Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

What Silicon Valley Can Do For Homeland Security 120

An anonymous reader writes "Small, agile development firms are just what security in the United States needs, argues an article on Ars Technica. The piece compares the processes used in small Silicon Valley firms to those used in security contractors retained by the U.S. Government. Mr. Stokes' conclusion? The U.S. has a lot to learn from small companies." From the article: "Whether it's nuke detection technology at ports, computer automated wiretapping and data traffic snooping, or massive government data mining operations, our present approach to homeland security is embodied for me in those 14-foot pillars: ponderous, expensive technologies designed by government-funded teams of scientists who're working in vain to outmaneuver not just the terrorists, but the surging global market for technological innovation in which those terrorists thrive. By way of contrast, the Sandia group's DIY nuke detector represents an attempt to fight fire with fire by harnessing the same market forces and entrepreneurial spirit that terrorists have learned to use so effectively."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

What Silicon Valley Can Do For Homeland Security

Comments Filter:
  • by mfh ( 56 )
    What about lone coders like me?

    Call me, Uncle Sam... I can help consult on your problems. Now please lay down on this couch and tell me about your mother.
    • by E++99 ( 880734 )
      Think you can help? Go to the DARPA web site and look at their Requests For Proposals. If you truely have the skills (and don't mind piles of paperwork), they have grant money for you.

      FYI, the programs that they have major interest in at the present include self-healing networks, in-the-field real-time portable translation devices, and such. One particularly freaky program they're interested in involves implanting electronic devices in flying insects to control them.
  • Take a look at the following list of answers, and tell me which of these two questions they go with: (a) "what is the Cold War," or (b) "what is the GSAVE":

    -It's a long, global struggle that pits freedom and democracy against an evil, oppressive ideology.

    -It's a struggle that involves a series of conventional armed conflicts against state actors, as a way of staving off a nuclear catastrophe.

    -It's a struggle that can be won by granting huge contracts to large, well-connected firms to develop advance
  • yay (Score:1, Interesting)

    by jt418-93 ( 450715 )
    so now i can code to oppress. yay.

    dhs = stasi. not something i really want to support.

    i am against secret courts, secret searches and secret police.

    i had my chane to code for the gov back in the 90's. i said pass then, i'll pass now.
  • Secure? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by steve-o-yeah ( 984498 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @10:48AM (#16088873)
    While smaller firms may foster more rapid innovation, sub-contracting some of the nations most sensitive technical development significantly increases the exposure to infiltration.
    • by dr_dank ( 472072 )
      While smaller firms may foster more rapid innovation, sub-contracting some of the nations most sensitive technical development significantly increases the exposure to infiltration.

      I was thinking about this the other day. If a war similar to WW2 broke out, theres no way domestic industry, dramatically weakened by years of offshoring and a lesser emphasis on manual trades/hard sciences, could keep up. During WW2, planes, tanks, clothing, food, and assorted materials were all domestic. As long as the homefr
      • Even worse, aren't a lot of military components (like LCD screens) manufactured abroad too? It'd be kinda hard to fight a war against China when we import our military hardware from there.
        • I read recently that Boeing imports its advanced avionics from Japan, because they can't get that kind of equipment here anymore. Granted Japan is an ally, but nevertheless it's another sign of deteriorating independence. America, Land of the Brave, Home of the Free ... just don't ask us to build a flat panel or a microwave oven. People wonder about the shrinking middle class. It seems to me that it is shrinking in direct proportion to the number of factories that are moving to China.

          We really are shooti
    • But on the other hand, who's easier to infiltrate, a 10,000-person Beltway Bandit or a startup where everybody knows everybody else?
    • Actualy that's kind of a bogus arguement because what the article is really talking about is Off The Self equipment and software; the stuff that anyone can buy. The net result would be we wouldn't have to worry about an enemy stealing our secret weapons, they'd just buy them the same place we do, at Guns-R-Us, an equal oppertunity weapons dealership!
  • by Skynet ( 37427 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @10:49AM (#16088875) Homepage
    One of the reasons I left government contracting for the commercial software development world.

