Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Napolitano Should Be Fired

Anybody who's been a manager knows that things go wrong. Policies and procedures can be deficient, or people charged with implementing them can make mistakes. Obviously, in the wake of learning all the information about the latest attempted airline bombing, something went terribly wrong and the process must be fixed. I don't blame Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security, for the problem, since she is not personally responsible for every failure within her organization, but I do believe she should be fired for her failure to respond appropriately to the bad news. In short, the system did not work, contrary to her representations on TV this weekend. We cannot accept leaders whose first reaction to bad news is to "purfume the pig".

Napolitano, even in the absence of complete information, should have simply reported that the system did not work and consequently, the lives of hundreds of Americans were jeopardized. She should have announced her plans for a complete and prompt review of the security breach, and her intent to correct the problems that caused the failure. That's what effective leaders do, and she did not do it. The correct response was left to the president, some three days after the incident occurred.

Napolitano's response shows that she does not have the right stuff. Obama should ask her to leave, and he should appoint a replacement who sets a no-compromise, no-excuse tone when it comes to airline security and security in general.

I recognize there will never be a foolproof system in place to safeguard the American people from every terrorist attack. There are too many vulnerabilities, and the resources to deal with them are not unlimited. We are left with "doing the best job that we can", and accepting that a future tragedy will probably occur. That said, there is no way that an identified potential terrorist should have been allowed to board a plane bound for the U.S. or keep his tourist visa. The system was broken, for sure, but Napolitano just didn't have the guts to tell it like it was. It's time for you to go, Janet.


Mike C said...

I completely disagree with your reasoning here LifeHiker. The decision to fire someone should be based on long term performance and a cost-benefit analysis of the effects of the turnover on the organization. We need to get away from knee-jerk reactions to the big news story du jour and focus on solving problems.

Lifehiker said...

I respectfully disagree, Mike.

The responses of executives to problems are perhaps the most telling indicators of their ability to do the job. Napolitano failed the test.