Anne Applebaum has a smart column on how dumb the TSA and DHS have been. After this litany, I feared it was another simple-minded bash the bureaucracy piece:
As for the Department of Homeland Security, its 2010 budget came in at $55 billion, some of which (according to economist Veronique de Rugy, writing in 2006)
will invariably be spent on things like the $63,000 decontamination
unit in rural Washington, where no one was trained to use it; more
biochemical suits for Grand Forks County, N.D., than the town has
police officers to wear them; and $557,400 worth of rescue and
communications equipment apparently needed for some 1,500 residents of
the town of North Pole, Alaska.
Fortunately, my fears were wrong, as Applebaum gets it exactly right. This is not the fault of these agencies, but the fault of Congress who forces these absurd funding allocations upon them.
But it is not the employees of the DHS and TSA who are at fault for
these kinds of decisions. From the very beginning, security experts and
even their own inspectors have been pointing to the absurdity of TSA's
and DHS's spending patterns, many of which are driven by the latest
scare story. (I wish I'd been at the celebratory New Year's party
undoubtedly thrown by the manufacturers of those full-body scanners.)
And from the very beginning, Congress has fought back against the
critics, repeatedly allocating money to unnecessary local projects,
reacting to sensational news stories, spending money in ways that suit
its members, and then declaring itself shocked—shocked!—to discover
that our multibillion-dollar homeland-security apparatus was unable to
stop a clearly disturbed Nigerian from boarding a Detroit-bound plane.
She goes on to list a number of smarter ways to spend the money (which you should read, if you are curious). What I especially liked, though, was this major point, seemingly lost on most Americans that so much of the problems with the bureaucracy are really problems with Congress.