    Government is more interested in your CMMI level (another flawed system but I'll leave that for another discussion) and how many PhD's your company has than the quality of your work and agility of your team.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ohearn ( 969704 )
      I work for the Army Aviation and Missile Command and I will agree to a point. I know that at least the Army has been pushing more lean approaches the last couple years, and we have gotten rid of a large amount, but not all, of the bloated beurocrasy in our development practices. I can only speak for this specific command, but the Army wide initiatives are what started a lot of it here. I am not saying that the development process here is nearly as clean and to the point as a lot of small businesses that
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by egeorge ( 547281 )
      Isn't the term "flawed bureaucracy" sort of redundant?
  • by OakDragon ( 885217 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @10:49AM (#16088879) Journal

    I didn't know what to call it, so I just said 'culture.' We could call it defense, we could call it homeland security.

    The culture for so long has been so immersed in expensive, bulky solutions, it will change slowly if at all. The government just doesn't feel right unless their dealing with a huge company and huge expenses. For one thing, in a way it justifies politicians existence to the voters. "Hey, look how much we're spending on security!" And truth to tell, there may be other dangers in dealing with smaller, nimbler companies.

    On a lighter note, I thought this was amusing:

    Whether it's nuke detection technology at ports, computer automated wiretapping and data traffic snooping, or massive government data mining operations...

    I know that geeks, /.ers in particular, are lining up to work with the government on wiretapping!

    • by rbochan ( 827946 )
      ...The culture for so long has been so immersed in expensive, bulky solutions, it will change slowly if at all...


      It won't change - not as long as cronyism and greed make the rules*.

      *ref: Cheney, Halliburton

      • by deKernel ( 65640 )
        Do you even have an understanding of the contracts that went to Halliburton?

        Let me give you a little glimmer. Most of the contracts were of the size that only a small handful of companies in the whole world can fulfill. Halliburton can, in effect, deliver a rolling economy for a country. Being that I am pretty sure you are refering to Iraq, there economy was in shambles and not just because of the war. They needed a solution and quick so what were the options? Elicite firms from countries like France and Ge
    • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:21PM (#16089762) Homepage
      The problem is;
      Small companies, with "lightweight" processes have traditionally been used as fronts for fraud and waste (a.k.a. "war-profiteering"). (example: ex-Senator Cunningham's dealings with "small contractor" MZM, or Shirlington Limousine, etc.)

      With the implicit oversight involved with larger corporations (who tend to shun smaller contracts), this kind of fraud is less likely (though clearly not impossible - see Boeing's tanker-leasing deal). These large, established corporations tend to have established reputations they'd like to protect.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that all small companies are red flags for fraud, and I'm not saying all large companies are 100% safe. I'm saying that established oversight and processes common to large companies and larger contracts tend to weed-out the most common fraudulent practices.

      • Don't you mean ex-representative Cunningham?
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
        At one stage that was true, maybe twenty odd years ago. Now large corporations thrive on PR, junk journalists, junk scientists, junk politicians and lawyers, more lawyers and yet more lawyers.

        Big corporations can now achieve fraud on a scale never before realised (deregulation and privatisation have been a boon for corporate profits). The only oversight in the last twenty years, is with regard to increasing the share price and ensuring a constant increase in the pay of upper management.

        Of course there s

    • by E++99 ( 880734 )
      I know that geeks, /.ers in particular, are lining up to work with the government on wiretapping!
      Which also begs the question of whether they'll give you a top secret clearance after having read all your /. posts!
    • I know that geeks, /.ers in particular, are lining up to work with the government on wiretapping!

