Get more with less

Thomas R. Temin

As he prepared for the Battle of Agincourt, King Henry V didn't want more men, he wanted the right ones. In fact, he was more than happy to send naysayers packing'carriage fare included.

Merging the government's multiple terrorist watch lists, as Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge has promised will be done this year, isn't quite sending thousands to nearly certain slaughter, but it's no walk in the park either.

By all accounts, the task is overdue. One reason is that responsibility for it has'since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks'jumped among the White House, FBI and Homeland Security Department.

Another reason is that the more you look at the merger, the more rules governing the use of the data to be combined emerge.

Not everyone who has been added to the one of more than a dozen watch lists is a suspected terrorist in the context of homeland security. As a Senate staff member somewhat comically told GCN's Wilson P. Dizard III, some of those listed are merely mobsters and gangsters.

Ridge said recently that dozens of people are working on the database integration project. He was trying to project reassurance that the job will get done by virtue of throwing lots of people at it.

But perhaps fewer might be more efficient.

One theory in software development is that after a certain point, the more people added to a project, the slower it goes because organizational complexity rises.

It is precisely because of all the competing interests surrounding the merged watch lists that the government should designate a happy few and sequester them somewhere to work out the rules and associated programming.

By assembling a right-sized, efficient team, perhaps the database merger will at last get done. The way things have been going, too many have felt themselves accursed for getting involved. The terrorist watch list merger can be a project that earns envy among those who weren't there.

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