Lessons of the Secret Service Mess

Here in the DC Metro area, everyone is asking is how things could have gotten so bad at the Secret Service. Many employees of the Service must have known the vulnerabilities, so how could the folks at the top ignore this? My answer is that the bad news may never have reached the top. Several Service employees commented to the local media here that you simply did not raise issues or complaints. This is typical of line-of-command organizations, which turns out to be nearly all sizable organizations. In business, companies establish hotlines and compliance programs so that down line employees can short circuit the line of command. In fact, government often orders businesses to establish these mechanisms! But these mechanisms do not prosper in Federal agencies. Yes, employees can go to the Inspector General for their agency but these individuals are often closely bonded to the agency’s senior leadership. It is time for government to take some of the advice it freely gives to business and create genuinely safe channels through which employees can report concerns.

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