Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fixing The CIA

There's no need to despair at the news that a senior operative at the heart of the CIA has been leaking to the WaPo lefties - it shows that the man the president put in to clean house is doing his job right.

The CIA's failure to prevent 9/11 suggested it was broken, and the subsequent flood of self-justifying leaks by senior CIA officials confirmed that. Then Porter Goss (CIA field operative turned Congressman), with others, ran the 9/11 inquiry. As you'd expect, the published results were fairly anodyne - although it flagged the Plame female as a liar - but, more importantly, it told Goss what exactly was broken. He concluded:
...the agency has "been ignoring its core mission activities" and the clandestine service is on its way to being "a stilted bureaucracy incapable of even the slightest bit of success." He called the CIA's human intelligence gathering apparatus "dysfunctional" and averse to change, and charged that its intelligence analysts were timid and lacked proper focus.
In 2004 George Tenet bailed out as director and, the president - no doubt with a sigh of relief - gave Goss the job of fixing the wreck.

Now "dysfunctional", "averse to change", "timid", "unfocused" describes the typical broken computer company. It's been my misfortune to work in or take over four of these, and I've learned the simple techniques of turning them round. Goss will likely be working from the same 3 step cookbook, and here's what he'll be doing.

1. Identify The Good Guys

The rottenest organization still has plenty of good people, usually trapped below incompetents. You find them by observing which ones advance towards the sound of the guns. In a computer company, that means closing hard deals, facing down manipulative customers, writing good code quickly, and bringing projects in on-time, within budget and to specification. Since any company faces plenty of such problems, you just have to ignore the hierarchy and find out who is actually doing the good work.

Once you've done that, you know who's going to take the company forward. But before you can promote the good guys, you have to neuter the deadbeats. That's because they will a) block you, and b) undermine the good guys.

In an employment-at-will jurisdiction, that's easy - you just hand out pink slips. But in regulated European companies, or the Government, you can't do that. So you use two further tactics.

2. Create A Deadbeat Reservation

In a computer company, you move all your deadbeats into a new division called something like "Range Aims And Strategies". You give them impressive titles - Global Systems Architect is a favorite - and fancy offices, then ask them to establish Standards.

You encourage them to attend lots of standards meetings, where they can mingle with their opposite numbers from other companies. I once encountered a fellow who spent years creating a Corporate Standard For Holes Punched In Company Documents. It specified four holes, allowed for all paper sizes, and had a compatibility mode for our French subsidiary (I think they used 5 holes, all square). Of course nobody paid any attention to the standard, but the company avoided all the damage this deadbeat would have inflicted on an real assignment!

The EU is actually a Deadbeat Reservation. Think about it. If you're desperately trying to run a Brit government department & are told to supply someone to work in Brussels, who to you choose? Right - the most useless person you have. That way they're out of your hair and of course making a mess of the EU enemy. You can see this deadbeatness in their pathetic attempts to beat up on Microsoft for not unbundling WMP (my ellipsis & emphasis):

Microsoft accused the European Union’s top anti-trust regulator of making “fundamental errors” yesterday as it appealed against the €497 million fine imposed on it in a landmark decision two years ago for abusing its dominant position.

(It) told the court that no computer maker had shipped a PC or laptop with the (WMP-free) Windows XP N version and that only 1,787 copies had been ordered worldwide out of global sales of 35 million copies of Windows — less than 0.005 per cent. “The failure to offer a product that nobody wants cannot be an abuse...”

Herding together the deadbeats is not always enough, since they love power, and will try to break back into the functioning organization. To deal with that you need one last trick.

3. The Motorway/Interstate Job

The trick here is to split the Deadbeat Reservation off, either by moving it or the Good Guys out. It's an easy cost-based decision based on proportions of good to bad (remember that the smaller the real company, the better it will work!).

Either way, you isolate the deadbeats somewhere nice with lots of corner offices, good restaurants and international airports so they can go to Interoperable Systems Conferences in Hawaii (much easier for their Japanese opposite numbers to get to than, say, Des Moines).

In the UK, Motorway Jobs have one other advantage - after a decent interval, you can just declare the Deadbeat Reservation redundant and fire the lot. That gets round all the firing rules about seniority, because if you have no commercial need for a hole punch design outfit, it's pretty hard for the government or lawyers to insist that you really do. Of course this trick would never work in France or Germany, where deadbeats are a protected species.

So, What's Mr Goss Doing?

His Deadbeat Reservation is clearly the office of the inspector general:
Mary McCarthy's position--the post from which she is likely to have learned the most sensitive information at the heart of the leak controversy--was inside the CIA's inspector general's office. This is the unit that investigates internal misconduct. This is the unit to which government employees are encouraged to report government abuse or illegality so it can be investigated, potentially reported to Congress, and prosecuted if appropriate.
OK, she could still leak to her lefty buddies, but she's out of the line of battle, which is what matters.

And What Will Mr Goss Do Next?

My money is on a move of the Real CIA from Langley to somewhere like Denver. Washington DC swarms with lefties and lawyers, so it's the worst place to get competent, brave and patriotic hard workers. Whereas Colorado has concealed carry and its people get upset when their country is attacked.

Goss can leave the Reservation in DC, and feed it with whatever nonsense he wants the MSM to publish - as the Brits did in WW2 when they had all their turned German agents misreport V1 and V2 strikes on London.

So we should not depair - the CIA will rise again.