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The Bureaucracy

I. What Is a Bureaucracy?
a. Departments, agencies, commissions, and/or people responsible for the implementation
of policy.
b. Constitutional basis found in Article II of the Constitution in the reference to the creation
of executive departments.
c. Developed mainly through custom, tradition, and precedent.
II. Functions of Bureaucracies
a. All bureaucracies follow a hierarchical pattern, with job specialization, and rules and
regulations that each follows.
b. Six primary functions of bureaucracies.
i. Recognizable division of labor
ii. Each task within the bureaucracy is clearly defined and assigned
iii. Allocation of responsibility where each worker understands their job and it cannot
be changed without the approval of the supervisor
iv. Direct and indirect supervision
v. There is control of the full-time employment of the worker so that workers can be
held on task.
vi. Workers make the bureaucracy a career because of the benefits offered.
c. Approximately four million government workers are in today’s federal bureaucracy
i. Little more than 10% actually work in D.C
ii. Most work is done in regional offices throughout the country
iii. About 1/3 of the government workers work for the Department of Defense or
armed forces (making them the largest govt. employer)
iv. Hired as a result of civil service regulations (tests) and political patronage
v. The common thought is that the bureaucracy is growing in size, when it is
actually decreasing.
d. Workers in federal bureaucracies are accountable in different ways
i. The Constitution
ii. Federal laws
iii. Dictates of the three branches of government
iv. Superiors
v. “public interest”
vi. interest groups
e. Organization of the federal government
i. Organized into departments
ii. Agencies and administration refer to governmental bodies that are headed by a
single administrator
iii. Commissions are names of agencies that regulate certain aspects of the private
iv. Government corporations are agencies that are headed by a board of directors
and have a Chairman as the head
III. Executive-level Departments
a. The Cabinet
b. Regulatory Agencies
i. Known as independent regulatory agencies
ii. Quasi-legislative (act like the Legislature when making regulations and the policy
made by bureaucracies is as binding as laws from Congress)
iii. Quasi-judicial (act as the judiciary when enforcing penalties for violations of their
iv. AKA “alphabet agencies”
v. Examples
1. Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) – 1887 – first regulatory agency
2. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – 1931 – regulates contents,
marketing, and labeling of food and drugs
3. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – 1934 – regulates television
and radio stations
4. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – 1934 – regulates the sale of
securities and stock markets
5. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – 1970 – implements laws that
protect the environment
c. Government Corporations
i. Some are created to run a business through the government
ii. Some are created to take over a failed industry or bail out a failed company
d. Independent Executive Agencies
i. General Service Administration – handles government purchasing
ii. National Science Foundation – promotes scientific research
iii. NASA – space exploration
IV. Organization
a. Max Weber – the father of bureaucratic theory – said that they existed in a “rational”
manner with each having specific characteristics
i. Hierarchical authority structure – power flows from the top down and
responsibility the other way
ii. Task specialization – experts perform specific tasks
iii. Extensive rules – so that the public is treated fairly and uniformly
iv. The merit principle – workers get promotion based on merit
v. Impersonality – so no one is favored over anyone else
b. Modern theorists have added to Weber’s theory and include acquisitive and monopolistic
i. Acquisitive bureaucracy become self-perpetuating and demand funds to keep
them in existence.
ii. Monopolistic bureaucracy suggests that there is no competitive equal that exists
in the private sector (Social Security Administration)
c. Limits on the bureaucracy
i. Legislative power of Congress through legislative intent, congressional oversight,
and restrictions on appropriations
ii. Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 – defines administrative policy and tells
agencies that they have to publicize their procedures.
iii. Built-in review process for appeal of agency decisions
iv. Oversight functions of agencies such as the OMB and the General Accounting
v. Political checks in the form of pressure from interest groups, political parties, and
the private sector
V. History
a. “Spoils System”
i. began when Andrew Jackson took office and immediately dismissed over 2000
government employees and replaced them with his supporters
ii. idea was that the elected official was best suited to decide who would fill jobs
iii. proponents of the system believed that the frequent change would prevent
corruption in government
b. Early attempts at reform
i. Civil Service Commission failed due to inadequate funding in 1871
ii. After the assassination of President Garfield in 1881 (by a disgruntled office
seeker), Congress passed the Pendleton Act, known as the Civil Service Act of
1. set up merit as the criteria for hiring, promoting, and firing federal
employees (THE MERIT SYSTEM)
2. an independent Civil Service Commission administered tests, and civil
servants were prohibited from taking part in partisan politics
3. today, over 90% of government workers are classified as civil servants
iii. The Hatch Act (1939) placed legal limitations on the types of political activity that
federal employees can undertake
a. Be a candidate for political office
b. Actively campaign for a candidate
c. Collect funds, organize rallies, circulate nominating petitions
2. CAN
a. Vote
b. Express opinions about candidates
c. Wear political buttons
d. Join a political party
iv. Civil Service Reform Act (1978) passed under President Carter
1. replaced Civil Service Commission with the Office of Personnel
Management (OPM) and the Merit Systems Protection Board
2. Responsible for enforcing existing civil service laws, coordinating the
testing of applicants, setting up pay scales, etc.
v. Why is it so hard to attract the high caliber workers?
1. with each scandal in the government, people grow more and more
2. private sector pays much better
3. image of the government worker is still negative
VI. Relations with Other Government Branches
a. The President
i. Influences the bureaucracy through the appointment process
ii. Presidents can issue executive orders (issued by the president to bureaucratic
agencies that have the force of law) that agencies must obey
iii. The OMB can propose increases or decreases in the fiscal budget
iv. The president has the power to reorganize federal departments, and can even
abolish agencies (with approval of Congress)
b. Congress
i. The Senate must approve both agency appointments and budgets
ii. Through congressional oversight, agency heads are called to testify before
congressional committees dealing with issues related to the agency
iii. Through the General Accounting Office and the Congressional Budget Office,
agency operations can be investigated.
iv. Bureaucracies have to respond not only to Congressional oversight, but
legislative intent as well.
c. Iron Triangle Networks
i. Pattern of relationships between an agency in the executive branch, Congress,
and one or more outside clients of that agency.
ii. (EXAMPLE) Health and Human Services
1. budget is reviewed
2. legislation that is passed and related to health must be explained to the
3. various congressional committees and interest groups review that status
of the implementation of law
VII. Public Policy
a. Major impact of the federal bureaucracy has been the regulation and implementation of
public policy
b. Munn v Illinois (1877)
i. Dispute over whether Illinois had the power to regulate the railroad haulage rates
of grain.
ii. Illinois passed laws that forced the railroad to abide by state rates
iii. Court said that since it was in the public interest, the state government had the
right to regulate this private industry
c. Bureaucracy has a HUGE part in our everyday lives
d. Many argue that the costs of bureaucracies far outweigh their benefits of the entire
regulation process
VIII. Modern Reform
a. Reagan’s “Grace Commission” reacted to the cry of “less government”
b. In 1993, Clinton and Gore presented a report titled From Red Tape to Results: Creating a
Government That Works Better and Costs Less
i. POTUS and VP presented the report to a national audience in front of two forklifts
carrying thousands of pounds of bureaucratic regulations
ii. Called for reducing the federal workforce by 12%, updating information systems,
eliminating wasteful procedures and programs, and cutting red tape
iii. Each agency that spent more than $20 million annually had to submit to the OMB
a five-year plan setting out its goals
iv. Accountability became the basis of evaluation
v. Wide-ranging and affected nearly every federal department and agency