Friday, January 28, 2011

A New Structure for the US Federal Government Executive Branch--A Really, Really Wild Hare

Currently there many departments and agencies with very nuanced charters within the executive branch of the US Federal Government.  Frequently these are founded on political considerations rather than consideration of the vision for government as documented in the US Constitution.

In Organizational Economics: The Formation of Wealth, I demonstrate that all governments have three and only three functions (Any other are exploitative political functions):
  1. Security
  2. Standards
  3. Infrastructure
Following an abstraction from the US Constitution, the mission and architecture based structure for the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, derived from the Preamble and the structure of the US Constitution, should have only three Cabinet level departments (high-level functions) following these three governmental functions.

The Security Department (function)
The Security Department or function have the mission of ensuring that the citizens of the United States are secure within their borders and their homes.  It would have three functions:
  1. External Security sub-divided into two categories: diplomacy and defense.  This function deals with external challenges and opportunities, that is, "foreign policies" and all of the resources, processes, and tools for successfully meeting the challenges and opportunities. It would encompass the current Department of Defense, Department of State, and Department of Veterans Affairs.
  2. Internal Security (Law enforcement).  This function deals with ensuring the safety of US citizens and organizations within the borders of the United States.      This function would encompass The Department of Justice, The Department of Homeland Security (minus the intelligence gathering functions), The Transportation Security Administration, DEA, customs, and others.  In fact, this organization may be sub-divided into border security and internal law enforcement.
  3. Intelligence Gathering function's mission is understanding the goals, objectives, strategies and tactics of competitors and allies in the global environment.  This function would encompass the CIA, the NRO, the NSA, and others.
These functions must enable and support one another (like a three legged stool???).

The Standards Department (function)
The Standards Department (function) would develop rules and regulations to enable and support the laws of the land and to ensure the inter-organizational process friction is kept to a minimum.  Minimizing inter-organizational friction includes insuring a "level economic playing field"; that is, that the rules and regulations effect all for profit and nonprofit organizations equality.  To do this The Standards Department must ensure that a) the rules and regulation do not conflict with each other, and do not conflict with the vision, mission, and strategies of the US Government--a very big job.  This job can be greatly reduced through the effective use of Enterprise Architecture (see the posts labeled Enterprise Architecture for more explanation.)

In point of fact, setting standards reduces the cost to economic organizations, that is, it creates value.  For example, setting a standard gauge for railroads greatly reduced the need to "trans-ship" between rail lines as was done before the Civil War in the United States--thus reducing the cost and creating capacity value.  Some of this added value should pay for the setting, enforcing, and otherwise maintaining these laws and standards.  That is the real reason for taxes.  Beyond that, these taxes can pay for a significant portion of what I termed the Infrastructure (discussed next).

The Standards Department (function) is at the intersection of Policy Management and many technical, financial, and socio-cultural disciplines.  Traditionally, each of the regulatory functions has been grouped with the federal organization that is supporting the functional discipline.  Whereas in this organizational structure, departments that currently have both regulatory and mission-based functions, the regulatory functions would be spilt between the Standards Department and the Mission-based function to the Infrastructure Department to ensure minimum conflict of interest.

This function would encompass NIST, FDA, EPA, FCC, SEC, NRC, The Department of Commerce, The Department of labor and many others.

The Infrastructure Department (function)
The Infrastructure Department (function) supports most of the governmental activities associated with contributing to the "general welfare" or as some term it, to the "public good" (see the post entitle "The Purpose of Government" with its associated comments).    Items, generally considered as part of the "common welfare" include  the physical infrastructure like roads, bridges, railroads, airports, ports, basic research of all types, education at all levels, and communications.  In fact, the one piece of infrastructure identified in the US Constitution was that the Federal government is responsible for the postal system--the best method for communications at the time.

One of the mission statements embedded in the vision statement for the United States (the Preamble to the US Constitution) is to "promote the general welfare".  This mission statement for "general welfare" is "squishy", that is, there is no clear definition for this requirement--it's wide open to interpretation--and therefore, there is no way to measure when the US Federal Government is achieving this mission.

Consequently, politicians have interpreted the mission of Infrastructure to suite their constituency.  Prior to the first term of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the "general welfare", this term was interpreted in a fairly narrow sense.  However, Roosevelt greatly broaden the definition to include a "safety net".  President Johnson extended it much, much further through "entitlement".  These lost sight of the fact that the infrastructure government supports is paid out of the value created by the use of standards (as briefly discussed above).  Taxing beyond that value to additional "benefits" for the "public good" is risky in that it can destroy the economic engine.  While improvement in the physical infrastructure and skill base (education) can be considered as real governmental investment, many of the entitlements are really expensive non-value added items.  Even though they help the people they serve, if they bring the economy to a near halt, are they worth it?  I will write more about this connundrum in future posts--and it is the most difficult question in government.

The Infrastructure Department (function) encompasses Department of Interior, The Department of Education, The Department of Housing and Urban Development, The Department of Energy, the Social Security Administration, NIH, NASA, NSF, The Postal Service (which is mandated by the Constitution), and many more.

Miscellaneous Organizations
In addition to the three major functions of the executive branch there are some "headquarters" control functions that the executive branch of US Federal Government requires to operate.  These functions include strategic planning, resource management, mission alignment, and auditing functions.  This would encompass functions like OMB and IRS (part of resource management), and others.

Swarming Strategy and Process Groups
During "normal" times the three departments would work on supporting their particular function.  However, when facing a challenge the departments would assign personnel to a swarming team.  This is where this structuring becomes a real wild hare of an idea.

In nature there are many examples of the swarming behavior within groups.  Ants, bees, and wolf packs are prime examples.  Wolf Packs tend to work separately to identify the weakest member of a herd, then swarm to kill the animal.  Consequently, while one wolf would stand little chance of killing a bull elk, there is almost a guarantee that a pack will.  Likewise, the white blood cells in an animal will swarm to fight an infection.

This same tactic should be used by the executive branch of the US Governement for efforts supporting a major strategy or mission change.  The executive branch would create tigger teams, or task forces.  If the effort is sufficiently important, the team lead could have a seat at the cabinet table for the duration of the project as an advisor, or a member--but only for a limited period.
My suspection is that this would produce both a more effective and cost efficient executive branch.

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