      I have a brilliant, inexpensive, 100% reliable, portable nuclear weapon detector that I'm trying to sell to the government. Before I begin full scale production, I've been trying to get the DOD to give me a few dozen nukes so I can properly test my device. Due to the bureaucracy involved I haven't yet received the nukes that I've requested, but I have received 1200Kg of 3/4" ball bearings, an invoice for the U

  • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @10:52AM (#16088898) Homepage
    It's not just in security but in every domain. Small firms are the ones that innovate best. Big firms are best at exploiting a market.

    This is one of the reasons that software patents - which hit small firms disproportionately - are so bad for innovation. Anything that makes life harder for small firms - red tape, software patents, litigation, etc. - is bad for the economy because small-to-medium firms are what keep our economies healthy.

    • Right, but innovation isn't important. Our politicians like big companies better (probably because they give them more "campaign donations"), so that's what we have to use.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @10:53AM (#16088902)
    I still think the US should simply pull it's military out of the world and make peace and free trade instead of trying to employ everyone with FUD and wars. It's so much cheaper and simpler.
    • It seems to be this idea has been picked up by one of the start-ups in Bora-Bora.
    • Right... if only we hadn't kept military stationed in Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda wouldn't have attacked us! Well maybe if we pulled out of Saudi Arabia, and also Germany and Japan, which we are bound by law to protect, maybe then? Well, maybe if we then denounced Israel and called for their destruction? Ok, well if we nuked Isreal, and passed a law requiring universal conversion of Americans to Islam. Ok, then we'd be in even more trouble... make that universal conversion to SUNNI Islam. I think that shoul
    • by GigG ( 887839 )
      I still think the US should simply pull it's military out of the world and make peace and free trade instead of trying to employ everyone with FUD and wars. It's so much cheaper and simpler.

      Jimmy Carter tried that '77-'80. It didn't work well at all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @10:56AM (#16088922)
    our present approach to homeland security is embodied for me in those 14-foot pillars: ponderous, expensive technologies designed by government-funded teams of scientists who're working in vain to outmaneuver

    This quote from the article makes it sound like government scientists are incompetent boobs. The ones I know aren't. This sounds more like a political screed for the privatization of security than anything else.
    • No one said government scientists were incompetent boobs. But the plain truth is that it doesn't matter how smart your scientists or engineers in an organization are, because poor organization and management will prevent them from doing anything worthwhile. Take a look at Microsoft: they claim to have so many smart people employed there, yet their products suck, and worse yet, what has their famed "Microsoft Research" department ever done? It's the same way with the government. Take a bunch of smart peo
  • by AnyLoveIsGoodLove ( 194208 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @11:03AM (#16088959)
    Although I agree with the basic premise that government can learn a lot from start ups small businesses, here's what life's like around the beltway.

    Note: I work for a consulting firm based out of the DC area. We have a combination of commercial and Federal / Public sector clients

    From the small business side:

    You can't imagine the procurement requirements and overhead costs to do business in the Federal sector. Here are some examples:

    1) FSO - Security officer to manage the clearances of your employees and company. Can't live with out it
    2) Contract Vehicles - GSA Schedules are expensive to maintain or outsource.
    3) Contracting Officers - Specialist who deal with government Contracting Officers.
    4) Low Rates - Combined with the large overhead requirements above, is a problem. Trying finding competent technical help in DC.
    5) Accounts Receivable that can stretch to 180 days without blinking.
    6) Can't leverage commerical sales, must hire a dedicated sales force that understands the market.

    Again for the big beltway bandits, these are small overhead items, but for a 150 person company, these are significant line items.

    From the Government Side:

    1) Risk adverse. If you screw up a small project or procurement, you could wind up on the cover of the Washington post. Not a good place to be if you're a GS12 bureaucrat waiting for your GS13.
    2) Insane Budget Cycles: If you don't use it you lose it. There's a reason why so much gets done in late August / September around DC.
    3) Preference for the "usual suspects" like Lockheed, Booz Allen, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Unisys, Titan etc. With items one and two, why try a new small untested company. Many companies around the beltway have gone out of business and screwed the gov. At least you know they are not going any where.
    4) Compliance requirements that make SarbOX look like child's play.

