The Iraq Study Group: Outsourcing Responsibility

Think about it.  We’ve got the State Department whose duty is to conduct and, occasionally, even plan the US diplomacy.  We’ve got the Department of Defense whose foreign affairs forecast capabilities should ideally match the amount of dollars the DOD spends on gathering intelligence.  We’ve got the National Security Council whose job description is to bring together all government agencies involved in foreign policy execution.

Besides, we’ve got the Congress both chambers of which have committees on foreign relations.  Sure, the conduct of foreign policy in this country has traditionally been the prerogative of the President.  Nevertheless, ambitions, if not the real power, with respect to foreign affairs have always been running high in the Congress.  It’s hardly a coincidence that both outgoing and incoming Chairmen of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations have considered in the past or consider now presidential run. 

Why is then that all these respected bodies have been unable to come up with a coherent strategy with regards to the most important foreign policy issue facing the nation: the war in Iraq?  So much so that an ad hoc entity, called the Iraq Study (Baker-Hamilton) Group, had to be created?

In business, the delegation of operations – usually, non-essential — to an outside contractor is called outsourcing.  The creation of the ISG strikes me as an example of government-sponsored outsourcing: outsourcing of responsibility.

Outsourcing is touted to provide at least two benefits: lowering cost and recruiting an additional intellectual capital.  Perhaps, it’s not quite appropriate to talk about cost in this particular case, although waiting for weeks for the ISG final report could be measured in terms of missed opportunities, lost lives, and, yes, dollars. 

As far as the intellectual capital is concerned, no one would question that the members of the Group are all highly-successful and impeccably decent personalities.  It is, however, difficult to overlook the fact that some of them have no international experience, save for practical skills in the Middle East diplomacy.

But the most shocking aspect of the whole ISG endeavor is that President Bush has no intention to follow the recommendations of the group.   As reported in today’s Washington Post,

"President Bush…expressed little enthusiasm for the central ideas of…commission that advised him to ratchet back the U.S. military commitment in Iraq and launch an aggressive new diplomatic effort in the region."

In the corporate world, this is very unusual: paying for a service and then not using it.  But it seems to be fine with our government.

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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