Budgets should be cut if the CIA can't provide proof that it is penetrating al Qaeda and its affiliates; at the end of the day, this is the most likely way that we will ever find bin Laden …."
A few notions from Public Administration 101:
Tell me, who will define what is meaningful "penetration" and what constitutes "proof"? Who will determine if that proof is fabricated? The FBI? How will they make that determination? Whoever they are, they will have to work behind closed doors. Sounds to me like we're looking at another layer of secret bookkeepers somewhere, the very thing Bergen denounces about the CIA. Whatever it is, it won't work for free, which means … you guessed it -- a budget increase, probably for the CIA.
I think Bergen really seeks to address a larger problem: bureaupathic behavior and how to stop or limit it. Phrased that way, fundamental issues appear:
First, why should the budget cutting Bergen recommends be limited to the CIA? A lot of folks think public education isn't getting the job done; neither is social security. What about the Pentagon and the post office?
Apparently, Bergen has never worked for a government. (I have done so, incidentally, for all three branches and federal, state, county, and city levels). Cutting budgets as a way to make bureaucracies less bureaucratic simply will not work. In truth, central offices everywhere take care of themselves first; if challenged, they will cut people and services in the field, the very thing Bergen wants to increase.
Second, government agencies have plenty of friends, among them lobbyists and congressmen, notably appropriations committee members. Those friendships stretch back decades. If you, using Bergen's words, "waltz in" and want to cut the budget of a big agency like the CIA, you will be confronting a trainload of people and interests you never knew existed a few hours before you started. If you are determined to continue anyway, I suggest you discuss the matter with your wife and kids. They will give you a dose of reality therapy.
Third, there is this: in the grand scheme of increasing government competence by reducing budgets, somebody is going to have to decide which agency budgets will be cut and by how much. You're going to have to hire people to do that. Guess what? Another bureaucracy pops up. Fidel Castro once remarked that all his efforts to control the Cuban bureaucracy had ended up as new bureaucracies. "What is this power without power that I have?" he lamented. This from someone who can take out his pistol and put it to the head of any bureaucrat on the island. Talk about incentive.
In short, if slicing budgets cured bureaupathic behavior, why hasn't it been done? The fact that nobody is doing it speaks volumes -- in fact, entire libraries.