    That's just a small hint at the problems with doing business with the federal governement. I sure the UK or other Western Countries have the same issues. ...... but......why might you ask do companies invest at the end of the day....?

    There are not too many super enterprises that release contracts on a multi-year basis. Once you get over the moat, you are in.
    • This is the only part that I don't agree with,

      4) Low Rates - Combined with the large overhead requirements above, is a problem. Trying finding competent technical help in DC.

      It is possible to find competent technical help in the National Capitol Region, but finding competent technical help with clearances who are willing to face one of the world's worst commutes and pay them enough to cover their over $650,000 mortgages is difficult.

      • I stand corrected. If you know anyone that's looking.............
        • I was going to say that someone is always looking in the NCR, but the AC post already demonstrated that. As for me, I'm a general purpose Network Engineer who is now a Project Manager. Also, I'm only interested in overseas positions since I don't like living in Northern Virginia (even though I'm a native) and I really like the tax free set aside and living allowances - ka-ching!
    • by jafac ( 1449 )
      There's a good reason for all this overhead. Well, most of it.

      It's an attempt to prevent fraud and abuse.

      It doesn't stop all fraud, it doesn't stop clever people from gaming the system (it's just a more complex game), and, of course, the system is only as good as the political hacks that are put into place to police it. But the absence of this overhead makes it much easier to get those contracts for the "$1000 hammer" that never get delivered.
      • I heartily agree with the intentions behind all those controls. They exist for a good reasons. In practice they have not prevented serious fraud and abuse, even among the big boys. Ask Boeing.

        At the end of the day it comes down to honest people. That's a hard commodity to find these days. It makes a higher barrier to entry on the overall market for the honest people / companies, which goes back to a companies SG&A and ultimately drives prices higher.

        Just my 2.

        In general, I dont think we as a country hav
        • by jafac ( 1449 )
          I agree.

          It would be great if we can get away from this fundamentalist idology false dilemma of either you support 100% complete de-regulation, or your a commie.

          There's plenty of room for refinement of process. Unfortunately, it's one of the most red-hot swollen festering political buttons right now.
  • WTF? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "...attempt to fight fire with fire by harnessing the same market forces and entrepreneurial spirit that terrorists have learned to use so effectively."

    Market forces? Terrorists haven't harnessed any market forces or entrepreneurial spirit! Our Western governments have already lost this so called "war on terror" by sailing our freedoms down the river on the basis that we are all supposed to be terribly afraid! That's the whole point of "terrorism"!! Al'qaida/Taliban/Eye-raq-ees/Space Monkeys won the mome

  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @11:04AM (#16088967)
    What Silicon Valley Can Do For Homeland Security
    Not vote Republican? ;)
    • by db32 ( 862117 )
      I thought it was funny. :)
    • whew, good thing slashdotters don't vote...
      there seems to be a popular misconception on /. that democrats = better than republican...
      Lets please not forget both parties suck and Democrats have the honor of having the only Elected President EVER to be impeached... go 3rd parties!
  • working in vain to outmaneuver not just the terrorists, but the surging global market for technological innovation in which those terrorists thrive.

    Terrorists (or guerilla/civil war soldiers, or the new PC "no, Iraq isn't in civil war" term: "insurgents") don't thrive in a "surging global market for technological innovation"; they thrive when something polarizes/motivates people enough to dedicate their lives to killing other people or support those who will. Like a world superpower engaging in preempti

