Scale-free policy organizations’ network: artifact or phenomenon?
Indiana University of Pennsylvania/Asst. Professor, Politica
Last modified: May 26, 2006
When the standard horizontal/vertical organizational chart for the 31 organizations (13 federal departments and independent agencies and 18 organizations mandated to serve as advisors on the issue) that have statutory or administratively mandated responsibility for all or part of information infrastructure system security policy development from 1990-2000 is re-configured, it resembles a scale-free network.
The policymaking organizational environment as it still exists is extremely complex. The addition of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 only adds to the complexity and further reinforces the preliminary findings. As a result of a diffusion of authority stemming from collaboration, "partnerships," Presidential advisory organizations, bureaucratic competition, etc., the U.S.'s national information infrastructure system security policy organization appears to be morphing into the very the phenomenon it seeks to control, i.e., a scale-free network.
Research leads to the observation that the diagram of the policy organizations seems to posses at least some of the properties of a scale-free network: There are end-users, highly connected nodes and, just as in an evolutionary natural network, the policy organization exhibits growth of and preferential attachment in its inhomogeneous connectivity distribution. Further, if the physical properties of a scale-free network are generalizable to the policy environment, one would expect to see a degradation of function (policymaking) as a result of a vital node not performing its role optimally. Such an effect appears to have happened with the dearth of comprehensive information infrastructure national security policy during this period adding credibility to the model of the policy environment as a scale-free network. The National Security Advisor’s failure to take a more active direct role (a degradation of that highly connected node’s function) hampered the policy making process by not forcing, through his mandated and perceived authority, subordinate policy decision makers (DoD, DoC, USSPB, etc.) to collaborate effectively. The same could be said for the National Security Council. The CIAO’s inability to adequately perform its mission of integrating the other critical infrastructures into the information infrastructure national security policy making environment in a timely fashion further supports the concept of a vital node’s importance and the degradation of system function correlated to degradation of a vital node. Several other factors in the information infrastructure system national security policy environment contributed to the degradation of these vital nodes leading to the general paralysis of the policy making process, but the failure of the vital node’s execution of its responsibility may have been the most significant.
Just as a network structure makes prediction and control of the information infrastructure system difficult, a scale-free network structure for the policymaking process makes prediction, control, and centralized policymaking difficult also. Such a phenomenon does not bode well for any comprehensive national policy, whether information infrastructure policy or other functional areas which can be as, and even more, complex (e.g., counter-terrorism, homeland defense, foreign policy). Additional research is continuing to determine exactly whether these complex systems are truly scale-free networks (e.g., exhibit logarithmic power law decay, etc.) or are merely a contrived artifact.