Moving at the Speed of Government
R.N. triggers a flashback:
You’ll be happy to know that the new wing is completed. Still has that aircraft carrier feel on the outside (Jacoby’s Naval influence?) but inside is a debacle. Speaking of which, the city is going to start working on 295 shortly. The base is taking advantage and closing the main gate to beef up AT/FP [anti-terror/force-protection] measures. The two gates at either end are going to be the only way in or out. That people will be lined up for blocks in one of DC’s more dangerous neighborhoods seems not to have entered into anyone’s calculus. Parking is still a disaster.
Immediately post 9/11 getting into work was a nightmare. To be at my desk at 0600 I had to be up by 0400 and (at that hour) I only lived 40 minutes away. The rest of the time was waiting in line to get onto the compound. But this is less a commentary about bad security and the dismal state of one neighborhood of our nation’s capitol than it is about one of the ass-backwards ways the IC if dealing with the 21st century.
Why in the world do we insist that people still assemble en mass at one location, in one of the nation’s most dangerous locations, to do the nation’s most sensitive business? Bandwidth is expensive but not prohibitively so and if you buy enough of them computers are practically free. Yet for some reason we don’t take advantage of the fact that with increasing levels of connectivity geographic position means almost nothing. Commanders and staff officers in Afghanistan and Iraq don’t fly back twice a week to Tampa or DC for meetings; they get on a VTC, phone, email or chat session. I’m not talking about surfing Intelink from the corner Dunn Brothers, but the broad idea is the same.
Debates on “intelligence reform” tend to focus on where boxes should go and where authorities should rest but they rarely address issues related to of quality of life. Old timers can wax nostalgic for the days of gray metal desks, typewriters, Guhor sticks* but intelligence work in and of itself is tough; it need not be made more so by performing it under less-than-ideal conditions. The vast majority of people in the biz are in CONUS, clustered around one of the most targeted metro areas around. Not the smartest move from a business continuity perspective. Pile onto that grim thought all the other issues that go along with living in a city with a high COLA: overpriced housing, overcrowded roads, overcrowded schools (even the bad ones), and precious little to do that doesn’t involve more driving, getting into more crowds, or otherwise being a pain in the rear.
Want to attract more of the best and brightest or at least avoid the knowledge loss that is looming when all the geezers turn in their golden handcuffs in the next few years? Start hardening gov’t telecommuting centers for IC workers, or reach out to those desperate local BRAC committees around the country and cut a deal for dispersed and secured office space. Then watch as everyone, not just mid-career pros sticks around (or comes back) to do the work they love but closer to “home” and without all the mayhem and madness of big city life. It works for JIOCs, it works for Joint Reserve Intel Centers, and it can work for the “regular” IC cadre too.
* email if a) you want to know what a Guhor stick is or b) you know and want to get the dirty Guhor joke.