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Rumsfeld Snowflakes Come in from the Cold

On the day before September 11, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld believed the gravest threat to American national security was Pentagon bureaucracy, according to “snowflakes” he wrote that were released by the Defense Department after a five-year Freedom of Information Act fight and lawsuit by the National Security Archive.

At 10:15 AM on September 10, Rumsfeld authored a snowflake – the term used to describe his usually one-page, often one-sentence, memos that he sent to his underlings to ask a question or issue an instruction – bemoaning the quantity of DOD agencies, surgeons general, inspectors general, judge advocates general, Congressional Relations functions, and Public Affairs functions.  He concluded the memo by asking, “Is this all really necessary?”  In a separate September 10 item, he pondered abolishing the Army Forces Staff College.

Rumsfeld eschewed modern email communication and used paper and ink instead, because he believed it was much easier to keep paper on file and track the progress of his dictums and queries. Though quick for Rumsfeld to dictate or type, these memos requesting actions, position papers, or research were a significant burden on Pentagon employees, growing, in Rumsfeld’s own words, “from mere flurries to a veritable blizzard.”

The September 10 memo is one page out of an estimated 59,000 pages that the Pentagon has begun to provide in segments to the Archive after the Department of Defense attorney confessed, "As far as the delay in the initial response to the request, all I can do is fall on our sword; that was too long."  Judge Tanya S. Chutkan agreed, calling the DOD six-year delay "unconscionably long."

Read entire article at National Security Archive