  • A dinosaur? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The Dalex ( 996138 )
    One of the major problems with our government is that was designed to be slow-moving in order to keep it stable. Unfortunately, that attitude has leaked into the smallest corners of government agencies over time, and it has become a major problem when we deal with issues or situations that require rapid response or immediate change of policy. Of course, that describes most issues and situations in these modern times, and we are all suffering as our country loses its edge.
    • by Magada ( 741361 )
      One of the major features of your government is that it was designed to move incredibly slowly, having to overcome significant internal friction (aka checks and balances). Were it not so, your last shreds of freedom would have been taken away for good at the onset of WW2 (that almost happened anyway). Can you imagine the reaction of the American public to a WW2-magnitude clusterfsck happening today? Can you imagine the subsequent political shift? Fascism would pale in comparison.
  • by carvalhao ( 774969 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @11:13AM (#16089011) Journal
    Being an European and, therefore, more accostumed to live with terrorism than Americans, I believe that the whole approach is inherently wrong. I find extremely similar to the typical prevent/correct engineering design decision. There has never been a case of success when attempting to control terrorism by developing new methods to fight it. England has failed, Spain has failed, France has failed, Portugal has failed and so on... society is just has too many vulnerabilities for ANY protection plan to work flawlessly. Even if you control every airport, bridge and nuclear weapon, a terrorist will still easily access you water supply (you can control water quality easily on depots... try the same on the piping), use a needle to insert poison randomly into supermarket goods, get an Ebola infection and then walk around a crowded stadium... The ONLY way to avoid terrorism is to prevent it. And the way you do that is you find the reason that moves the terrorists in the first place and find a way to remove internal popular support for that sort of action. The Spanish government gave extended autonomy to Euskadia, England negotiated peace. If you want to END terrorism, stop messing with other nation's internal political activity. America gave Noriega a country, Noriega behaves badly, America takes down Noriega. America gave the taliban a country to face the USSR, the taliban behaves badly, America takes down the taliban. America gave Hussein a country to face the USSR in Iran, Hussein behaves badly, America takes down Hussein. America gave Pahlavi a country to get Iranian oil, Pahlavi behaves badly and Ayatollah get a country, what next?! Get the pattern?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 )
      The ONLY way to avoid terrorism is to prevent it. And the way you do that is you find the reason that moves the terrorists in the first place and find a way to remove internal popular support for that sort of action.

      Of course, to take another page from even older European history, there's another way to deal with terrorism, and that's the way the Romans dealt with their enemies. When Carthage become a real thorn in Rome's side, they attacked, killed most of the people in the city, sold the rest into slaver
      • Let's just nuke everyone, and let the survivors figure it out, right?

        Collective punishment of a whole group of people (including innocent ones who happen to be in the same place) might get rid of your enemies. On the other hand, it might also breed even more enemies.

        And Romans certainly never destroyed all their enemies.
        • Collective punishment of a whole group of people (including innocent ones who happen to be in the same place) might get rid of your enemies. On the other hand, it might also breed even more enemies.

          Perhaps, but if you wipe out so many people that there aren't many left, the only new enemies would be any survivors (which there wouldn't be many of), or people in other unrelated groups. And after seeing how brutally the first group was dealt with, the other groups of people would think twice about messing wit
      • by Knara ( 9377 )
        Yeah but by the time Rome salted Carthage (third war), Carthage wasn't much of a challenge anymore, nor did anyone important that could cause Rome grief really reside there anymore, insofar as I recall.
        • Maybe, but wouldn't you say they set an example? Anyone else daring to challenge Rome would have heard what they did to Carthage.
        • Yes, when Scipio got the permission to destroy the Carthaginians it was more like a merciless slaughter than a battle. The reason he called for it was that Hannibal, who caused the Romans so much trouble saw the horrors of the first punic war when he was a child. This drove his will for revenge - the same thing we see in any country that was forcefully conquered, people don't forget so easily and unless you are willing to kill indiscriminately there will be an uprising against the occupier. Alexander's empi
          • Your analysis is quite good, and I agree about the eventual effects of genocide. That's why I think the best solution as long as we wish to avoid the genocide route is to just stay out of other countries' business. Getting involved with people in other countries who have bad leadership is like getting involved in a domestic dispute with a wife and an abusive husband. She complains, calls the police, and then when the police go to arrest the boyfriend/husband, she freaks out and attacks them. If people w
      • Rome vs. Carthage was a pretty classic state-vs-state conflict - they were both similar kinds of organizations, both had similar kinds of goals (territorial domination), similar ideologies ("*We* want to be in charge"), and similar tools (armies and navies funded by taxation on territories and by trade.) It was the kind of conflict that really could be resolved by militarily conquering and killing enemies. It had entirely no resemblence to any of the terrorist conflicts, or like the Cold War or World War
      • So your saying we need a Dracula? I think that would be overkill, but it would be satisfing to see some of the more heinious terrorist drawn and quarterd in the old english style, not much you can do with 72 virgins when you've been publicly castrated! Realisticaly we can just wait them out, when the oil runs out, the arab countries implode.
        • Realisticaly we can just wait them out, when the oil runs out, the arab countries implode.

