Responsible for implementing federal government policy on a day-to-day basis.
The study of bureaucracy began with German sociologist Max Weber in the late 19th century.
Use of specialization and division of labor.
Decisionmaking guided by explicit rules.
Merit-based hiring and promotion.
Goal: neutral competence.
Early United States (through 1820s) — few government jobs.
Jacksonian era (1830s–50s) — the height of patronage and the spoils system.
Many appointees were unqualified; their main “qualification” was supporting the president's party.
Pressure for reform after the Civil War:
Assassination of Pres. Garfield by a disgruntled office-seeker in 1881.
Pendleton Act (1883) — established civil service system, gradually.
Hatch Act (1939) — limits political activity by civil service employees.
Most senior positions still political appointees.
15 cabinet departments
Headed by cabinet secretaries (except attorney general, who heads Department of Justice).
Some serve a particular clientele group; e.g. Agriculture, Education, Veterans Affairs.
Most recent reorganization created the Department of Homeland Security in 2002.
Government agencies that are established outside of cabinet departments:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Social Security Administration (SSA)
Federal government agencies that are more independent of presidential control and are responsible for regulating particular economic activities.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
Around two dozen government corporations, including:
Corporation for National and Community Service (Americorps)
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
Many non-federal employees work on behalf of the federal government, but don't show up in the employee counts.
State and local government employees often responsible for federal government programs
Who's the boss? The challenge of accountability.
The president and appointed executive branch officials
Appointed officials: often are inexperienced, non-experts, particularly those in less visible positions.
Civil service employees: low prestige jobs; limited opportunities for advancement.
Changes in internal procedures tend to be slow.
Difficult to measure performance.
Open-ended tasks and mandates.
“Red tape” — emphasis on fairness and equal treatment often leads to unresponsiveness.
Agency cautiousness; few incentives for innovation.
Government agencies often regulate in the interest of the regulated, rather than the broader public interest.
Formation of iron triangles.
More modern concept: issue networks involving many actors.
Senior appointed officials require Senate confirmation.
Agency organization is set by law.
Structure and functions determined politically or ad hoc (e.g. DHS).
Law limits agency discretion.
Appropriations process limits agency spending.
Oversight by congressional committees.
Judicial review of agency actions.
Public opinion and electoral politics.
Interest groups: alliances with organized interests in shared policy areas.
Bureaucrats are required to be responsive to the public interest in a number of ways.
Use of citizen advisory councils.
Sunshine laws require policymakers to hold public meetings.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The Privacy Act of 1974.
The breaucracy is responsible for carrying out laws and making/enforcing regulations with the force of law.
Regulatory power subject to the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946.
Proposed regulations are subject to public comment — www.regulations.gov.
Congress can block regulations or agency decisions by withholding funding.
Also subject to judicial review.
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