Analysis: Operation Fast and Furious

The recent OIG review of ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious and related matters  provides a wealth of information on the actions taken by law enforcement in Phoenix, AZ to disrupt firearms trafficking groups and interdict firearms destined for Mexico.  While the New York Times and LA Times offer up typical media commentary on the investigative findings, both articles fail to present any kind of new analysis or point of view.  Subject matter expert Sylvia Longmire, however, provided a breath of fresh air on the subject back in 2011 and wrote that the real culprits here are the Mexican cartels.

Following Longmire’s lead, here are three analytical takeaways that offer up a more macro level perspective of the situation:

  • Consider bounded rationality.  The rationality of an individual decision maker (in this case a policy maker) is limited by the information they have, their mind and the time allotted to make the decision.  Simply put, it impossible to know everything and to be able to analyze every outcome and arrive at the optimal solution.  Our brains won’t allow it.  More information is available here and here.
  • Bringing local law enforcement priorities in line with national priorities and interests is extremely difficult.  Being able to shift between and understand how to balance efforts and manage expectations is a skill that takes time to acquire and not everyone possesses. The Harvard Business Review article, “Four Mistakes Leaders Keep Making” expands upon this point.
  • Management and leadership issues are at the root of the issue.  Problems associated with bad managers and poor leadership exists in every kind of work environment (public and private).  To learn more please read Gary Hamel’s post for the Harvard Business Review and the results of a study on leadership by Development Dimensions International.
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