The deep state is unchangeable.
Mike Lofgren, a former congressional staffer with significant experience in the defense budget world, calls the deep state “almost impervious to change.” Versions of this argument persist on talk radio. “The people in Washington are not just going to sit idly by and let election results determine whether or not [change] happens to them,” Rush Limbaugh said this month.
But the deep state is highly fragile — vulnerable, by its nature, to single-point failure, usually in the form of individuals who have something they’d like to tell the world. Think of Edward Snowden’s intellectual revolt against the National Security Agency, or the decision by a lonely Army private in Iraq to steal diplomatic cables, or whomever gifted WikiLeaks with the CIA’s phone and television hacking tools. In this way, a single person can completely alter the way an institution conducts tradecraft.
Further, bureaucrats cannot avoid the consequences of misbehavior directed at the president. Budgets can be slashed. Programs can be curtailed. And policy can be changed. The Obama administration made it harder for the government to assert its state secrets privilege, directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to declassify and disclose a significant amount of information about the NSA’s legal wrangling with federal courts, and asked the NSA to disclose to companies many of the “zero day” (or previously unknown) vulnerabilities found by its hackers.