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Government - Bureaucracies

Bureaucratic Behavior

Examples of organizational programmed behavior can be found in Government bureaucracies where political policies and imbedded career structures may make preservation of an established order more important than adaptation to change. Government departments have therefore often found it difficult to use new technology effectively; a number of major IT systems ordered by UK Government departments have been total and expensive failures. See the Report in January 2000 of the UK Select Committee on Public Accounts, Improving the Delivery of Government IT Projects; the Committee concluded that "As well as wasting enormous sums of public money, failures in IT can have disabling impacts on public services and on citizens. These have included the failure to pay social security benefits to vulnerable people and major delays in issuing people their passports".

The Financial Times 15 August 2002 reported that the British Civil Service is a bad buyer of information technology. Government computer projects have been dogged by delays, cost overruns and botched planning. The overdue and over-budget new computer system for the Child Support Agency is the latest entry in a long catalogue of disasters. The report says that, "The heart of the problem is calculating the risk of a project and apportioning it to private sector suppliers at a reasonable cost. Too often these contracts leave inappropriate risk with the public sector." The report concludes that, "Above all, the civil service needs to put as high a premium on professional contract negotiation and management as it does on developing policy. Unless it does so, more taxpayers' money will go to waste or undeservedly into IT companies' profits."

Which is what this Site is attempting to promote.

See the UK National Audit Office

The British Military

The 2001 Exercise Saif Sareea II in Oman showed that army boots melted in the desert heat, the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, for example, needed more air filters, road wheels and track pads than planned to keep it operational, and AS90 self-propelled gun got too hot to use; download UK National Audit Office Report.

There have also been recent problems over the Army's standard rifle which is now due to be replaced as soon as possible and with increased operational demands on the Services, which are not balanced by a sufficient increase in expenditure. In particular the UK Government has decided to retire the Royal Navy's fighter version of the Harrier before its replacement [the JSF] is available for service. Key weapons systems like the Typhoon fighter are years late in entering service. There have been a series of problems with plans for joint European programs due in part to the failure of the German Government to commit funds; programs affected include the A400 transport aircraft and the main air-to-air missile for the Typhoon. See the aerospace industry.

The recent decision to commit to the US JSF program and the lease of C17 heavy lift aircraft are indications that a sense of procurement reality has now surfaced in the UK Ministry of Defence.

US Military

Lycos reported 16 August 2002 that, "A retired general who commanded "enemy" forces in a recently concluded $250 million U.S. war game says the exercise was rigged so that it appeared to validate new war-fighting concepts it was supposed to test. Paul Van Riper, who headed the Marine Corps Combat Development Command when he retired in 1997 as a three-star general, said he became so frustrated with undue constraints on his command of "enemy" forces that he quit the role midway through Millennium Challenge 2002, which ended Aug. 15." "When the Blue naval forces sailed into the Persian Gulf early in the experiment, Van Riper's forces surrounded the ships with small boats and planes. Much of the Blue force's ships ended up at the bottom of the ocean. Oakley said Joint Forces Command officials had to stop the exercise and "refloat" the fleet in order to continue." See also War.

Reforms and E-Government

The emergent technologies will give Governments potentially greater powers to control ("administer") populations. Governement administrators will see the increased threat from terrorism and cncerns over illegal drugs and immigration as justification for the introduction of increased controls on all citizens. It is already being suggested in the UK that all cars will be monitored at all times by satellites. You could argue that the real threat from terrorism is the possibility of the self-destruction of the democratic State.

Bureaucratic elites will always see their decisions as being for the "best". At worst this approach leads to the undemocratic institutions of the European Union. Technology can also be used to give citizens a greater degree of participation in the processes of Government. The Internet could enable real feed-back from citizens, an interactive democracy. One of the real battlegrounds during the 21st century will be the fight to reclaim the State for the citizens from bureaucrats.

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