Delivering Information

Timothy B. Clark

Risk management and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Sometimes you have to wonder just what possesses the people who plan and execute the policies the federal government pursues. Why do they do what they do? How can they possibly believe the data they peddle to support the actions they want to take-or decline to take? How can they, with straight faces, pretend that what they are selling will actually solve the problems we encounter?

Well, one answer is that these officials are trying to make people happy by doing as much or as little as needed to make them think that government is protecting their interests.

The Pursuit of Happiness is one of our inalienable rights. People are not happy if they don't feel safe, and now that we're so preoccupied with terrorism (not to mention bird flu), government is trying to make us feel that way. There isn't enough money (or wisdom) to protect us against all the bad stuff that could come our way (chemical plants blowing up, for instance), so officials spread the paltry wealth, a little here and a little there. Perhaps people will feel safer, and happier, if they think something is being done.

But you begin to think that a lot of wool-pulling is going on when you examine, as Zack Phillips does this month, how government decides how much to spend, and where to spend it, for programs such as grants to local governments for terrorism preparedness. Who says $2 billion is the right number? How have officials reached the view that we needed 25 million doses of anthrax vaccine, not the 75 million they first said were required?

What makes Gen. David Petraeus think that 160,000 troops will do the job now in Iraq? Why are the military and Congress in cahoots to tolerate huge cost overruns on virtually every major weapons system? Where do all these big round numbers come from?

What's up at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which according to Katherine McIntire Peters' account is stuck in the dark ages in terms of facilities, technology and people it needs to cope with an expected surge of demand for licensing? How can NRC recruit the whizzes in science and engineering when it can't even offer them the Microsoft Office or BlackBerry systems everyone in the private sector uses? Are we heading for meltdown at the Census Bureau, by placing complex technology into the hands of 525,000 untechnocratic enumerators who are expected to visit 108 million homes in 2010? What if these hand-held GPS-dependent devices don't work? (Answer: no backup plan.) Why, Allan Holmes wonders this month, were basic principles of risk management so casually ignored?

Why are we rushing into expensive and subsidized ethanol production at the cost of higher prices for corn-based food products? Do we really need to be spending huge amounts of money (we don't have) to subsidize prescription drugs for millions of seniors, regardless of their ability to pay? Oh, well, who's counting?

And now to the central question: Is everybody happy?

Tim Signature
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.