Sunday, December 23, 2012

Benghazi Report and Resignations

The report on the Benghazi attack attracted attention today for two reason, the first being that failures were identified and no one in particular was singled out for responsibility, the second being that resignations began within hours of the public getting the news. Important parts of this investigation, and the changes that result, or do not result, must be followed closely by the media and the public. When a serious incident such as the Benghazi attack occurs, and lives are lost, the public has a right to expect (among other things ) that the Government will take all necessary steps to ensure that we do not repeat any mistakes or allow any identified failures to re occur. The fact that several state Department officials resigned as a result of the report release (as well they should have), is not enough. Those that fell on their swords have one more obligation to those that died – take other culpable employees with them, and loudly identify any issues not yet uncovered. The public needs to know that identified incompetence, “lack of leadership” and failure of those in areas of responsibility, are met with appropriate corrective measures. Reports siting facts that “no intentional misconduct was found” while “lack of leadership and responsiveness” was, should bring no satisfaction to the taxpayer, when such conduct contributed to the death of US citizens. The fact that the report concluded that the failures did not rise to meet the definition of dereliction of duty, is not good news either. Regardless of the fact that the report avoids specific blame, and the fact that the narrative seems to have been written by a civil service labor attorney, the Federal Government still needs to deal with the reality that the failure of leaders and managers within the Department of State, ( whether they can be fired, or not, still needs to be addressed by having these people removed from the position they held on the day of the attack. Definitive action such as this, is the only guarantee that those who put themselves in harm’s on behalf of the taxpayer, can be sure that a Government employee who fails others, gets no other opportunity to cause harm. Those holding some of the responsibility, whether it be due to their lack of judgment, skill or backbone, need to be in the same barrel that goes over the falls with the supervisors.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Nuclear Iran - through a Foggy Lens

Concerns about an Israeli Preemptive strike against Iranian Nuclear production facilities have gained attention recently and have been the topic of numerous speculative reports in both the foreign and U.S. Press.
The Wisdom and effectiveness of such an attack has been debated, and both U.S. and Israeli Government officials have weighed in on the topic. Reports that Iran continues to stonewall United Nation inspectors, appear as front page news, while not being news at all.
As recently as November 8th, more speculation was raised when CNN reported on a United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency statement “expressing serious concerns” about Iran's nuclear program and that "credible" information existed that the Islamic republic may be developing nuclear weapons.**
Articles this past week reporting another failure in the monitoring process, were followed up by a New York Times article (February 24th) detailing the United States Intelligence community position that ”no evidence exists to support the assertion that Iran is building a Nuclear weapon”. The public should be completely confused at this point. Each day the latest slant on the issue is released. Bringing the public no closer to knowing what the actual threat may be.
The source of the article was testimony by the current Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, as well as that of CIA Director Panetta, reported to have been given January 31st.
Given the context of recent debate, the public should be expecting a “but we believe they are going to build one anyway” punch line. No punch line was delivered.
The U.S. assertion that there is no evidence of a weapon being built is not the same as a statement that recent concerns and tensions are unwarranted. Raising questions about a lack of evidence, without actually saying there is no threat, allows the U.S. to distance itself from any action that Israel make take on its own while deflating any sympathetic support Israel may garnered toward making the first move.
Downplaying an imminent need for a decision by Israel could be a catalyst for an upcoming break in the stalemate. This is likely to be through a turnabout by Iran, who could now back away from its stance of defiance toward monitoring, while saving face. Deflating current tensions may be the goal of the U.S. and the reason for downplaying concern – that’s the only reason that makes any sense.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Training Standards For School Administrators

New York is a State which requires that a School Administrator become licensed by the State, (as it does with principals). Very often this process is undertaken by a successful classroom teacher, who having achieved a certain level of proficiency moves to the next step in the hierarchy to "management"

It is often stated that a school is in the “people business” this is true, yet the business aspect of this cliché is sometimes forgotten. Many customers are served by the business of education, the student, the parent, and ultimately the taxpayer - who theoretically benefits from a well educated community.
The management end of this business, even when steered by an expert “former” classroom teacher, needs a manager concerned with the complete health of his or her business. This Business to be managed has many divisions, as they are known in the private sector. Student services delivery, quality control in hiring, careful management of collective bargaining agreements, the constant education of the community served, and a solid public relations program, to ensure continued financial and budgetary support. These are daunting tasks.
An educated, licensed and successful teacher is often handed these tasks with a map written in pencil. Our new Administrator may now deal with an Elected Board of Education, (perhaps comprised of well meaning parents), and a collective bargaining agreement that he or she had no input into crafting. Top this off by handing this new executive a limited budget.
In this situation it is clear that a mentoring program for leaders in our education system is a necessity. We invest heavily in our education systems, and we must also invest in educational leadership and training.
We are asking our educational CEO’s to run a business for us, in which the stock is changing constantly, there are shifting standards, and new laws and mandates are thrown around on the wind. If we looked at the myriad of tasks that a school leader may perform, and then tried and write a list of skills needed for success in the position, we would end up with a full book. Lawyer, Doctor, Priest, Policeman, Counselor, and Diplomat, all rolled up in a bundle. It would be nearly impossible to write a curriculum for that kind of training.
If we were purchasing stock in this business we would insist that our company leaders have all the training and support they need, and we would make no assumptions that they bring all the needed skills with them to the Job.
Being a skilled and dynamic teacher, will not be enough to guarantee a smooth transition to success
In education administration, without the commitment toward lifelong learning that we often hear about. Continued education for our educational leaders, is a must, and also the fulfillment of a great management principle “leadership by example”.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Congressman Convicted - No Surprise

Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Congressman Convicted - No surprise
Today’s news that former Congressman William Jefferson, was convicted of bribery and racketeering, among other things, comes as no big surprise. Several things are worth revisiting regarding this former “big wheeler” and the support he was given by the House leadership. Most people will remember the media coverage and uproar that occurred as a result of the FBI search which took place at the Congressional office of Mr. Jefferson. The house leadership jumped on the issue right away, and claimed the search was improper, given that a congressional office was involved. The media coverage was extensive, as was the coverage that thousands of dollars in unexplained cash were found in Mr. Jefferson’s freezer. In the poor judgement Department, Nancy Pelosi was quick to denounce the search undertaken by the FBI, notwithstanding the fact, that a federal Judge had signed the warrant. (later upheld by the courts.) Pelosi at the time, also chose Jefferson for a seat on the House Homeland Security Committee, despite his upcoming legal battle, and questionable - ( now proven to be criminal) behavior. This “look the other way when it suits me” attitude that Mrs. Pelosi displayed was a foreshadow of things to come, as we saw with the CIA briefings conflict. In that debacle, Mrs Pelosi was not able to articulate what she knew and when. It did not stop her from throwing stones, after having done nothing at the time, but “look the other way” This is a pattern that the voters of California need to remember when re election time comes.
Posted by al chervik at 7:50 PM 0 comments

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Transportation Security Gaps

The Screening issue:

Red flags and clear warnings not being used to thwart the recent attempted airliner bombing, Shine a light on more than just a lack of screening equipment. The basic threat assessment process was shelved at some point – by both a lack of resolve and misplaced priorities within the system.

We learned in the tragic analysis of information leading up to the September 11th attacks that a decision was made that “not enough evidence” existed to search a laptop (which later turned out to contain valuable information. In this situation, – a decision that not enough evidence existed was looked at with regard to a “right” cited (see the fourth amendment) right or wrong, its infringement or lack thereof was the rationale given for the decision.

In the most recent example our “terrorist watch list” is mentioned as having contained information on the bombing suspect. At some point this information was shelved, or deemed “not enough” to add this suspect to a no fly list. Note that the use of this term, previously accepted in phrases such as “not enough to arrest” “not enough to detain” or “Not enough to prosecute” has now become part of a new Government policy – “not enough to do anything with the information”. This newly discovered policy has been attached to a “new right” which was recently introduced in this Nation. This right was created while we were all asleep, or perhaps we just didn’t get the memo on it: Foreign citizens now have a “right” to fly into the United States, that can only be abridged, reduced, or limited, by having “enough” evidence against them to convict them of a crime. In addition, the same amount of evidence is also necessary to move forward and either screen someone further, or pull their Visa or refuse them permission to enter the United States.

The confusion and lack of resolve by those in decision and policy making positions has inadvertently ascribed “new rights” to those that wish to do us harm. We are now being made aware of it, and the process needs intense scrutiny to weed out weak policies and flawed decision making in any agency charged with our public safety.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Joint Chief's Comments

This week's story about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard operating Naval ships in the Persian Gulf, is one that is worth keeping a close eye on. The manner in which the story was released (through a speech that Admiral Michael Mullen was giving at the army War College) seems inadvertent, but surely does the trick to alert the public that some naval action may be on the horizon. It is fair to assume, that the U.S. will not make the same mistake the British did in allowing the Iranians to take hostage their naval personnel in the area. A more likely scenario to come, should the Iranians operate in close proximity to U.S. Navy Ships would be a conflict and a use of force. One that might be costly to the Iranians.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Katrina aftermath

It is possible that The Katrina disaster has had less of a changing impact on the region than first thought. The media focus on the failures of the Government in the disaster aftermath, did not focus on anything but the Federal response. The long lasting issue now points out what was clear to emergency management professionals immediately, that a disaster occured other than the hurricane - and it originated on the Local and State level. The Katrina disaster showed us many flaws in the Federal Government leadership that responded. It also showed us a total breakdown of State and Local leadership, guidance, preplanning, emergency planning, corruption, and misuse of Federal funds. After all of this, the City re -elected its Mayor. The Mayor being re-elected sends a message that he is not going to held accountable for his failures. There is no recognition on the local level that the city completely failed it's citizens. The city will not be prepared in the future, unless it sees that it must stand up for itself, and better prepare its citizens and it's communities. Fema responds and supports what a community has in place. It augments an area or regions emergency capability. It was designed as a coordinating entity and was therefore unprepared to take over and run an area with a total
collapse in preparation and leadership. With so many multiple levels of failure it is difficult for any issue to gain real traction and stay in the focus of taxpayers minds. Politicians pushing "we need to do more" do not have a specific enough goal for divergent groups to grasp, and divergent groups must work together with a common goal to effect real change.