          That's not true. We can't wait them out because we're completely addicted to the oil supply. Maybe if we had some decent leadership that got us off the crackpipe (oil), made some real progress in moving us to alternative energy sources that we can generate domestically, and if we had a populace that actually was interested in these things instead of voting the same losers into office time after time, then your sugges
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )
      Vietnam is also another case of political meddling.
      At the end of WWII, the french didnt want (or couldnt have) their colonies (including vietnam) back.
      So, we ended up with a communist government in the north and a democratic government (heavily backed by the allied powers) in the south. Then, the north decided to annex the south and when the democratic government couldnt survive, we end up with a full scale war that no-one except the polititans really wanted and that the communists won anyway (after the los
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Keebler71 ( 520908 )
      There has never been a case of success when attempting to control terrorism by developing new methods to fight it. England has failed, Spain has failed, France has failed, Portugal has failed and so on... society is just has too many vulnerabilities for ANY protection plan to work flawlessly. Even if you control every airport, bridge and nuclear weapon, a terrorist will still easily access you water supply (you can control water quality easily on depots... try the same on the piping), use a needle to insert
    • There has never been a case of success when attempting to control terrorism by developing new methods to fight it.

      I think that El Al Airlines [wikipedia.org] comes pretty close if not contradicting this statement outright.

    • Bush's goals are domestic and international power, and preventing terrorism in the ways you describe are absolutely Not With The Program. Bush, Cheney, his core neocon advisors want a strong government with unlimited domestic powers and a strong military projecting power around the world, regardless of the cost to the US economy. If you don't have enemies, you don't need to have a strong government protecting the public from them, and enemies like big hurricanes and global warming are simply *not* an ade
  • by oohshiny ( 998054 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @11:17AM (#16089047)
    The article makes the implicit assumption that the purpose of "homeland security" is actually to reduce our risk of getting injured or killed, but that is evidently not its purpose; it's trivial to see that we could save far more lives per dollar spent by improving traffic safety and preventive health care and just maintain pre-9/11 security. Even if the rate of terrorist attacks ended up being several per year, we'd still be saving far more lives that way.

    So, if the purpose of "homeland security" is not actually to save lives, what is it? It's fairly simple: to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the population in order to induce them to vote for certain politicians. After all, what better way to induce FUD in people than to humiliate them when they travel anywhere in the name of security and remind them constantly that they could be blown up at any minute? 9/11 and the terrorist scare was godsent for an administration that had no direction, no plan, no leadership, and no clue. I don't want to suggest that this is a carefully planned strategy of the administration, but when 9/11 happened, Bush had found his calling--raving against the "axis of evil" and terrorists simply doesn't require much intelligence or strategy. Of course, a secondary purpose of "homeland security" is that it's a great pretext to funnel taxpayer money from the government to just those "big, ponderous" companies the article is criticizing.

    So, arguing about whether homeland security is well-implemented is pointless if the purpose of homeland security is to be "big, ponderous" and wasteful in the first place.

