There is a difference between bureaucratic creep and mission creep, but there is also a connection. Expanding bureaucracies need new missions to justify their growth, and missions need often to grow themselves, to survive in the bureaucratic competition.
In national security bureaucracies, this logic of “the ever-expanding universe” is the same as for other government bureaucracies, but there is a critical difference. In national security bureaucracies, the new jobs and what they entail and how well they’re done and the consequences of all of the above are often secret.
More and more the Pentagon’s spending is secret. And more and more of the Pentagon’s secret budget is devoted to keeping secrets secret.
But what’s being hidden from any public or even political input are not just sensitive covert actions, but significant institutional changes. Two long-standing distinctions made by national security agencies are being altered if not dismantled.
Our guest today, investigative reporter William M. Arkin recently wrote in Newsweek, the notional “bright line” separating how and where people in uniform as opposed to civilians were assigned is disappearing fast, and so are distinctions of who can do what to protect national security abroad and inside the United States.
Oh, and one more thing Arkin found hidden under the blanket of official secrecy — how big the off-the-books Defense Department bureaucracy has grown.
William M. Arkin is an award-winning journalist and author of a dozen books on national security issues. He is writing Ending Perpetual War for Simon & Schuster. His novel History in One Act is coming out in 2021 from Featherproof books.