: If we fight ISIL in Anbar, we ought to join forces with Saddam's old Generals and have them run the place as a Sunni enclave. I'd be up for that.

James: I hadn't
heard about Huntsman. Guess it's true that they never get over Potomac Fever.

James said...

That's GWB on Huntsman.

Anonymous said...

TSB: Ann Marie at State has a new plan to defeat ISIS: "A Chicken In Every Jihadi Pot!" gwb

TSB said...

James: Thanks, sorry.

GWB: Marie is saying exactly the same thing everyone but me seems to think. It's totally the conventional wisdom, and you'll find it in official statements of every kind from both the Bush and Obama administrations. It's still total nonsense, of course.

James said...

That's okay Skep, but you'd better be careful that "Thunderbird" will get you eventually.