    What people should be talking about is what the point of homeland security as-we-know-it is in the first place. There were doubtlessly some straightforward and overdue changes to airline security that should have been implemented after 9/11, but two wars, hundreds of billions of dollars, and a dismantling of our constitutional rights are going to far.
  • Am I the only one to read terrorists = free market, US-Gov = centralistic ?
    Makes you wonder even more...
  • As I was reading this article i was reminded of a novel here [amazon.com] & here [wikipedia.org] , that Bruce Sterling wrote back in 2004. The story is set right after 9/11, and stars Derek "Van" Vandeveer, an aging dot bomber who does internet security. He is hired by the government to create new computing power for the government. What popped into my mind though was something that I think the government really needs to learn, and was told to Vandeveer by his cranky, crackpot grandfather who also did work for the government, on
    • > I think that the government would be well off to invest more time and money into smaller,
      > more off the wall brainstorming sessions with the thinkers that are far outside the
      > normal trains of thought. We just might find ourselves a bit safer.

      But many of those creative, out-of-the-box thinkers don't _want_ to work for an oppressive government helping them to enslave their populace. They'd be cutting their own throat. An oppressive government in the long run tends to eliminate free thinkers, so
  • You defeat terrorists through intelligence and ideology.

     
  • Small companies more efficient than large bureaucracies! Further shocking news as events warrant!

    Seriously, though, how is this surprising? Small companies, by their nature, are more able to come up with good solutions to a narrowly defined problem, such as 'build a nuke detector falling within these parameters,' this should surprise no one.

    However, you still need someone to oversee this host of small companies. Privatizing any large-scale project (such as 'homeland security') into a host of tiny compani
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @11:31AM (#16089197) Homepage Journal
    U.S. has a lot to learn from small companies.


    I can't disagree with this. There is much that is useful in the experience, culture and skill sets of small companies.

    However, I would caution about overstating what those companies bring to the table, or underestimating the degree to which government is already tapping that resource.

    I've worked with government agencies and personnel. They run the gamut of professionalism, dedication and intelligence just like the private sector does. But even the best of them are hampered in doing new, creative things by this simple fact: government is huge. Not only is it huge, it is composed of constitutionally separate and independent layers (federal, state, local).

    It's not that nothing new gets done. In fact, if anything, there may be too much creativity, and not enough coherence. For example, the kind of whizzy-bangy stuff TFA talks about is commonly funded by SBIRs: Small Business Innovative Research grants. The SBIR program is a great boon to small businesses, to be sure, but it is like a black box into which money is pourted and from which few useful, although many interesting results come out.

    All kinds of great research gets done under these programs, but somehow it never amounts to an effective coordinated response. And since terrorism is by its nature opportunistic, it doesn't matter how exceedingly well you respond to any single technological challenge. You need big picture strategy.

    This is a big difference with a tech startup, which only has to solve one technological problem better than the competitors to make its fortune.

    The problem that plagues government are the things that everyone agrees need to be done, but whose organizational complexities are impossible to navigate. Do you think that FEMA bureaucrats don't want Katrina victims to get the money which has been allocated to them? The problem is the reorganization that sucked them into DHS, while billed as making response more agile, did the worst possible thing: it buried them inside a much larger agency.

    Bureaucracies are, as an organizaional structure, designed to do repetitive execution of routine tasks. All the Kafkaesque aspects of them we hate result from them encountering situations that are outside their assigned tasks, not covered by policy, or all too common made worse by policies. That's what's holding up Katrina relief. Policies are in place that are conceived around a zero tolerance for waste and fraud (as if this was achievable), and values the smallest increment in that direction greater than any level of increment of humanitarian relief.

    The critical missing factor is at the political level. Believe it or not there's a lot of talent, passion and dedication in government, but below the political level those people can't change policy. The political level can change policy, as well as create an environment where common sense bending of rules to meet the greater goals is tolerated. If the political level is brain dead, then each organ of government will continue to do its routine homestatic functions, but won't be part of a purposeful response to new challenges.

