JUNE 10, 2010
Nearly a decade after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, government agencies charged with protecting the nation from terrorism can’t seem to get their act together, repeatedly failing to adequately shield the U.S. from threats mainly because they won’t work together.
This shameful negligence has been well documented in various government reports over the years yet little has been done to improve the situation. Several different probes conducted after the 2001 terrorist attacks have exposed a huge power struggle between U.S. Homeland Security and defense agencies that refuse to collaborate with each other to adequately protect the nation.
This week the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reveals that the problem persists with few signs of improvement. In an alarming 26-page report, investigators write about the ongoing failures of Homeland Security agencies, the U.S. military and law enforcement to work together to fulfill the crucial mission of shielding the U.S. from foreign threats.
Lack of information sharing remains among the biggest obstacles but so is organizational differences and the lack of a well-trained workforce among the various agencies, according to the GAO probe. “Agencies do not always have the right people with the right skills in the right jobs at the right time to meet the challenges they face—including having a workforce that is able to quickly address crises,” the GAO report says.
It also stresses the obvious: “Effective collaboration among multiple agencies and across federal, state, and local governments,” is critical and that the agencies involved in national security will need to make concerted efforts to forge strong and collaborative partnerships. Nearly a decade after the terrorist attacks this has yet to occur, however.
In a similar assessment last spring, the inspector general for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence determined that the agencies responsible for gathering intelligence remain infested with the same mismanagement, turf battles and communication breakdowns responsible for the failures leading to the 9/11 attacks. Despite a “sweeping overhaul” and a dramatic budget increase the country’s 16 spy agencies are still prone to disastrous intelligence failures that put the U.S. at risk.
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