The resignation of Secretary Tom Ridge and Deputy Secretary James Loy was widely publicized. But other resignations include Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security; Frank Libutti, undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection; Robert Liscouski, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection; and C. Suzanne Mencer, executive director of the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness.
So why is government money being spent on trying to help transportation security, and infrastructure? I can see efforts “spilling over” into to industry in a beneficial way, but not having an “undersecretary” for that job. It’s really tough for government to get industry to do something unless they give them incentative of some sort. Typically that involves using force of some type or another. Taxes for example, or the threat of breaking them up (as in the AT&T break up). I’m involved in project right now that has a bunch of academics and “scientist types” (technically I’m one of them) that is supposed to be “helping” industry with something. You can’t just give them a gift and expect them to use it. It has to make economic sense for them to use it. So imagine the following situation. We see some gaping hole in the telephone communicaton industry (no, that’s not what I am working on, it’s just an example, I don’t know of any gaping holes in our communication industry security). This hole is so big that someone with 300 baud modem could dial up almost telephone company central office in the country and set off a chain reaction that cause all but the rotary dial only offices to melt down into a heap of aluminium/epoxy/silicon slag. We come up with a good way to fix it. Suppose we give the solution to industry and it only costs $1.00 per phone to implement, will they fix their security hole? Why should they? It’s going to cost them hundreds of millions of dollars to implement. It’s never happened before, so why should they worry about it now? And if it does happen, what then? Why of course! The government will pay for them (or at least loan them the money like the airlines after 9-11) to build all new central offices in record speed! The public utility commisions will agreed to any rate hike requested and the telecommunications company will be better off if they are attacked!
The problem is that our government will not allow some industries to fail and gives out government sanctioned monopolies. If the free market were allowed to function the utilities would be much more motivated to maintain their investments. Government scientists, like me, would be working for private industry or working on problems that are the proper domain of government like building better tools for intelligence gathering or defending our borders.