Congress and National Security

Kay King from the Council on Foreign Relations looks at the effect of Congressional gridlock on foreign and national security policy in this quick read from the CFR. New media and the longer election cycles have placed a higher political premium on pithy sound bytes and have eroded reflective debate. Fixing the problems won’t be easy, but King has some recommendations on where to start.

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Three Essays on Hypertension Prevention and Medical Product Safety in China and the United States

I know it sounds technical and esoteric, but this dissertation by Ying Liu at the RAND Graduate School is worth reading even if you just want to read the last essay. In that piece, Liu examines the state of China’s drug safety regime in the wake of the scandals between 2006 and 2008 that led to the sacking of China’s senior pharmaceutical regulator. The author looks at what has been fixed – and what has not – since China’s drug safety last made global headlines, providing a subtle warning about the problems that may yet come from that sector.

HHS in the 21st Century: Charting a Course for a Healthier America

This pdf book examines how America’s public health bureaucracy needs to address changes in the challenges it faces. Challenges change faster than organizations, and this blue-ribbon panel noted that America’s health ministry needed a new look and feel.

One can only wonder if medical bureaucrats elsewhere in the world are conducting any kind of penetrating self-examination.

Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists

In the face of an increasingly radicalized polity at home, there is something strangely ironic about the idea of the United States government thinking through the process of how to deradicalize extremists. And I have to confess that my latent libertarian (note the small “L”) is a bit discomfited with the idea of the US Government attempting to change the way anyone thinks.

But this RAND monograph by Angel Rabasa, Stacie Pettyjohn, Jeremy Ghez, and Christopher Boucek asks some pointed and challenging questions about the de-radicalization process, whether it is a valid approach, and what the fundamentals of a wise and effective effort might look like.

Among other things, the authors recognize that Islam is not a culture, and that radicals themselves are the products of their own home cultures. They argue that the de-radicalization process is going to differ from country to country and in some cases from individual to individual.

A fascinating read.

Lobbying, Corruption, and Other Banes

This pdf book draws an empirical line between good government relations and bad. The conclusions – that lobbying is better than bribery when one has the choice – are not prima facie surprising. The power of this publication comes from the data that support the conclusion.

This is an absolute must-read for any company crafting its government relations in the developing world and emerging markets, including China, and for any public affairs specialists at public relations firms.

A Call to Revitalize the Engines of Government

A RAND opinion paper calling on Obama to cut the role of contractors in government. Contractors per se are not a bad thing, suggests this report, but when you start replacing core government functions with outsiders you not only lose something, you frequently wind up paying private sector rates for people who before had been happy taking government compensation.

I’m no fan of oversized bureaucracies, but I think our debate about government has become far too focused on size, and not focused enough on efficacy. While RAND to a certain extent has skin in this game, their point of view is less politicized than what is popularly discussed.

This is a question that over the longer term will occupy the governments of China and India as well. Both have long-standing traditions of bloated, multilevel bureaucracies that develop lives and power bases of their own, and will at some point need models to help them “right-size” and make more effective their legions of apparatchiks.