Sunday, October 19, 2008

Don't Trust Mid-level Bureaucrats

The power of the bureaucrat who is politically-savvy and can forge connections to Congress is shown in Eric Lipton's story this weekend.

It's a version of the "iron triangle" (which I first heard used about a North Korean/Chinese area in the Korean War) where private interests, bureaucrats in the executive, and Congress types scratch each other's backs. What's unusual in the story is that the DOD bureaucrat was lower in the bureaucracy and more enterprising than one normally encounters. But the bureaucrat got dollars appropriated for programs that mostly weren't useful, except in keeping his bit of the bureaucracy going; the private companies got money, and the Congress types (Senators) brought home the bacon for the home folks. It's the sort of thing that McCain means in his attacks on earmarks.

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