Letter to the editor

There are many reasons why terrorists succeeded in attacking us on Sept. 11, 2001. However, in order to maximize our efforts, we must focus on areas where effective results will come quickly.

I have been hearing and reading that one prime culprit is too much information and too little time to process it. Aside for serious interoperability issues (related to both IT systems and managerial fiefdoms), the steps necessary for turning data into information and then knowledge is by no means trivial and requires cutting-edge technologies and abilities. This is especially true if one is trying to avert another terrorist attack.

Therefore, the process of mining data into something usable is paramount to preventing another attack, and it is no less than a major paradigm shift in how government and its underlying systems operate.

Now here's the rub: The government is unable to get its technology or its bureaucracies to interoperate. These two inabilities are directly related and reveal one symptom that must be corrected before any real change can occur -- our culture, pure and simple.

Not an easy task, considering how far we have to go. However, like any journey, it begins with the first step.

This first step would be to require every manager to have established goals and the criteria for measuring them. They should be assessed quarterly. If after a year or so (18 months) there is no action, managers should be dismissed. If after successive attempts (three?) of dismissing managers fails to achieve results, then a root cause analysis needs to be performed to determine why nothing has changed.

Along with a good plan -- one that is consistently implemented and will not shift with every minute political wind -- accountability, and the demand for it, is fundamental.

I've have intentionally avoided the issue of who is responsible for our current state of affairs. I've done so because no one is beyond reproach: civil servants, politicians and everyday citizens are all responsible. In a republic, if we want something better than we must demand it.

Jim Mauroff Federal Aviation Administration

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