    If government fails to respond to a big challenge, it isn't because it doesn't tap private sector expertise. Nor is it because it lacks people with talent and dedication. It's because the people we elect don't care enough about the problem to make things happen.

  • Should Do Vs. Can Do (Score:4, Interesting)

    by edward.virtually@pob ( 6854 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @11:40AM (#16089306)
    What they should do is refuse to assist in improving computer automated wiretapping and data traffic snooping, [and] massive government data mining operations. That the methods "Homeland Security" uses to violate our rights [startribune.com]) are currently ponderous, expensive technologies designed by government-funded teams is a good thing for the safety of our democracy.

    The borg: "You will assist us."
    Hue: "I will not assist you."
  • i'll tell you what they can't do, and that's screw it up any more than it already is...
  • How about looking at every cargo container at every port before it goes to sea and before it's brought ashore? After all, by the time the bomb gets where it's going it's too late. Brilliant [tech-associates.com]. Yes, an array of NaI detectors costs a lot more than a crummy little 1x1 crystal but the proximity gives directional information that really deals with background and false positives. Yes, competent people are working on the problem and solutions are on the way. No, the world never will be safe.

  • The removal of incompetent Pointy Haired Bureaucrats (sorry for the redundancy) would be of immense benefit. Major select selection criteria would be:
    1) running a Windows operating system
    2) recommending any MS application in a security sensitive enviroment
  • Bend over and grab our ankles.
  • What always cracks me up when I order hardware with Dell (others probably have the same thing), is the agreement that you will not use the hardware for doing stuff with weapons of mass destruction, or something like that. Like someone who is up to no good with it will sit behind his pc... ordering a Dell server... arrives at the page with the agreement.. and goes 'DAMN' and goes buy his hardware somewhere else... It's all fake security, like most anti-terrorism measures.
    However... maybe Saddam always ordere
    • The security clearance process seems to be equally weird. Some of it makes sense. They try to rule out people with a history of drug problems, gambling, and so forth that would make them vulnerable to to being bought by a foreign power. They also try to make sure you are who you say you are in order to eliminate deep-cover moles. That makes sense to an extent, though it was probably more important during the Cold War than now. But other aspects seem to be just nuts. For instance, you can't get a security

  • Who's homeland?
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:32PM (#16090386) Journal
    They promise you everything, deliver vapourware and screw up over in the process.

    HTH
  • Instead of handing out government contracts to big companies for every little job, why not put out a list of requirements along with the amount that will be paid after the project is completed. If it's a small job, this would make more sense than the whole business with awarding contracts. (I'm not saying that we should do this with all of the bigger jobs, (i.e. fighter planes, buildings) but the smaller jobs that are possible for a small company to do.)
  • Don't know why, but somehow the title reminded me of Starship Troopers.. Here some quotes (I think they are on topic, no? ;)

    "Young people are joining up to fight for the future. They're doing their part - are you? Join the Mobile lnfantry and save the world. Service guarantees citizenship."

    "Every day, Federal scientists are looking for new ways to kill bugs. - Everyone's doing their part. Are you?"

    Oh yea - and this one on how to eliminate bugs:
    "Hey, shoot a nuke down a bug hole, you got a lot of de
  • I see a ton of untested technology claiming to solve world hunger. I see a bunch of salespeople pushing something with no support tail. I see a federal procurement process that requires, REQUIRES, competition to save the taxpayer money. I see technology evolving faster than i can deploy and train people to use it. I see terrorists using technology that they only need to work once. I need technology that I need to never fail. I see terrorists that only need to get one bomb into one place once. I see a
  • This country is loaded with solutions - from database systems that actually work, to communications that would empower first responders to actually be able to communicate with each other during an emergency. Doing business with Uncle Sam however is a challenge than no successful small business has every found a solution for - the red tape and big dogs that feed off the inability of the government to actually make a good decision make the process unworkable. Until the political system actually empowers GSA

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary saftey deserve neither liberty not saftey." -- Benjamin Franklin, 1759

Working...