Monday, March 1, 2010

Competence at the FCC?

The Hill today discusses a proposal to introduce technical expertise to the FCC. In my more than forty years dealing the the FCC I have found that technical expertise was lacking at almost all levels. It is a political organization working in a highly technical environment. The FCC Commissioners have been for the most part attorneys with a smattering of economists, but all legal minds at heart.

The Hill states:

Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) Monday introduced a bill aiming to boost the technical resources and expertise at the Federal Communications Commission.

The legislation would require the National Academy of Sciences to do a study to examine the technical policy decision-making process and the availability of technical personnel at the agency.

“It is critical that we include engineers in our nation’s technical policy and decision making, at the FCC and across the government,” said Kaufman. “Professionals in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics have always been our nation’s problem solvers. I am pleased that this study will explore the implications and offer recommendations for addressing the decline of engineers in this important agency.”

FCC Commissioners and the tech community have raised concerns about the lack of technical resources and expertise at the agency, which is charged with enacting complex policies that affect the way every American communicates and accesses information.

In 1948, the FCC had 720 engineers on staff. Today it has fewer than 300--a 62 percent drop.

The problem is that most competent engineers will go into industry rather than any Government job. By the way both DoD and the Intelligence Agencies suffer from the same problem. A new PhD from MIT or Stanford is not going to a Government job for one or both of the following; (i) the pay and environment is hardly conducive and (ii) most grads are not US citizens and the law blocks them.

Imagine the FCC developing a Broadband Plan with no truly experienced and competent staff. It is like the HHS developing medical procedures with no competent staff, Oh I forgot, that is the current Health Care Plan, the one being stuffed through!

Thus this problem is pandemic across Government. The larger Government becomes the more devoid of any nexus with true reality they become. This is not France where the best of the Ecole Polytechnique gets to move up, it is the US Government of contracts to the lowest bidder.