Expensive Bureaucratic Nonsense

Parkinson’s Law is possibly the best management book ever written. It begins by examining the Royal Navy. While this may seem out of date and useless ancient history, there’s a lesson to be learned from the Royal Navy. In a moment I’ll mention our Department of Defense, as well as the Department of Energy.

The table of admiralty statistics on page 8 of Parkinson’s Law provides an insight into bureaucracies.

In 1914 there were 62 commissioned capital ships in the Royal Navy. In 1928 there were only 20 commissioned capital ships, a decrease of 68%.

Officers and men in the navy also decreased, but not to as great an extent as did the number of ships.

Then there were the admiralty officials.

In 1914 there were 2,000 admiralty officials, while in 1928 there were 3,569 – an increase of 78%.

C. Northcote Parkinson goes on, albeit tongue in check, to derive formulas for the growth of bureaucracies and other issues concerning management efficiency. His observation that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion” is well known, while much of his work on bureaucracies has been forgotten or ignored.

Yet, it’s the bureaucracies that are causing many of our problems.

So that Parkinson’s observations aren’t dismissed as ancient history, here’s a quote from an article by former Defense Secretary John Lehman: “When the Department of Defense was created in 1947, the headquarters staff was limited to 50 billets. Today, 750,000 full time equivalents are on the headquarters staff.” (See note)

Which brings us to the Department of Energy (DOE).

There are many activities within DOE that are worthwhile, but there are many that are not only worthless, they are probably doing more harm than good.

In other words, DOE is a typical bureaucracy, whose growth has been aided and abetted by Congress.

DOE’s activities include oversight of four power marketing organizations, 21 Laboratories, ARPA and the Energy Information Administration (EIA), plus approximately 22 offices having various responsibilities.

When I mention that DOE may be doing more harm than good, here are a few examples.

One of DOE’s duties is to hand out grants and loan guarantees. Grants and loan guarantees amount to billions of tax payer dollars every year. Some of the loan guarantee money is lost, such as with the bankruptcy of Solyndra where a half billion dollars went down the drain. There’s a high probability that more of the loan guarantee tax payer money will also be lost as various other solar projects fail.

Then there is the nonsense published on its web site about using electricity.

         “The continued reliance on and depletion of fossil-fuel resources threatens our energy security.”

Depletion of a 400-year supply of coal and a 100-year supply of natural gas is threatening our energy security? I don’t think so.


          “Purchasing ‘green power’— electricity generated using renewable energy — for your home helps reduce pollution and promote energy security.”

Again, utter nonsense – as those who experienced hot temperatures this summer found out when wind couldn’t supply electricity when it was needed. How does wind or solar promote energy security? It doesn’t.

And why no mention of nuclear?

A little time spent perusing the DOE web site is illuminating – pun intended. A great deal of the information is pure propaganda promoting the administration’s ideology – much of it targeting children.

People rail against bureaucracies all the time, but little is done to rein them in.

It may be too much to hope that Congress will eliminate duplication in government, etc., but Congress could do something about all the regulations targeting the development and use of energy – and that would really help our energy security.


Note: USNI confirmed this quotation was correct and not a typo.

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