The truth is that banks do have the money and talent to make these short sales faster and more efficient. After working for a big bank I realized that they were not in the business of helping people but keeping profit margins high. This is because of the obvious they have to answer to stock holders, investors etc. Government cant do much since big banks hold the majority of the American wealth.
On the bright side, the market is picking up and banks are noticing which is why they are implementing a faster short sale turn around. Conspiracy? hmmmm or business as usual?
You can sometimes find pre-approved SS's if the bank has given a counter and that buyer backs out. If the buyer backs out, that agent would be stupid not to change the listing price to the counter. Then you can close the deal with a new buyer quickly.
First thing to realize is often it is not as simple as one offer/one response. Many times there are multiple leins against the property ex: 2nd and 3rd mortgages. All of these participaants must agree to a percentage of whatever the offer is.
I think the more preparation that an agent invests in a property when listing - the quicker the offer will be accepted or rejected.
You as a buyer have every right to ask before making an offer if there are multiple leins on a property. You can also ask if the short sale price has been pre-determined and agreed to prior to the sale.
Each short sale is unique and different. You can usually get a "feel" for how complicated the sale will be by asking these two questions.
I agree that the banks should make the whole process a bit more streamlined for everyone's sake. If we can get through these distressed properties in a timely manner, everybody wins, including the home owner. If an owner will inevitably default, it is better sooner than later. Then they will be able to recover faster.
The longer this drags on, the worse it is for everyone, including the overall economy.