Government Failures (Ranked by News Interest)

# Government Failure Date News Interest Demand Curve Core Activity Description of Failures
1 9/11 Terrorist Attacks* 2001 96% Surge Oversight Despite early alerts of the possible threat, al-Qaeda operatives were able to hijack four commercial airliners on September 11, 2001, and used them as missiles to attack the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon. 
2 Financial Collapse* 2008 92% Steady Oversight After years of risky investments and with little regulation, the banking system collapsed under the weight of toxic assets created by risky mortgage loans, poorly understood financial instruments, and a credit crisis that froze the economy. 
3 Hurricane Katrina* 2005 91% Surge Operations Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on August 29, 2005, breaching the levees protecting New Orleans; stranding thousands of residents on rooftops, in the Superdome, and on bridges; and freezing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state agencies.
4 Gulf Oil Spill* 2010 88% Steady Oversight An explosion on British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform killed 11 oil workers, while the failure of a "blow-out preventer" created a leak far below that lasted 87 days and caused the largest oil spill in history. 
5 Abu Ghraib Prison Abuse* 2004 87%** Surge Operations Prisoners at Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison were abused and humiliated by U.S. guards and contractors, leading to widespread publication of photos from the incident, and later reports of similar abuse at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
6 Boston Marathon Bombings 2013 85% Steady Oversight A known terrorist and his younger brother detonated improvised "pressure-cooker" bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three spectators and wounding 250 others. The older brother was on at least two terrorist watch lists.
7 Shuttle Columbia Accident* 2003 82% Steady Operations A breach of the Space Shuttle Columbia's heat shield upon reentry after a 16-day mission killed its seven-member crew, and confirmed many of the same problems that caused the Challenger disaster almost two decades earlier. 
8 Code Orange Terrorism Alert 2004 81% Steady Operations The Secretary of Homeland Security succumbed to White House pressure, and raised the threat level from elevated (yellow) to orange (high risk) just days after the Democratic national convention ended. 
9 I-35W Bridge Collapse 2007 80% Steady Oversight Thirteen people were killed and 90 injured when an interstate highway bridge perched over the Mississippi River in Minnesota collapsed during rush hour in part due to a repair project designed to fix a flawed design.
10 Mine Accidents* 2006 80% Steady Oversight Twelve miners were killed when methane gas exploded inside a West Virginia mine, and another six were killed soon after when the walls collapsed inside a Utah mine. Other mine disasters occurred in the interim.
11 Fort Hood Shooting 2009 78% Steady Oversight Army Major Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 people and wounded another 43 while shouting, "Allah is great," in a terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas. Hassan later described himself as a "soldier of Allah." 
12 Consumer Product Recalls 2007 77% Surge Oversight The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued 473 recalls during a surge in Chinese imports that slipped into the United Sates without inspection, but could not keep up with the flood of cheap and often toxic toys.
13 Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction* 2003 76% Surge Operations United States forces were unable to find even a trace of the alleged biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons of mass destruction that created momentum for the Iraq War. Specially trained U.S. troops spent two years in the search before giving up.
14 Christmas Day Bombing Plot 2009 73% Steady Oversight A terrorist attempted to detonate explosives sewn into his underwear in the final minutes of a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, but was subdued by the flight crew and passengers. After early assertions that the system had worked, the secretary of Homeland Security admitted that it had "failed miserably."
15 Flu Vaccine Shortage 2004 71% Surge Operations Flu vaccine supplies plummeted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just as the 2004 flu season began, and were late to recover because the agency had no contingency plan for such shortages.
16 Benghazi Attack 2012 67% Surge Operations The U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed during an attack by heavily armed forces that launched what appears to have been a coordinated attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi.
17 Navy Yard Shootings 2013 66% Steady Oversight Armed with a shotgun purchased only days before, a Navy subcontractor shot and killed 12 people, and injured three others after using a valid entry pass to smuggle the weapon into the Washington Navy Yard.
18 Enron Bankruptcy* 2001 66% Steady Oversight The Enron Corporation filed for bankruptcy after misrepresenting its financial health through false statements, and committing both securities and wire fraud. Worldcom and Adelphia soon followed suit.
19 Launch 2013 64% Surge Oversight Designed as an easily accessible portal to health insurance, crashed under heavy traffic, producing long wait times, frozen screens, and uncompleted applications.
20 Wounded Soldiers* 2007 62% Surge Operations Wounded soldiers being treated at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center were abused, neglected, and quartered in filthy, cockroach-infested facilities. Further investigation revealed similar conditions throughout the veterans' health system.
21 Veterans Health Care Waiting List 2014 61% Steady Operations The Department of Veterans Affairs came under intense criticism in May 2014 for long waiting times and secret waiting lists in providing outpatient appointments. Initial reports alleged that as many as 40 veterans had died while waiting for appointments in Phoenix alone.
22 Madoff Ponzi Scheme 2008 60% Steady Oversight Despite explicit warnings that Bernard Madoff had built an elaborate Ponzi scheme, the Securities and Exchange Commission never investigated his too-good-to-be-true success. Madoff was turned in by his sons in 2008 and eventually convicted of a $65 billion fraud that had lasted for the better part of two decades.
23 Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion 2013 59% Steady Oversight An explosion at an ammonium nitrate plant killed 12 firefighters and destroyed most of the surrounding town of West, Texas. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board blamed all levels of government for failing to identify the hazard and correcting it through policies that would have prohibited building the plant so close to the community.
24 Vioxx Drug Recall  2004 59% Steady Oversight Despite warnings that its best-selling Vioxx pain killer doubled cardiovascular risk, Merck continued to sell the drug without any Food and Drug Administration post-market review for almost six years before withdrawing it voluntarily.
25 Food Safety Recalls  2007 56% Surge Oversight The Food and Drug Administration issued dozens of warnings and recalls of food products such as eggs, meat, peanut butter, peppers, and pet food that had slipped through its porous inspection system in 2007.
26 Enhanced Interrogation Techniques 2007 55% Steady Operations Although the agency had used "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding on detanees since 2001, the story finally reached the public in 2007 and returned to the news two years later with further information released by the Obama administration.
27 Haditha Killings 2005 55% Steady Operations United States soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha after an improvised explosive device, or bomb, exploded beneath one of their Humvees. The platoon leader was charged with two counts of premeditated homicide, but the charges were later dropped.
28 Shoe Bomber Terrorist Plot 2001 54% Steady Oversight A terrorist attempted to ignite explosives hidden in one of his tennis shoes on board a trans-Atlantic flight, but was subdued by the flight crew and passengers who smelled the bomber's match smoke and took immediate action.
29 Secret Service Misconduct 2012 51% Steady Operations Thirteen Secret Service agents arrived in Cartagena, Colombia, 48 hours before President Obama was to arrive for an international summit, and spent their first night in the city soliciting prostitutes and drinking heavily. 
30 Internal Revenue Service Targeting System 2013 50% Surge Operations The Internal Revenue Service unit that was responsible for granting tax-exempt status created a public relations disaster by setting aside applications from organizations with names such as "Tea Party," "Patriots," and "9/12" for further review.
31 National Security Agency Leaks 2013 50% Surge Oversight A contractor named Edward Snowden leaked about 250,000 secret files that he stole from the National Security Agency while working for the Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm. Snowden escaped prosecution by evading capture, and is now residing in Russia.