All of the great political philosophies since the Enlightenment have focused on the problem of scarcity. The communists insisted that the abolition of private property would solve the problem of scarcity, so that the only problem would be figuring out how to divvy up the bounty. Libertarians insist that the sanctity of private property solves the problem of scarcity, by making sure the lazy, unfit and inconvenient starve to death, so the survivors can eat them during lean times. Every ideology has a solution to material scarcity.
What no ideology addresses is the shortage of smart people. Now, there is never an abundance of smart people. Nowhere will you find a business or an organization complaining that they have too many smart people. In fact, companies spend a lot of time and money trying to attract and cultivate smart people. This is the driving force behind a lot of technological automation. It’s not so much that it replaces basic labor or reduces costs, as it frees up the smart fraction to focus on the complex problems of the organisation.
Now, there are many issues that arise from the natural shortage of smart people. One is that smart people are most valuable when their ideas can be implemented by people who may not be as smart, but have the aptitude to implement the ideas. A good architect needs engineers and engineers need managers, planners and skilled tradesman. Otherwise, the architect is just a guy who draws stuff. The point is, an organization will not only want to attract the smart fraction, they will also want to attract the not-quite-so-smart fraction.
Another issue is that the inevitable shortage of smart people will lead to putting not-so-smart people into positions for which they are not qualified. The Peter principle is a well known concept in management. People in a hierarchy tend to rise to their level of incompetence. The guy who is good as the third in charge gets bumped up to being second in charge, where he is merely competent. Time and circumstances force his promotion into the top spot, where he is over-matched and is viewed as incompetent.
Then there is the problem of people being judged within an organization based on their social skills, rather than their intelligence and competence. The truly stupid are easy to spot, but the mediocre and below average are often hard to notice, because they are extroverts or they are glib. It seems to be human nature to overestimate the abilities of those with high verbal skills. It’s why lawyers always assume they are the smartest people in the room. They have high verbal skills and mistake that for intelligence.
Put it all together and an organization will start out with the normal shortage of smart people. As the organization grows, that shortage will become acute, forcing the firm to rely on a greater number of not-so-smart and mediocrities in positions that should be filled with smart people. The resulting increase in errors will place a further drain on the stock of smart people, as they have to compensate for the downstream problems. Exacerbating this is the increasing tendency to evaluate people on social skills rather than talent.
The result of as an organization gets bigger, it gets dumber. That seems to be the case with American intelligence organizations. Recently, screw-ups downstream from the upper echelon of the CIA, resulted in a very serious breach of security. This led to the exposure of at least thirty spies, all of whom were executed by the Chinese government. This is a serious failure under any conditions, but the cause here suggests the CIA is not longer capable of doing the basics. It is a big bureaucracy full of people way over their heads.
This is not an isolated incident. Diane Feinstein had a Chinese spy on her staff for over twenty years. Counter intelligence is a basic function of the CIA. Their job is look for anomalies in what foreign governments know, because that means the foreign government is getting access from obscure sources. If the guy at the poker table always folds when you have a good hand, it means he knows things he could not know through the normal play of the game. There is no excuse for missing the Feinstein spy.
Of course, there is the matter of John Brennan. He spent 25 years in the CIA as a dangerously incompetence hack. He’s known today for being the mentally unbalanced lunatic howling about Trump on cable chat show, but while he was CIA director he had his e-mail account hacked and exposed by WikiLeaks. By “hacked” it is understood to mean he was recklessly insecure in the handling of his password and account access. The guy never should have been in a junior position, much less a senior one at the CIA.
There are over 20,000 employees at the CIA. Most will never do anything more than process paperwork. Even so, the sheer size of the organization makes it unwieldy for the task assigned to it. Intelligence work is hard. It takes a creative mind, but also a disciplined mind. The supply of highly disciplined high IQ people willing to spend their lives playing cat and mouse for modest pay is small. Placing a small number of them in a vast stew of incompetents, mediocrities and bureaucrats does not make the stew better.
Fixing agencies like the CIA is simply a matter of making them smaller. Firing everyone with an even number at the end of the agency ID would be a good start. Sure, a few good people would be lost, but the high cost of the mediocre people would more than make up for it. One reckless bozo can cancel out the work of a hundred competent people. The remaining ten thousand people could be broken into five units of two thousand and you would have a better agency overnight. In time, it may even be trustworthy again.
Of course, this is why large organizations can never reform themselves and why fixing American government is impossible. That army of morons at Langley is a constituency within the vast sea of morons known as the federal government. No one reduces their constituency on purpose. Additionally, by the time this is an issue, incompetent boobs like John Brennan are in senior positions. The obsequious climbers have either pushed out the talent or simply swamped them. Government becomes a giant punching itself in the face.